Trade group lashes out at Montgomery County for needing union labor for renovation project

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Grady Mullins, who signed the agreement as executive secretary of the Dayton Building and Construction Trades Council, said the county’s construction project to renovate the eighth-floor office and washroom in the county administration building will be better built using skilled union workers, many of whom have been trained over the years. long learning programs.

“The reason the deal is being put in place is to provide a more stable workforce, so the county gets better quality workers and better quality jobs,” he said.

About 19% of construction workers in Ohio are unionized, slightly more than the 13% nationally, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Although public authorities in other counties have completed PLA projects, Montgomery County commissioners have never approved one for a taxpayer-funded construction project, according to Small.

“For this particular project, PLA was incorporated as a pilot program so that we could review the concept, determine the overall cost, maintain the quality of the work and ensure diversity,” he said. “We hope to be able to identify efficiencies with this method of project delivery. “

Between 1997 and 2020, at least 243 project labor agreements were signed in Ohio, representing $ 15 billion in labor, according to North American building trades unions.

Projects like this have been as big as a $ 325 million prison facility in Franklin County and a $ 300 million stadium for the Cleveland Browns. Many school districts in the state have implemented PLAs for construction projects.

But some potential bidders of the Montgomery County pilot project – which planners estimate should cost around $ 1.4 million – have been caught off guard by the pre-hire collective agreement.

Debra Flatter, an estimator for AKA Construction, a small female-owned contractor in Brookville, said it became clear minutes after the pre-tender meeting for the renovation of the engineer’s office that his company would not submit a proposal.

“When they mentioned the PLA, I thought, ‘Oh my God AKA can’t touch this,’” she said.

AKA Construction has already been hired by commissioners including a $ 695,000 renovation of the Montgomery County Electoral Council office approved in 2015 and in 2017 the company was awarded a contract to renovate the interior of the sheriff worth about $ 89,000. Neither included the obligation to hire union labor, said Flatter.

“It takes a lot of the control of the project out of the hands of the individual entrepreneur and puts it in the hands of the unions,” she said. “AKA and their employees have chosen not to be a union company, not to join unions, not to become signatories to these contracts.”

But with a project work agreement in place to update the Engineer’s Office, AKA, with barely a dozen employees, is at a disadvantage compared to large companies that can afford to pay union wages, Flatter noted.

“We just can’t bid. We will not be bidding for a job with a PLA agreement, ”she said. “You exclude most small minority-owned women-owned businesses from bidding for the work. “

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Judy Dodge did not return a phone call asking for comment on this story.

PLAs have been used locally on private construction projects. One was in place for the construction of Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway, completed in 2014. An APL also governed the workforce who built the recently opened Gem City Market, a community cooperative grocery store.

Morris, who is also a Miami Twp. fiduciary, does not challenge a private owner’s right to determine the composition of its workforce, but disputes when officials do so for the construction of government facilities.

“Homeowners can do whatever they want and they’ve done it,” Morris said. “Public projects should be open to free competitive bidding so that everyone can compete and win. With a project employment contract, they are not.

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Despite legal challenges, Ohio courts have consistently upheld the right of local officials to use the agreements to define the conditions of the labor pool working on a public project, said Rob Dorans, general counsel for Affiliated Construction Trades Ohio, a labor advocacy group that assists area locals with the implementation of PLA for public and private construction projects.

“It’s a smart way for local elected officials to make sure… that they are not only getting the most skilled workforce on these projects, but they are also supporting the community by making sure people have a living wage, have health care and retirement benefits, ”he said. “It comes down to making sure it’s a more stable community. These are good jobs that people want to do.

But Morris said collective agreements were costing taxpayers more than necessary for construction costs, especially in an industry struggling to find labor.

“When you throw a PLA on top of it, you get very few bidders and you’re giving them an open invitation to bid very high,” he said. “It’s monopoly power… They know they don’t need to sharpen their pencils to get this job.

Dorans said projects with PLA often end below architects’ estimates and there is more incentive to bid on projects.

“The conditions of the project are set out for everyone upstream. So there are no surprises for anyone, ”he said. “They are going to bid against other people who understand the type of labor they are going to need to use on the project.”

Morris said he hopes the three Montgomery County commissioners, who voted unanimously for the PLA, will reconsider their decision.

“We very much hope that this is an anomaly and that the Commissioners will look at this and take the opportunity to see that they have reduced competition unfairly and that maybe this is taken out of this project”, Morris said. “Or it’s the last one we’re seeing for the next 20 years.”


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