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Dems Question Lack of PLA, Use of Out-of-State Workers on Large Shipbuilding Project in RI

Electric Boat at Quonset Point

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In Rhode Island, some ranking Democrats are beginning to question why a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) wasn’t used for an Electric Boat project at the former U.S. Navy base at Quonset.  This is being viewed as a squandered opportunity to ensure work on the project was done by Rhode Islanders. 

Among the critics is Senator Jack Reed, the state’s top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Through his spokesperson, Chip Unruh, Reed lamented the lack of union workers were on the jobsite:

“Senator Reed thinks that EB should have used a Project Labor Agreement or some kind of arrangement to maximize the number of Rhode Island companies and workers. He’s repeatedly urged them to do so, but the state’s lease with EB doesn’t require one, nor does the law. The senator continues to raise the issue with EB and others because his focus is jobs in Rhode Island.’’

Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) featured the Electric Boat project in a commentary piece.  Roy Columbe of Ironworkers Local 37 told RIPR, “it has been very difficult to get the private contractors hired by Electric Boat, a division of the huge General Dynamics defense contractor, to hire local workers, especially union ironworkers.”

According to George Nee, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, roughly 3,000 employees build submarines at Quonset.  He encourages contractors to hire locally and believes that hiring more workers from the building trades would show a commitment to the state.  

But for Columbe and his fellow Rhode Islanders, these jobs are meaningless if fly-by-night contractors or out-of-state workers are used. “You look at the license plates in the parking lot,” he told RIPR. “They are from Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maine.”


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