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Dem Gov. Candidates Plead Pro-Labor, Pro-PLA Case to MD, DC Building Trades in Introductory Summit

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On Monday, the three top Democratic candidates for Maryland governor met at the Turf Valley Resort in Howard County, MD to explain why their administration would be the best at creating union jobs in the Old Line State.  Addressing a forum hosted by the Maryland-D.C. Building Trades Council, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Delegate Heather Mizeur made their case to the trade group, which will make a recommendation for the state’s AFL-CIO endorsement.  

Although they did not share a stage, the candidates took shots at one another in this already lively primary.  The race’s newest candidate, Attorney General Gansler, promised to be more proactive than current Gov. Martin O’Malley with respect to mandating Project Labor Agreements (PLAs):

Gansler, who will formally announce his candidacy Tuesday, criticized as too weak an executive order issued last week by Gov. Martin O’Malley — Brown’s chief political ally — on project labor agreements. Such agreements, which set the wages and working conditions for major public projects in a way that usually benefits union labor, are supported by the building trades but opposed by Republicans and some business groups.

Gansler dismissed O’Malley’s order as “an executive suggestion,” and he promised to increase the state’s use of such agreements. “It’s not about helping you,” he told the union members. “It’s about helping every working family in this state.”

The early favorite, Lt. Gov Anthony Brown, defended the O’Malley administration’s record on PLAs and took Gansler to task for his claims:

Brown defended the order as a step forward, along with a decision to adopt a labor agreement for a new juvenile detention facility in Cheltenham in Prince George’s County.

“Just like Cheltenham, [project labor agreements] are going to have a shot at every project in a Brown-Ulman administration, said Brown, whose running mate is Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

The lieutenant governor launched the most direct attack of the day, criticizing Gansler for his lack of support for the O’Malley administration’s successful effort this year to raise the gas tax to fund transportation projects that bring jobs to the building trades.

“That’s how we put you to work,” Brown said. Without the increase, he said, many of the projects announced by the administration in recent weeks “wouldn’t happen.”

For Mizeur, who has the longest way to go as she does not currently hold a statewide office, the event was an opportunity to highlight legislative accomplishments and introduce herself to the building trades community.  Among the issues she has fought hardest for is prevailing wage enforcement, something which has put her at odds with the O’Malley administration.  She promised that part of the sweeping change she would bring to Annapolis would be aggressively pro-labor policies:

“I’m going in there to blow the doors off the place to create some transformational change,” she said.

She stressed her family roots in the labor movement, speaking about time she spent as a girl on the picket line with her father, a union welder.

The two-term lawmaker criticized the administration for refusing to adopt her idea to create a fund to boost enforcement of the state’s laws guaranteeing payment of the prevailing wage on public projects. “This administration opposed it and fought it tooth and nail,” she said.

The council delegates also heard from the four Democratic nominees for the office of Attorney General on Monday.  While Republican nominees for either race were not invited to the event, Baltimore Building Trades Council President Rod Easter said they could be invited to a separate event. Since Marvin Mandel replaced Gov. Spiro Agnew in 1969, Maryland has had only one Republican Governor, Robert Ehrlich, who served between 2003-2007.


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