A nine-person panel was formed Monday to advise Clark County leaders how far they should go to ensure union labor is used on public works projects.
The panel is a mixture of union and industry representatives who will spend at least a month working out a compromise on “project labor agreements,” a system designed to foster union participation. They then will recommend a revised version to county commissioners.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani last month proposed putting projects that would cost $100,000 or more under these agreements.
Supporters say the agreements will prevent labor unrest and ensure skilled workers are on the job. Critics contend they discourage nonunion contractors and can add as much as 20 percent to project costs.
Two panel members who have grappled with this issue disagreed about how balanced the appointments are. The members were chosen by Clark County staff.
“Certainly a lot of industry professionals on the panel,” said Steve Ross, who represents a regional AFL-CIO affiliate. “Is this panel made up as I’d want it to be? No. I’d want a panel more labor-friendly.”
Ultimately, the makeup of the panel won’t matter, Ross said, arguing that the labor agreements will speak for themselves.
Warren Hardy, who heads a builders’ lobbying group, said the panel was a balanced blend of both sides, with a couple of neutral members.
The panel might seem weighted heavily against project agreements, but that’s not true, Hardy said.
For instance, Berlyn Miller lobbies for union contractors, and Associated General Contractors is neutral about the agreements, he said.
“We will advocate that if you’re going to have them, that they’re fair to both union and nonunion contractors,” said Steve Holloway, an Associated General Contractors representative.
Holloway said the agreements shouldn’t be imposed on projects smaller than $25 million. The county also should dispense with rules that require a nonunion bidder to hire so many union workers for a job and pay into a union benefits fund, he said.
Hardy said that given the commissioners’ sympathy for unions, he wasn’t surprised that project agreements are being proposed. He is surprised, though, that commissioners are questioning some of the national guidelines.
“That demonstrates just how inequitable PLAs are,” Hardy said.
Ross said certain parts might be negotiable.
The main goals are to prevent out-of-state contractors from bringing in their own workers and paying local help on the cheap, Ross said.
“We just want to ensure that good Nevada jobs go to Nevadans,” Ross said.
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at email@example.com or 702-455-4519.PANEL MEMBERS
Steve Ross, Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council
Steve Holloway, Associated General Contractors
Warren Hardy, Associated Builders and Contractors
Frank Hawkins, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Louis Richardson, Disadvantaged/Minority Business Enterprises
Marc Furman, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters
Berlyn Miller, Nevada Contractors Association
Lorraine Bailey, a Hardy Construction Inc. representative
Jack Jeffrey, retired labor representative
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL