On May 13, the Marietta City Council rejected a proposal that would require a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) on the renovation of the former Ohio Bureau of Employment Services building into a new municipal court facility.
The May 14 edition of the Marietta Times has a great breakdown (“Council Rejects Labor Pact, 4-3,” 5/14/10) of how this seemingly inevitable PLA requirement was defeated.
Here are some excerpts, our emphasis added:
But some council members expressed concern that the agreement favored union workers and would give union shops an unfair advantage over non-union contractors in the project bidding process due to the requirement that 50 percent of any contractor’s employees be registered with a union.
“The biggest concern I’m hearing is that union membership is a major deterrent to this agreement,” Councilman Jon Grimm, R-3rd Ward, said Thursday.
“If this is something we absolutely have to do, my request would be to remove the mandatory union membership from the agreement – is that a possibility?” Grimm asked city law director Roland Riggs III.
“I don’t believe the folks from the building trades council would be interested in signing the agreement if that was removed,” Riggs answered.
But Councilman David White, R-1st Ward, read from an impassioned statement blasting the proposed agreement.
“This measure is purely, simply and overtly discrimination,” he said. “If we were to award contracts requiring a certain percentage of African Americans, or white, or perhaps Asian workers, it would immediately be denounced as racist.”
In the end, Grimm said he had exhausted all avenues to change the proposed agreement and motioned to suspend the final reading, originally scheduled during a special council session today, and to vote on the measure Thursday.
Grimm, White, and Councilmen Andy Thompson, R-at large, and Harley Noland, D-at large, cast votes against the measure.
Councilwoman Kathy Shively, D-at large, and Councilmen Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward and Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, supported the legislation.
The measure’s defeat was a bit of a surprise as in earlier meetings pertaining to the issue, Noland had expressed support for the proposed agreement.
He explained his change of mind following Thursday’s vote, saying he had lost some sleep wrestling with the decision.
Noland compared the issue with another decision by the local recreation commission (of which he is a member) to allow women to participate in community sports leagues traditionally reserved for men.
During one recreation commission meeting, he said, Riggs had advised that the municipal ball parks were city property and Ohio law prohibits discrimination when using community facilities.
“I woke up one night and it came to me – this issue is the same thing,” Noland said. “Whether we’re talking about race, sexual orientation, religion or unions and non-unions, this would be discrimination.
“How could I in good conscience approve a measure that would force Marietta taxpayers to join a union and pay dues just to obtain work?” he asked.
The important point is this story is that the majority of councilmembers recognize that this PLA is nothing more than pure discrimination against the vast majority of the Ohio construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union.
This position is reinforced by Mr. Riggs’ quote from above, that the “folks from the Building Trades wouldn’t be interested in signing the agreement” if the discriminatory provisions were removed.
Make no mistake, this proposed PLA was not about putting local people to work. As was reported in the The Marietta Times story investigating this PLA (“Union Workers Lobby City Council Over Jobs,” 5/13/10), the PLA restricted work opportunities to only union members at the expense of the over 75 percent of Ohio construction employees who choose not to join a labor union.
On taxpayer funded projects like this, the public deserves the best construction projects at the best price. In order to get this, all construction workers must have the opportunity to compete, not just those that give political donations to the right elected officials.
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we commend the Marrietta City Council for standing up for the construction workers in your community that can now work on this project thanks to your courage. In an industry with a national unemployment rate of nearly 22 percent, every opportunity to work is appreciated.