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Aug
2016
12

First Rochester Kills School Modernization PLA, Then They Remove Its Chief Supporter from Power

Former Rochester Mayor Tom Richards was ousted from the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board chairmanship

Former Rochester Mayor Tom Richards was ousted from the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board chairmanship


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Rochester, NY is spending $1.3 billion to modernize its schools, making it the largest public works project in the city’s history. But in a split decision one-eighty last week, the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board voted 4-3 to reject a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the second phase of the project.

The PLA would have set goals and requirements for union hiring, minority hiring, and wage agreements. Opponents described the Phase 1 PLA as an ineffective failure and suggested there was no reason to keep it in place. But Tom Richards, the school modernization board’s chairman at the time of the vote, made a strong argument for keeping it in place:

The project labor agreement was responsible for ensuring that Phase 1 of the project met or exceeded much larger goals for hiring hundreds of minority workers and contracting businesses owned by women and minorities, Richards said.

For example, more than 20 percent of the workers on Phase 1 were minorities, Richards said. But without a new labor agreement in place, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce hiring goals for Phase 2, he said.

“I accept the fact that they were dissatisfied with that (apprenticeship) program,” Richards said. “That to me doesn’t translate to rejecting the project labor agreement for the whole program. There is this confusion being created here.”

The apprenticeship program in question did not achieve its goal for female hiring, and has become the central if not only anti-PLA talking point that is based in fact.

Richards, who was instrumental in realizing the successfull minority hiring component of the PLA, was relieved of his duties as chairman on Tuesday. The board elected Allen Williams to replace him by a 4-3 margin. Williams did not support a PLA for Phase 2 of the project, despite evidence that maintaining the agreement could save time and money:

The board already is seeking bidders to work on the second phase of renovations to Monroe High School, which are supposed to be completed in time for fall 2017.

Having no project labor agreement in the picture will require an addendum to the bidding documents, and non-union firms that can now bid on the project may ask for an extension of the deadline to do so, Richards said. The project already has run into delays this summer.

A study carried out for the school modernization board found earlier this year that a project labor agreement could ultimately save about $5 million in construction costs.

Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council president David Young Jr., said he was “really disappointed, to say the least.”

For background on the successful Phase 1 PLA and the importance of hiring goals to Rochester, read these related articles:

In Rochester, PLAs and the ROAR Program Have Generated High Rates of Minority and Female Involvement

With SCOTUS’ Attack on Minority Rights Ongoing, Rochester Paper Thinks PLAs Could Protect Diversity

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