Project Labor Agreement misrepresented

The Akron (OH) Public Schools (APS) Board of Education decided May 12 to use a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on its construction of the new Leggett Community Learning Center (CLC) in the North cluster. The PLA will set union-like standards for the project, including a living wage, benefits and working conditions. The project will not require workers to join a union.

Despite that fact, the PLA has been the subject of controversy and lobbying from union and nonunion groups. “We’ve heard the calls for and against the PLA,” said Board President Linda Omobien. “We have built 10 buildings, with eight more under construction, using the ‘fair and responsible bidder’ process.

“This is one building,” she added. “We will learn from this, and our experience will determine whether we will go forth with the PLA on additional buildings or not. We will see how much it costs, and we’ll see if we have a higher quality structure than what we have now.”

Before the unanimous vote, proponents of both sides stated their cases.

“The PLA will bring together the contractors and the crafts,” said Ron Macala, of the Tri-County Building Council. “This will create uniform conditions, wages and rules to govern the project.

“We pledge to meet your goals of 50 percent of the workers from Akron, 20 percent minorities and 7 percent females,” he added. “That is as important to us as it is to you. If you’ve heard that nonunion workers can’t participate, nothing could be further from the truth.”

Rebecca Burwell spoke in opposition to the PLA on behalf of the Coalition of Taxpayers Rights.

“The PLA is bad public policy,” she said. “It eliminates competition, inflates costs, caters to special interests and limits the pool of workers.”

She said the PLA would create a mountain of bureaucracy.

“You would need to review collective bargaining agreements, benefits and jurisdiction to ensure a level playing field,” she added. “Then you must give these documents to all of their bidders and answer their questions.”

Several members of the school board expressed reservations about using the PLA, but the vote was unanimous to try the option on the Leggett building.

“My heart is against the PLA,” said board member the Rev. Curtis Walker, “but this is one project, and we’ll see if it lives up to what they say.”

“It’s one building out of 46,” said board member James Hardy, “and a PLA is not a union-only contract. Our goals are to keep the costs comparable and meet our work force goals. If those goals are not met, I will never vote for a PLA again.”

In other action, the school board made its change of superintendents official. The board accepted the resignation of Superintendent Sylvester Small and hired David James to replace him Aug. 1. James signed a three-year contract, starting at $165,000 and increasing by $5,000 in each of the following two years.

“We tried to be fair considering the resources we have,” said Omobien. “The superintendent in Cincinnati makes $197,000, and Cleveland’s makes $260,000.”

Before the meeting, the Joint Board of Review met to discuss the school reconstruction project. The board approved the bids for the National Inventors Hall of Fame School — Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Downtown Akron. The total cost of the project is $13.2 million.

The contractors for the project include Summit Construction Co., of Akron; Continental Office Furniture, of Columbus; Komar Plumbing Co., of Youngstown; The K Co., of Akron (mechanical/heating, ventilating and air conditioning); Simplex Grinnell LP, of Strongsville (sprinklers); Entertech Electric, of Lowellville; Mid-West Telephone Service, of Girard; and Windstream Communications, of Hudson.

William Considine, president of Akron Children’s Hospital, is leading a campaign to raise $3 million toward the cost of the project.

The joint board also approved the construction documents for the Leggett CLC, which will cost $10 million.

The joint board also awarded the contract for concrete and masonry for the Barber CLC in East Akron to The Knoch Corp., of North Canton. The firm will perform the work for $4.8 million. Also at the Barber building, Southeast Security Corp., of Sharon Center, will do technology and data work for $497,400.

Both Barber bids are replacements for previous winning bidders who did not meet the joint board’s requirements.

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, the next APS Board of Education meeting is set for Tuesday, May 27, at 5:30 p.m. at Kent Middle School, 1445 Hammel St. The Joint Board of Review will meet at 4 p.m. that day at the administration building, 70 N. Broadway.


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