Karen Toles to face off against private sector builders on Labor Agreement Bill
Never one to be credited with being a great public speaker, County Councilwoman Karen Toles plans to start the public campaign for her Project Labor Agreement Bill next week before a group that could be her toughest audience, the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce. Toles, who formerlly worked as a lobbyist and organizer for the government workers union AFSCME, introduced the bill last week and it is expected to be heard before the Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee sometime next week. If the bill is passed by the committee the full council could take it up before their summer recess.
What is a Project Labor Agreement
A Project Labor Agreement, or PLA as they are called, is a type of collective bargaining contract in which workers spell out their wages, benefits, and other conditions before the contract is signed. Often times these PLA’s are used by union groups but as pointed out by Councilwoman Karen Toles it does not require union labor or membership. Under the proposal that could be passed by the council, the PLAs would also spell out specific local hiring numbers along with enforceable claw back clauses that enables the government to penalize contractors for not reaching those goals.
The Campaign to Enact the Law
Councilwoman Toles who is the lead sponsor of this bill as well as another one which would require developers receiving tax-incremental financing to agree to use workers who are part of a professional, certified apprenticeship program, has the support of Executive Rushern Baker in principal but not for the bills in their current form. She could likely also have the backing of a number of her peers such as Eric Olson, Andrea Harrison, and Leslie Johnson who voted with her to keep union raises in tact the Baker administration opposed. It wouldn’t be a shock to many if they were joined by others like Obie Patterson and Mary Lehman also who are also seen as labor friendly, but the bills are not without their opponents. Council members Campos and Franklin are expected to take a wait and see approach for the executive (Note: None of this is official these accounts come from just observers of the council). In an interview with the Gazette, State Delegate Michael Vaughn from Prince George’s, urged the local leaders to review the bill carefully. “There’s concern of some unintended consequences of these bills. I hope there’s some serious discussions of these requests.”
Councilwoman Toles will face off against Bob Zinsmeister, Government Affairs Director, Associated Builders & Contractors of Metro Washington who oppose not only this bill but normally union labor in general blaming them for driving up costs for projects.
Toles is expected to argue that requiring project labor agreements on contracts over $1 million will only help local residents because the county will be able to not only require they are paid well, but set strict and enforceable hiring quotas for locals. Zinsmeister is expected to call those claims laughable and blast the bill as a cost driver which will force out small and local companies.
The face off will take place Monday, June 13th at the offices of the Prince George’s County Chamber at 8:30AM. For more details check out our Community Calendar Page.