April 10, 2012

In My Opinion: Local workers not strictly union

I read with interest Betty Lennon's In My Opinion piece that appeared in the March 31 edition of the Press-Republican.

In her article, Ms. Lennon describes a number of issues discussed at their most recent Northeast Central Labor Council Legislative Breakfast, including some specifically related to the construction industry that I would like to comment on.

Ms. Lennon spoke to the Wicks Law, which, I might add, is under serious review. There are many who will argue that, contrary to Ms. Lennon's statement, the law actually increases the cost of construction projects because it removes the ability of the general contractor to have ultimate control of scheduling issues. which cause delays and cost overruns. I urge all of our legislators to become engaged and educated about this issue before reaching any conclusions.

One place that Ms. Lennon and I find common ground is the need for more construction jobs to remain local; however, we remain at odds in how to achieve that goal. Ms. Lennon insinuates labor unions are the only source of local construction workers. That is simply not true. The truth is that more than 74 percent of the construction workforce in New York state choose not to belong to a construction trade union of any kind.

Incidentally, two of the largest projects in New York's recent history, the Tech Park in Malta and the Champlain Bridge replacement, were both built under Project Labor Agreements utilizing union-only workforces. What has not been publicized is that the vast majority of those union workers were from another state or out of the area, when thousands of local merit-shop (non-union) employees stayed home, unable to work because of exclusionary union membership requirements.

I would caution anyone against using a Project Labor Agreement because they actually do not guarantee local construction workers are hired, only that a local union hall act as a funneling mechanism for out-of-area workers to come into our communities and work.

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