Will Philadelphia Convention Center Expansion Project Labor Agreement Prevent Labor Unrest?

0 May 6, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Last night collective bargaining agreements between Philadelphia area Carpenters Unions and Laborers Unions and contractors expired, leaving construction project owners and contractors with concerns about union strikes and labor disputes on jobsites covered by expired collective bargaining agreements.

According to this short 5/4 Philadelphia Inquirer piece, the Carpenters and Laborers’ District Council have been negotiating labor contracts with the General Building Contractors Association and the Finish Contractors Association but haven’t been able to reach a final agreement.

“A strike could put the $786 million Convention Center expansion in jeopardy. Although the convention center project labor agreement has a no-work-stoppage clause signed by the Building Trades Council, individual unions did not sign the pact.”

Construction unions promote union-only PLAs as a tool to prevent strikes and labor disputes for situations just like this.  Labor peace was one of the major reasons why the Philadelphia City Council implemented a controversial union-only PLA on Philadelphia’s $786 million Convention Center that has yet to begin.  City officials said Philadelphia couldn’t risk construction delays that would jeopardize city revenue from conventions and related economic activity.

But despite a PLA, the expired labor contracts have the potential to disrupt the Convention Center expansion. 

FACT: PLAs are ineffective at preventing strikes by unions that do not participate in PLA negotiations.

The Carpenters Union has consistently failed to become party to PLAs because in July 2005, the head of the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD), Ed Sullivan, kicked the Carpenters out of the BCTD.

The BCTD and their regional councils frequently negotiate PLAs (but the Carpenters aren’t party to those regional councils), which begs the question: What benefit do project owners receive from PLAs if all construction unions do not become party to a PLA?  

Why would a project owner agree to exclude merit shop contractors and their skilled workforce from a project in exchange for a partial promise for labor peace?

And even if all unions signed PLAs, the public record of poor performance by PLAs demonstrates that these costly and discriminatory agreements do not prevent strikes or labor unrest on PLA jobsites.

FACT: PLAs do not prevent strikes or jobsite labor unrest.

Update: Learn more about the Myth that PLAs prevent strikes and labor unrest here.

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