'We don't hide it, nor do we publicize it'

Unions' secret no-vote deals boost dues, silence workers

For the past three years, two big American unions hungry to expand their ranks maintained secretive arrangements with several companies that allowed organizers to recruit workers as long as they kept quiet about their successes.

The agreements permitted the Service Employees International Union and Unite Here to sign up 15,000 foodservice, laundry and housekeeping workers at individual workplaces. But no one beside the unions, employees and companies involved was made aware of the deals—a strategic concession because the unions couldn't publicize their victories.

Some activists questioned how much the unions gave up in such behind-the-curtain deals, but labor officials played down the criticisms, saying the most important fact is getting in the door at large companies that have held them off.

The U.S. labor movement has been struggling for years with declining membership, and the quiet deals represent an unorthodox strategy to get in some big companies. The deals acknowledged Saturday by union officials are with Sodexho Inc., the Compass Group USA and the Aramark Corp.

"There is something very good here," said Bruce Raynor, president of 465,000-member Unite Here, the union created by the merger of the garment workers and hotel workers unions. "It's our job to organize workers."

The unions and companies negotiated at which job sites the organizing would take place, and who could be organized, union officials said. The companies agreed not to challenge the unions' organizing drive.

In turn, the unions agreed to lower the heat on their corporate campaigns against the three firms, said Rick Hurd, a Cornell University labor expert familiar with the agreements.

Labor experts said the arrangement with the three companies was not the only one like this, but because they have been kept confidential it isn't clear how many such deals exist. An article in Saturday's Wall Street Journal broke the silence.

"It is a widespread practice and they [unions and companies] are careful about not releasing the details," Hurd said. Unions have increasingly bargained for neutrality agreements when they think cannot find another way to get a foothold within the company, he explained.

"We don't hide it, nor do we publicize it," Raynor said. And Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for the SEIU, said unions tell the workers about the agreement when they begin their organizing effort.

However, Eliseo Medina, executive vice-president of the 1.7-million member SEIU, and who leads the union's South and Southwest operations, said he wasn't aware of any deal with Aramark.

"There's constantly a lot of stuff going on within the union, so we don't necessarily know everything," he said.

A Sodexho spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on the specifics of the agreement.

"The company respects employees' right to unionize and … we negotiate with the unions in good faith and hopefully reach an agreement that's in the best interests of the employees and the [company's] client," she said.

About 17 percent of Sodexho's 110,000 U.S. employees are unionized, she said. Officials from the two other firms could not be reached.

The two unions created a new organization called Service Workers United, which has signed contracts at individual locations of the companies rather than company-wide deals, union officials said.

But the unions' deal with Aramark broke down earlier this year, and the company has been faced with about six strikes since, Raynor said.

The newly organized workers might receive lower wages than long-term union members elsewhere within the companies' nationwide operations, union officials said. But many of the newly organized are getting improved wages and benefits, Raynor said.

At a Sodexho-owned laundry in Buffalo, workers saw their wages rise from just above minimum wage to $10 an hour, he said.


County budget: Gov't-unions call the shots

As Montgomery County's elected officials prepare this week to raise taxes and trim services to close a projected $300 million budget shortfall, most are reluctant to roll back raises negotiated by powerful union leaders. Over the past two decades, the influence of the unions representing public employees in the county has grown dramatically. Former and current government officials say Montgomery's bargaining system -- along with labor's political clout -- gives workers as strong a voice, if not stronger, than taxpayers in budget talks.

For years, union leaders Gino Renne, Walter Bader and John J. Sparks have been a driving force behind improving working conditions for Montgomery's bus drivers, social workers, police officers, firefighters and other employees. Recent labor contracts provide most workers with salary increases of 26 to 29 percent over three years, including 8 percent this fiscal year for most general government workers.

Their impact goes beyond salary negotiations: The three have had a hand in defining the role of library volunteers, choosing the lawyers the county hires to negotiate contracts, organizing lifeguards and leaf collectors and enhancing labor's role in overseeing a $3 billion retirement system.

The County Council has the final say in approving contracts negotiated by the county executive but rarely exercises its power as a backstop.

"Although you may know in your heart that the only way to deal with this particular deficit is to broach the union contracts, it is difficult for politicians who wish to be reelected to vote against the union contracts because the unions can rise up and defeat you," said former council member Nancy Dacek, who was defeated after three terms by a union-backed rival.

Personnel costs will account for 80 percent of spending in fiscal 2009. Members of Renne's Municipal and County Government Employee Organization are slated to receive raises of 4.5 percent in July; in addition, most would continue to receive 3.5 percent annual step increases. General government workers are scheduled to receive general pay raises of 4 percent in the District and 4.5 percent on average in Fairfax County.

Council members Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville) and Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At Large) last week recommended reducing raises by two percentage points, in part to offset the property tax increase proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). But that idea has not gained traction with their colleagues.

"We do not have to balance this budget on the backs of working people," council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) told the hundreds of union members who lined up to defend their contracts at a public hearing last week.

Union leaders add that talk of a fiscal crisis is overblown and that raises are necessary to attract talent to deliver services residents have come to expect.

"We come to work, we serve the public and we expect to receive what we bargained for in good faith," Renne said.

In a heavily Democratic county, the unions' strength is part politics, part personality and part policy. Human Resources director Joseph Adler, who has worked at the state level, said the premise of collective bargaining is that both sides come to the table as equals.

"Montgomery's statute, from what I've seen, goes the furthest in making that a reality," he said.

Many jurisdictions nationwide call for binding arbitration when contract talks with firefighters or police officers reach an impasse. Montgomery and the District, however, are the only jurisdictions in the region that also provide for arbitration when talks break down with general government workers.

In Montgomery, arbitrators must by law look at the wages and benefits of other public employees in the region, including teachers.

Arbitrators also must consider the county's ability to pay. Jim Torgesen, labor relations manager from 1977 until 2005, said that was often a tough sell for Montgomery in flush times. Since 1983, arbitrators have sided with the unions in 11 of 14 cases.

To the three long-serving union leaders, their advocacy is more lifestyle or religion than a job. After 24 years as president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 35, Bader has technically stepped aside, but he is still at the bargaining table, with encyclopedic recall.

Sparks, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, is the slow and steady closer known as "Sparky." He greets some female council members with a kiss. And Renne, a flamboyant and sometimes profane former deputy sheriff, turns up the heat at the table only to later invite the targets of his ire for a drink.

"Over the years, they have developed a level of sophistication and knowledge of history that can be very effective," Torgesen said.

When Bader caught wind of a memo last year asking the council to sign off on a law firm he viewed as anti-union, he alerted Renne, who immediately called Leggett.

"If you bring in that law firm with a history of being antagonistic to unions," Renne said he told Leggett, it would have a "profound impact on our relationship for years to come."

Five days after the memo was sent, the county pulled its request and later sought council approval of a different law firm.

Council analysts have recommended scrapping several contract provisions. The county is slated to spend $1.75 million to buy 35 patrol cars for police officers who live beyond the county's borders. Officers who are county residents are allowed to use a patrol car when they are off duty, whereas out-of-county officers drive a personal vehicle to and from work.

Under the program, out-of-county officers could park patrol cars in lots near the county line. The program, according to council staff, "means very expensive vehicles can sit unused for days." Analysts instead suggest using some of the money to restore a police recruit class.

Bader said the program would allow more officers to respond to calls en route to work.

In contract talks with Renne, the county agreed to increase from three to five the number of union representatives on the board that oversees the county's retirement funds. Council analysts have recommended against it, saying that the board was designed to provide accountability to taxpayers, who pay 87 percent of the annual contribution.

Since the early 1980s, when voters first approved collective bargaining, the unions' influence has grown in ways large and small. Among the 1,500 proposals Renne brought to the table last year was language phasing out the use of volunteers "for any work that is essential to the basic operation of the library system."

When the council balked, a compromise was crafted that instead phases out volunteers for "any function which requires direct access to the library circulation system computer or circulation data."

In 2002, at Renne's urging, the council passed legislation that expanded his ranks to include such temporary workers as lifeguards and recreation staff. Membership ballooned from 5,500 to about 8,000.

Senior legislative attorney Michael Faden cautioned the council at the time that the measure would absorb workers into the union by "legislative fiat." Responses to postcards the council sent to workers asking for their feedback were "uniformly negative," Faden wrote.

Renne attributed the response to the wording of the notice. The county, he said, has intentionally kept costs down by "exploiting" temporary workers who do not qualify for overtime or health benefits.

Dacek was the lone council member that year to vote against the legislation. She paid at the ballot box. Council President Michael Knapp (D-Upcounty) defeated Dacek, a Republican, in 2002 with help from the unions.

For candidates seeking election, unions can play a critical role, providing money and ground troops to get out the vote. But labor's track record at the polls has been mixed. In last month's Democratic primary in District 4, however, Don Praisner defeated union-backed School Board President Nancy Navarro. And union leaders have not quieted Andrews after they backed his unsuccessful opponent in 2006.

Said Renne, "We're going to keep running people until we find someone to beat him."


Barack and Hoffa make beautiful music

Obama Agrees to PROTECT Union Corruption, not ELIMINATE it

So, Barack Obama claims he is a reformer. He claims he wants to clean up Washington D.C. He acts as if he just wants the truth told to the people. Well, here is some truth. According to the Wall Street Journal, Barack has promised the Teamsters that if they give him their support he will kill the current Federal oversight agency that was created to root out union corruption in the workplace.

Yes, Barack Obama has said that he wishes to protect corruption, not eliminate it. Has he agreed to turn his back on fighting corruption merely so that he might be able to count the votes of union thugs in his column?

It has been revealed by inside sources that Obama secretly promised the Teamsters that he will end the strict oversight that the Federal government has through an independent oversight board that was set up in 1992 because of the mob influence rampant in the Teamsters. Obama has claimed that he favors “examining” the review board, but refuses to state publicly what that means.

However, the Wall Street Journal claims that they have found out that Obama means to scale back the board and this isn’t too hard to believe since the Democrat controlled Congress has also been slow to approve funding of the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) of late, paving the way to defund it and let it lie fallow. If Obama follows suit with the Democrats in Congress who are trying to give corrupt unions a free hand to indulge in more corruption with no government interference, it would seem to fit the Democrat agenda. This also shows that Obama is no “reformer” and not interested in changing anything in Washington but the party of the President.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama’s secret promises are a bit “unusual.”
It’s an unusual stance for a presidential candidate. Policy makers have largely treated monitoring of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as a legal matter left to the Justice Department since an independent review board was set up in 1992 to eliminate mob influence in the union.
You bet it seems an “unusual stance” especially from the so-called candidate of “change.” After all, a secret deal to eliminate an agency that has been very effective at rooting out union crime and corruption does not ring true with a candidate who claims that he wants a “new day” of truth in Washington D.C.

Obama has said, though, that his promises to the Teamsters is not a “blanket commitment.”

But, what Obama is quoted as having said is just another example of his penchant of say nothing at all and using a whole lot of words to do it.
“I wouldn’t make any blanket commitments,” the Illinois senator told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“What I’ve said is that I would examine what is going on in terms of the federal oversight that’s been taking place but it’s been in place for many years.”

Obama said the Teamsters had done “a terrific job cleaning house” and suggested it could be time for the Teamsters “to get treated just like every other union.”

“That’s something that I’ll absolutely examine when I’m president of the United States,” he said.
This is all stuff and nonsense. Has he made a commitment to let the a corrupt, Mob infested union off the hook or not? No one can say because he talked out of both sides of his mouth once again.

It should be noted, too, that this oversight of the Teamsters is independent of politics and is a venue of the Justice Department. But, if Obama really does end up trying to eliminate a review board that has been successful in rooting out criminals in unions, how does this make him a “fresh voice” in Washington? It looks more like he is just another Democrat that panders to unions and turns his face from their criminal activities.

Not much “change” there.


Ex-U.S. Rep. David Bonior, Michigan DINO

Related DINO stories: here

Former congressman wants to end secret-ballot union elections

Former Macomb County Congressman David Bonior, who managed John Edwards' unsuccessful presidential campaign, endorsed Sen. Barack Obama on Thursday. Bonior compared the 2008 election to pivotal moments in political history such as Franklin Roosevelt's election in 1932 and John F. Kennedy's in 1960.

"The American people want a new direction. They want fundamental change, big change, I think," Bonior said during a media conference call with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a co-chair of Obama's campaign.

He praised Obama for creating a "movement" of supporters who had disengaged from politics in the past or were engaging for the first time.

The endorsement provides Obama what could be valuable support from a close ally of organized labor. In the long 2008 primary season, Obama has struggled to attract support from union voters, and union officials in Michigan such as state AFL-CIO chief Mark Gaffney have questioned whether Obama is sympathetic enough to the concerns of manufacturing workers.

Bonior is close to officials in the United Auto Workers and other unions, and his enthusiastic support could help Obama with the blue-collar workers whom Sen. Hillary Clinton has won over. Clinton and her campaign have cited her strength with blue-collar workers, and particular working families, as a reason for her to remain in the race.

"I think most members of the labor community will be very comfortable with Barack Obama because of his record, the new people and energy he brings to the race and because of his passion on the key issues facing working families," Bonior said.

As examples, he cited Obama's support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize workplaces, and tougher safety regulations.

Bonior predicted that Obama would meet or exceed the performance of previous Democratic nominees with voters in union households, a key Democratic constituency.

He joined Edwards' 2008 campaign early in the effort, and was installed as his campaign manager in summer 2007. Edwards has the support of many industrial unions, a strength that Bonior helped to solidify.

Edwards has remained neutral in the race. Bonior said he discussed the campaign with Edwards this past weekend, but would not share what he called a private conversation.

"He'll make his decision when he's ready and I'm not prepared to share where he is or where he may be," Bonior said.


Pro-union Gov. divides Colorado

With two legislative sessions under his belt, Gov. Bill Ritter has a long list of accomplishments related to renewable energy. But with two legislative sessions to go, and the low-hanging fruit already picked, we worry that Colorado's weak governor has lost the coalitions necessary to lead and help craft real solutions to the state's nagging problems. Ritter, it seems, isn't willing to spend any of his political capital on pushing through the crucial yet hard-to-sell items. That may allow him to keep his high approval ratings, but Colorado ultimately loses.

Earlier this year, the governor floated the idea of raising vehicle registration fees to help patch up our crumbling highway infrastructure. It was a bold move, in our eyes. But at the first sign of resistance, he recoiled and blamed The Post for misinterpreting his support for the idea.

The idea returned during the session, but it died for lack of leadership.

Part of the problem goes back to last year, when the governor lost the support of some influential business leaders after issuing his unnecessary executive order on labor unions. Those are the same business leaders who could help provide some political cover and even nudge a few tax-shy Republicans in the right direction should, let's say, a Democratic governor want to raise registration fees to help fund highway repairs.

But we also think Ritter has been a bit shell-shocked since he first came into office. He's not a politician, which has always been part of his charm. But that lack of political experience is hurting him. It helps to have a thick skin and a more calculating personality — or at least a very politically astute support staff around you — to successfully navigate often choppy political waters.

Consider what happened this spring when Ritter was deciding whether to support a severance tax hike for higher education. Even though he was trying to send more money to Colorado schools, in a politically non-astute move he managed to tick off university and college presidents.

The governor apparently thought leaders of the state's public schools weren't sufficiently excited about possibly getting more than $200 million in oil and gas tax money to run their schools. So, instead of sending the money directly to schools, as the presidents wanted, he decided to devote the money to scholarships for students.

We think Ritter's idea has the best chance of winning voter approval, but his inability to win over college presidents made it a much tougher sell. You can already hear the campaign ads: "Even college presidents don't support this tax hike . . . ."

Ritter's weakness also has been exposed in his inability to avert a nuclear showdown on this fall's ballot between business and labor leaders. Ritter provoked the business-sponsored right-to-work initiative with his inane executive order granting collective bargaining rights to state workers.

That, in turn, provoked labor to run a handful of ballot measures that would be devastating to Colorado businesses. And Ritter, so far, has been powerless to stop it.

Ritter needs to spend this summer somehow rebuilding the coalitions he frittered away with his labor giveaway. Otherwise, Coloradans can look forward to two more lackluster years while the state's highways, bridges and universities crumble.


NYC Carpenters Union embezzler gets jail term

A former shop steward and delegate of Local 157 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners has been sentenced by U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones to five months in prison and five months of home confinement. The sentence follows Frank Proscia’s October 2007 guilty plea to one count of aiding and abetting the embezzlement of funds from employee benefit plans.

Prosecutors said from February 2006 through June 2006, Proscia conspired with others to defraud the Carpenter’s union benefit funds by, among other things, submitting false shop steward reports that underreported the number of carpenters and the hours worked by carpenters for a construction contractor at a jobsite located in New York City.

During the time of the charged conduct, Proscia was an elected delegate representing members of Local 157.He was also the shop steward for L&D Installers, Inc., a furniture installation and construction contractor, at a jobsite located at 11 Madison Avenue. L&D was a party to a collective bargaining agreement with the District Council.

Pursuant to the CBA, L&D was obligated to pay all of its workers at an hourly rate specified in the CBA and to make contributions for each hour worked to the District Council Benefit Funds. The District Council Benefit Funds — which are covered by the laws governing Employee Retirement Income Security Act plans– provide life insurance, hospitalization, medical care, pension and vacation benefits to union members.

A shop steward’s principal duty is to be the daily “eyes and ears” of the union and to report a contractor’s violations of the collective bargaining agreement. The shop steward is required to submit weekly reports, called “shop steward reports,” to the union office setting forth the hours worked by each of the union’s members assigned to the job site. Thus, the shop steward is required to observe the number of hours worked at the jobsite by the union members in order to report the carpenter-hours accurately each week. The union’s auditors rely on shop steward reports to be accurate when they audit contractors to ensure that all benefit contributions have been paid.

During Proscia’s plea of guilty, he admitted that he had intentionally filed false shop steward reports to assist L&D in defrauding the union benefit funds. In all, L&D embezzled over $2 million from the funds.

Proscia’s co-defendant in the case, Michael Annucci, was convicted, after an eight-day jury trial in February 2008, of engaging in similar conduct from July 2001 until February 2006. Annucci, who is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Jones on June13, was also a shop steward and executive delegate of Local157 at the time of his criminal conduct.

By falsifying his shop steward reports, Proscia and Annucci helped L&D cover up the scheme to evade its benefit payment obligations. Because of those actions, some carpenters got paid lower wages, lost years off their pensions, lost vacation and retirement annuity benefits, and lost health coverage, prosecutors said.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Jones sentenced Proscia to two years of supervised release, with the special condition that Proscia be subject to home confinement, with electronic monitoring, for the first five months of that time. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

In sentencing Proscia, the judge called his conduct an “extremely serious offense,” observing that “shop stewards are supposed to be the protectors” of the rank-and-file carpenters. Jones also stated that it was important to sentence Proscia to prison because other union representatives and officials “need to understand that they will go to prison if they show no respect for the law or their duties under the Consent Decree,” referring to the court-ordered Consent Decree entered into in 1994 by the Carpenter’s Union and the federal government seeking to rid the union of corruption and organized crime influences.


Gettlefinger stymied by UAW-AAM strike failure

Related American Axle stories: here.
More UAW stories: here.
More GM stories: here.

Negotiations to end the nearly 11 week-long American Axle strike have broken down, as the company is now proposing to close a third plant, United Auto Workers President Ron Gettlefinger said Saturday. Gettlefinger, in an interview with WWJ radio, called the proposal to close a Cheektowaga, N.Y., plant an "insult" and said it came out of left field.

"If the company continues down this road, it's going to make the talks increasingly more difficult," he said.

"I don't know how they can call themselves American Axle anymore. To me it's more like Axle Mexico."

Gettlefinger confirmed the union and American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. had previously agreed to close forges in Detroit and Tonawanda, N.Y.

About 3,600 American Axle workers have been on strike at five plants since Feb. 26, after they refused to accept deep cuts in wages and benefits.

The latest breakdown came late Friday, a day after General Motors Corp agreed to pay up to $200 million to help end the strike by funding employee buyouts, early retirements and wage buydowns.

Gettlefinger, who said previously he didn't want GM involved, now says the automaker's assistance "definitely made it worse."

"I feared that as greedy as this group is, that when General Motors put more money in there, instead of trying to use it to resolve the negotiations, they'd try to figure a way to keep it for themselves," he said.

American Axle spokeswoman Renee Rogers said she wouldn't specifically address Gettlefinger's comments or any plans to close plants.

"We have a proposal that has been considerably higher than the market cost competitive agreement that the UAW gave to our competitors, including Dana (Corp.)," she said. "We continue to work toward obtaining a settlement quickly."

Late last month, the company proposed a deal that called for workers to accept wage cuts ranging from $5 to $14 per hour, depending on position, and the shutdown of the forge plants, in exchange for $140,000 buyouts or a $90,000 buydown bonus to stay at a lower wage.

Those close to the negotiations have said the amount of those buyouts and buydowns did not increase significantly after GM offered to assist this week.

In the WWJ interview, Gettlefinger said he recognizes that the talks have been tumultuous for strikers. He said even his top negotiators were so sure the strike was close to a conclusion nearly a month ago that they canceled a major rally in Detroit's Hart Plaza.

"This negotiation is very challenging," he said. "It's been like a roller coaster ride for our members on the picket line."

Detroit-based American Axle, with sales of more than $3 billion last year, gets 80 percent of its business from GM, its former parent. It makes axles, drive shafts and stabilizer bars for pickup trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado, GM's top-selling vehicle.

Many of its U.S. competitors won deals from the UAW to pay newly hired workers about $14 per hour. But American Axle workers say they won't take that big of a pay cut from a company that made $37 million last year.


Jumbo federal union endorses Barack

The nation's largest federal employee union today announced its endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States. The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 600,000 federal workers, made the decision to support Obama in this historic election citing the critical need for positive change and Obama's ability to unite the country.

"Senator Obama has proven himself to be a friend of labor, displaying a firm understanding of the critical importance of both a healthy labor movement and a strong federal workforce," said John Gage, AFGE national president.

AFGE polled its members, who are dispersed throughout the country and overseas, and took a vote of its National Executive Council prior to making the decision to endorse Senator Obama.

"Senator Obama's campaign brings an energy that has motivated our members, along with millions of working families across America," said Gage. "This is an historic election given the issues that all Americans face as one people and one country. An overwhelming number of Americans recognize that our country is on the wrong track. Our economy is hurting. Good paying jobs are disappearing. There are millions of Americans without health insurance and millions more live in fear that they are one step away from losing health care coverage."

"As federal employees, our members have witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of the Bush administration's misguided policies, but with Senator Obama, we can right the direction of this country. The next president will face an onslaught of critical challenges. The Social Security and Veterans Benefits Administrations face claims backlogs in the hundreds of thousands, veterans' health care workers are battling waves of new patients with limited resources, and droves of federal workers are nearing retirement. In order to effectively meet these challenges elected officials must work together, and focus on the needs of the American people. We believe Barack Obama has the ability and the judgment to help unite a large measure of the American people around real solutions to bring about the change we need," said Gage.

"While we have made the decision to endorse Senator Obama, we retain the utmost respect for Senator Clinton. Senator Hillary Clinton has been a stalwart champion of federal employees, and AFGE is grateful for her support on issues ranging from collective bargaining rights to privatization to the need for additional federal protective officers who provide security at federal buildings," said Gage.

As a superdelegate in Maryland, Gage also endorsed Senator Obama, personally. "Following the decision of my union, I, as a superdelegate, am proud to endorse Senator Obama to become the Democratic Party's nominee for President of the United States

AFGE is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.


Judge orders union-only construction

A Juneau Superior Court judge sided Friday with the city over contractors upset about the use of project labor agreements on public projects. Judge Philip Pallenberg denied a request by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alaska to force the city to hold off on accepting bids that require union labor to renovate Harborview Elementary School.

"It's not the job of this court to second guess the city's policy choices," Pallenberg said, before listing a number of legal problems he saw with the contractors' request and with their case in general.

The request to hold off the bidding is part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the contractors group that seeks to do away with the project labor agreement on the Harborview job entirely.

The ruling allows the city to accept bids next week for a yearlong renovation project at Harborview that the city estimates will cost $14 million. Contractors bidding on the project must sign an agreement to use union workers or workers who agree to let the union take a portion of their paychecks for dues and benefits.

The city wants project labor agreements on five other future city construction projects, saying the agreements require unions to secure a reliable work force necessary to completing those projects on time.

While arguing why Pallenberg should not block the Harborview bid, the city's attorney told the court that project labor agreements would help prevent labor chaos, or a "Dodge City" type atmosphere, during a hectic building schedule.

"To clean up Dodge City, you needed Wyatt Earp," Jon Tillinghast said, likening project labor agreements to the legendary Western lawman.

Bill Shattenberg, owner of Anchor Electric and also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he had no plans to press forward with the lawsuit.

His lawyer, who is based in Anchorage and also represented the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alaska, could not be reached for comment Friday.

"It was a moral issue for me," Shattenberg said. "I feel that the city council has been coerced by union labor ... and it's wrong."

Shattenberg said he won't bid for any city projects that have a project labor agreement because the employee benefits he would have to pay the unions on top of the benefits he already pays would drive up his costs too much to make them competitive.

Mayor Bruce Botelho, who was present for Pallenberg's ruling, said the Juneau Assembly hadn't put any pressure on the city engineer who made the decision to make a project labor agreement part of the Harborview bid.

He said it was difficult to say whether bids for city projects with project labor agreements were costlier as a result of having less competition. But he added that knowledge that project labor agreements prevented worker strikes or other labor unrest offset any "hypothetical" costs associated with the agreements.

"That certainty has a premium for us," Botelho said.


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