1/31/08

Discouraging non-union labor in baseball

One of the country's largest labor unions has issued a report lauding the effects of the Washington Nationals stadium project on the D.C. economy and workers.

The Laborers' International Union of North America and LIUNA Local 657 said the ballpark should be seen as a model for how large-scale construction can create jobs and boost worker qualifications, and said more than $12 million has been injected into D.C. neighborhoods through the steady paychecks of workers. LIUNA has been a major supporter of the stadium's Project Labor Agreement, which required all workers to be union members.

The PLA, the union said, has been instrumental in allowing the city complete the ballpark on time while keeping the hard and soft costs of the stadium on budget.

"Finishing the project on time was critical and the need for timely project completion led to the decision to use the PLA," the report said. "Using the PLA to lock up a reliable, skilled labor supply in numerous trades and crafts represents sound project planning and helps offset considerable risks."

According to LIUNA, 72 percent of all apprenticeship hours have been performed by District residents, while 87 percent of all new apprentices are from the District. However, the union acknowledged that only about one-third of all journeyman-level workers at the stadium are from the District -- falling short of the 50 percent goal set by District officials when the project began. It is this shortage of D.C.-based journeymen that has drawn the ire of industry groups like the DC Economic Empowerment Coalition (DCEEC), which opposed the PLA. Union officials have countered by pointing to a shortage of journeymen living in the District; they contend that the experience gained by apprentices on the stadium will help boost the number of journeymen for future projects in the city.

The union's report comes less than a week after two workers were fired on the job site for their connection to a noose found on the job site. DCEEC said the incident showed a pattern of racial discrimination at the ballpark, and D.C. Council member Kwame Brown hosted a roundtable to discuss the issue this afternoon.

(video1.washingtontimes.com)

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