Judge to rule on labor-state union thuggery

A state Supreme Court judge said Wednesday he'd reserve his decision on whether a project labor agreement between Broome County and labor unions to renovate the George Harvey Justice Building using 90 percent union workers is legal.

In December, state Supreme Court Justice Ferris Lebous halted the opening of bids for the $16.9 million renovation of the building after local non-union contractors challenged the legality of the project labor agreement.

The attorney for the non-union contractors argued Wednesday that Broome did not meet the standard set by New York courts for a labor agreement, namely that the agreement would save taxpayers money. The $366,000 the county claimed it would save in labor costs with the agreement was not based on the actual project, and was not accurate, said Robert Bennett.

"This number has absolutely no relevance at all to this job," Bennett said.

But Broome's attorney disagreed, saying the agreement more than met standards and that it was not discriminatory. "The county took great care there was no discrimination on this project," said Broome County Attorney Joseph Sluzer.

Broome County legislators voted in November to approve the agreement, which would limit work on the George Harvey Justice Building to 90 percent union labor.

Legislators approved the agreement because they said it would put local workers on the project. But non-union contractors said the agreement discriminates against non-union workers at local companies who are also residents of Broome County.

While non-union contractors can bid on the project, they must hire 90 percent of their workers from the union halls instead of using their own non-union tradesmen on the job, the agreement states.

Lebous told attorneys on both side they have until Feb. 6 to submit legal arguments to the court. Lebous said he'd issue his decision as soon as possible.

Lebous also told attorneys Wednesday that he was aware of time constraints but wanted to resolve the legal issues in accordance with the law. The project is about six weeks behind schedule. Workers have already gutted the building, which has stood vacant for several years. It was built in 1939.


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