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Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

PLA/CWA Conference Recap

It’s not about labor peace. We’re part of the community. We’re coaches in the little league, we’re volunteer firemen.

At the end of last week, We Party Patriots had the privilege of attending and presenting at the inaugural Project Labor Agreement/Community Workforce Agreement Conference in Atlantic City, NJ. It was put together by the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, a group representing over 2 million union members from 13 international trade affiliates. Leaders from these unions and their associated state councils came from across the country convened to discuss their approach to ensuring the union construction goals of local hire, fair wages, safety and army veteran job creation. Project Labor Agreements and Community Workforce Agreements seek to put these standards in place through pre-hire contract negotiations between the workforce and the contractor, between the community and the agency. What was shared was truly inspiring, with stories ranging from 70 percent apprenticeship graduation rates among female inmates, to a pledge that could amount to over $15 million toward veteran job training from a single contractor. Below is a hodge podge of pull quotes from some of the conference’s speakers. When needed, we provide clarification or extrapolation:

History of the PLA/CWA:
The Hoover Dam was a “stimulus” project and completed two years ahead of schedule.

The Shasta Dam, completed 26 months ahead of schedule, another early example of union construction efficiency.

Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canavral, built with union construction, led NASA to employ union labor subsequently.

Joe Wise, Greater Louisville Building Trades President:
“Louisville Building Trades have written 75pct local hire into their agreements as well as 20pct minority requirement ACROSS ALL TRADES.”

**Whereas many construction projects attempt to fulfill their local hire through only one trade or vocation (sadly this can often mean the site clean up crew or other unskilled labor), Louisville has begun to enforce the minority hire minimum on every individual trade. This means 20 percent minority hire from the sheet metal workers, 20 percent from the ironworkers, 20 percent from the bricklayers, and so forth.

Seattle Building Trades President, Lee Newgent:
“We’re not lowering our training standards. We’re raising yours.”

Seattle Building Trades get 70pct apprenticeship graduation rates from the women we train out of correctional facilities.

Art Lujan, BCTD:
It’s virtually impossible to achieve local hire on the order of 50pct and above without Community Workforce Agreements.

Pete Rimsans, President of the Indiana Building Trades:
“Indiana is the number one target of the National Right to Work campaign.”

There was “collateral damage” from the Democratic walkout in Indiana. Anti-union appointees wound up in crucial positions.

Bob Pleasure, Special Assistant to the President, BCTD:
“PLA opposition for Phase II of Dulles Metrorail is unfounded. Its not about cost. There is a PLA on Phase I that is on time and under budget.”

**The business and conservative political communities in Virginia continue to press for changes to how the expansion of Washington DC’s metro will occur, despite fantastic results from the union-heavy workforce up to this point. The last Virginia public works project of the same scale was done non-union and resulted in multiple worker deaths and cost overruns.

“Everybody on a construction project has a contract: the suppliers, the contractors, the insurance companies. Why shouldn’t the workers, too?

Peter Philips, Univ of Utah:
“Why take bargaining power away from the government that exists in the private sector?”

“You only need 4 or 5 bidders to get competitive bidding. The 7th and 8th bids do not drive cost down.”

**Philips is, perhaps, the leading researcher on Community Workforce Agreements. His second point speaks to the claim by anti-CWA actors that these contracts interfere with competitive bidding. Studies show, however, that each new bidder has less and less of an impact on the bottom line.

Cas Holloway, NYC Dept of Environmental Protection Commissioner:
Mayor Bloomberg: Building Trades unions and NYC “arrived at a set of agreements that will save the city $300 million.”

“Mayor Bloomberg is very happy with how everything has gone with the PLA projects.”

“Project Labor Agreements save a project 5%-10.5%”

“Savings is the threshold that gets everyone to the table.”

Sean McGarvey, Secretary-Treasurer, BCTD:
“When the earmark for the Helmets to Hardhats program was cut, the Building Trades unions started paying for it themselves.

“There’s no state in the country without a PLA in place. It’s not a fad. It’s used in the public and private sector because it works.”

New Jersey State Senate President, Steve Sweeney:
“The latest Atlantic City casino, a $1.5 billion project, was built with a PLA because they wanted community involvement.

“It’s not about labor peace. We’re part of the community. We’re coaches in the little league, we’re volunteer firemen.”

“We have to change the conversation about Project Labor Agreements.”

Miscellaneous takeaways:
Collective bargaining resolves the market’s failure to sustain our skilled labor force. Without it you undermine the future of the U.S.

It’s easier to ban something, like President Bush did, than to actually implement something that achieves good.

All PLA projects now have a Helmets to Hardhats requirement, ensuring that returning veterans are included in the employment pool.

In New Jersey, WALMART builds everything union. This alone debunks the myth that union construction is cost prohibitive.

Court records state: 90 pct of the graduates from apprenticeship programs in San Diego come from union apprenticeship programs.


One Comment on “PLA/CWA Conference Recap”

  1. You know what this current crowd of GOP liars want is to turn the United Sates into China, where only a few giant corporations run things, they own the factories, the apartments, the grocery stores, the gas stations, the newspaper and magazine publications, the radio stations, the television stations and you pay them and they get all the benefits, and if you do not like it go jump off cliff. Well some Chinese workers seeing that as individuals that they cannot progress have done just that by committing suicide.

    The current crowd of GOP liars want to steal Medicare from the elderly, they want to abolish a woman’s right to choose and have control over her own body, they want to abolish collective bargaining rights for our Unions, and on top of it all they want to blame the poor, the middle class and the public sector workers for a recession that the GOP created (Thanks to the Dullard “W”), while their beloved “Fat cats” continue to pay themselves exorbitant salaries, bonuses, fringe benefits.

    The GOP is like the “Chicken Littles” always saying that the “Sky is Falling”, like the same ones that were the “Chicken Hawks” (“W” Wars), big talk no courage.

    The United States, favors creativity wherever it can be found. We’re apostles of prosperity and defenders of the free exchange of ideas and when more people in more countries are free to rise, to invent, to communicate, to dissent, it’s not the doom of United States leadership, its the triumph of the American way.

    Generations have worked hard and sacrificed much for the country to reach this point (individuals and our Unions!), and with further hard work and sacrifice (along with our relentless self-doubt) the United States will rise again, we do not tire and we are coming back, no matter what Faux News and their GOP “Chicken Littles” lackies keep saying about our nation. Never Bet Against the United States, watch out GOP, we are coming for you! The win in New York was the beginning but the next will be Indiana, Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and later the other states of our nation.

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