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More projects for minorities? Union-trade group pact might open door

Updated June 23, 2023 - 4:44 pm

A trade agreement between a contractors association and a labor union could open the door for more minorities to get onto high-priced union projects.

The Nevada chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors and the Laborers International Union of North America, Local 872 agreed to a four-year labor contract on June 19 that allows minority contractors to bid on projects that are under project labor agreements, or PLAs, with Local 872.

“The way the union and those PLA agreements have always been written, (NAMC members) have not been able to find a way to be able to work with these bigger general contractors on these job sites,” said Tim Brooks, the president of NAMC.

This agreement can be a “win-win” for union members and NAMC members, said Tommy White, the business manager and secretary treasurer of Local 872. He said it adds union benefits such as health benefits and set wage increases into labor contracts while providing NAMC contractors more flexibility to bid on projects.

“It gives a lot of strength to a contractor bidding on a project to have a union behind them,” White said.

The agreement also specifies that NAMC contractors have to provide union-level benefits only for contracts they get on union projects and not other projects. The agreement also includes incremental wage increases over the next four years that will raise workers’ wages by $12.25 per hour by the end of the period.

An agreement between a contractors association and a labor union is fairly common since it provides stability for both sides, according to Ruben Garcia, a UNLV labor law professor.

“These agreements can be structured any number of ways and all depend on what both sides are willing to agree to,” Garcia said.

Many large projects in the state have union labor agreements such as the construction of Allegiant Stadium, the upcoming $1.5 billion baseball stadium and the “Dropicana” renovation project for the Interstate 15 and Tropicana Avenue interchange. It can be difficult for small and minority contractors to get involved with these large projects due to the agreements with larger unions, according to Brooks.

“It has shut out minority and disadvantaged businesses on those projects because they were not affiliated with the union,” he said. “Some of those jobs can pay $150,000 a year and can be lifestyle and life-changing jobs.”

The agreement between the two organizations can be a useful tool for meeting certain minority goals that can be contained in project contracts, according to White. Garcia said it can be common for labor agreements to include goals on how much work should go to minority or disadvantaged businesses. For example, the contractors for Allegiant Stadium had a goal of having 38 percent of work hours go to women and minorities, a goal that was exceeded in 2019.

Both Brooks and White hope the agreement can be used as a template for partnernships between unions and trade associations in the future.

The agreement brings together two organizations that have a big difference in size. Local 872 represents about 3,500 construction workers in Southern Nevada, according to White. Brooks said NAMC represents about 30 contractors throughout the state.

Brooks thinks the partnership with Local 872 will be beneficial both due to the union’s size and because of White’s influence on Las Vegas. White is a member of the board for the Las Vegas Stadium Authority.

Local 872 is working with other contractor associations to get similar agreements in place by July 1. Without those agreements, there could potentially be a labor strike, which could affect large-scale projects including the work to prepare for the Formula One Grand Prix, the Fontainebleau, the MSG Sphere and major road projects in Southern Nevada, according to a news release from Local 872.

Garcia described Local 872 as a “linchpin” of construction in Southern Nevada because of its involvement with a wide variety of projects.

White said Local 872 doesn’t want to strike but will do what’s necessary if agreements aren’t reached with other contractor associations.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.

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