Iowa project curbs non-union labor

The Waterloo (IA) Building Trades Council, made up of unionized skilled trades workers, issued a statement Friday supporting Alliant Energy's proposed coal-fired power plant near Marshalltown.

The council is taking that position because Alliant agreed to a project labor agreement, which requires companies working on the plant to pay prevailing wages. The agreement also provides for unions to help union and nonunion companies recruit qualified workers.

Council President Rich Kurtenbach said Alliant and building trades reached similar agreements on the construction of wind farms in Franklin County.

A similar agreement was used in the construction of another Alliant plant in Mason City.

Kurtenbach said the project could employ as many as 100 union building trades workers from the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. The plant is close to several Iowa trades councils whose workers stand to benefit.

Alliant spokesman Ryan Stensland said the company agreed in principle to use union labor in the construction and operation of the power plant wherever possible. But he said no formal agreement has been hammered out regarding a specific number of jobs or pay rates, either at the Marshalltown plant or wind farm project.

Interstate Power and Light, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy, has applied to the Iowa Utilities Board to build a 660-megawatt plant that will use pulverized coal to generate power.

Five organizations - Community Energy Solutions, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Renewable Energy Association and Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility - plan to present expert witness testimony at a hearing in January on the plant's global warming impacts and public health. The groups also contend the plant will increase electrical rates and displace energy that could come from renewable sources.

In response, Alliant officials said they are "looking forward to the opportunity in this process to lay out our plans, of which we are very proud and feel they address the growing Iowa power needs in an environmentally and cost-effective manor."

Kurtenbach reconciles the trades council's position with some groups' environmental concerns by saying "environmental issues are just as important to us as anybody else."

He would agree the plants are not clean, "but I've also witnessed the changes with all the technologies and how it reduces emissions by building these new plants. If it will indirectly help them in getting rid of those older plants, we are reducing the emissions that are out there today."

Kurtenbach and Mark Milburn, project manager with LS Power's proposed coal-fired power plant in near Waterloo, said discussions have occurred about implementing a project labor agreement for the Waterloo project but no such agreement has been reached at this time.

Local building trades reached a similar agreement with Isle of Capri Casinos and general contractor Ryan Cos. for the Isle Casino & Hotel at Waterloo, which opened this past summer.

Several prominent nonunion contractors declined to bid or work on the project because they objected to the project labor agreement's provisions, specifically wages based on rates in Cedar Rapids they would have been required to pay.

Union skilled trades representatives said those rates were necessary to make sure union skilled trades workers - forced to work out of town for years - didn't have to take a pay cut.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What kind of clothes do union workers buy= american made. What kind of cars do union workers buy = american made . we spend it where we get it. Now what kind of workers a good for the economy?

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