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Saturday, December 27, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 6/21/2008

No union-only label

Skilled work done at the Marina District will be done by union labor, though there also will be some jobs for nonunion workers

TOLEDO City Councilman Frank Szollosi's attempt to require that only union labor be employed for private development on 58 acres being sold to developer Larry Dillin as part of the Marina District project is uncalled-for interference that could scuttle the entire project.

Mr. Szollosi argues that because public money was spent on the property, the principles that apply to public construction should hold sway even after the property is sold to the private sector. But the only thing that would be accomplished by restricting development on the site to union workers would be to limit Mr. Dillin's ability to negotiate the best deal he can with local trade unions, raising labor costs and potentially putting the project in jeopardy.

And if that worst-case scenario were to be realized, there would be no jobs for anyone, union or nonunion. If that's what the grandstanding Mr. Szollosi wants, he's the wrong person to represent Toledo's workers in the current economic climate.

The plain fact is any skilled work - carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electrical work, roofing, etc. - done on the 58-acre tract likely will be done by union labor in any case. The building trades have the best craftsmen, the best training, and, as a result, they get jobs done more expertly and in less time. Nonunion workers in the skilled trades do not have the benefit of the skill-development centers and training opportunities available to union members. In other words, it just makes sense to use union labor on projects of this sort.

This is not to suggest that there won't be jobs on Marina District projects for nonunion workers. There will be, of course, but the vast majority of the work will be completed by the highly skilled workers in the building trades.

The historic contributions of unionized labor to the growth, development, and prosperity of Toledo and the surrounding area go without saying but what is needed now are leaders who encourage development and job growth, not put unneeded restrictions on developers. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who has counted on strong union support during his political career, certainly knows that. So does City Council president and Teamsters Local 20 vice president Mark Sobczak. Indeed, Mayor Finkbeiner quickly made clear his position that it's not appropriate for City Council to "dictate an agreement between a developer and the unions."

Both Mr. Dillin and Mayor Finkbeiner have expressed their strong support for organized labor, and we feel sure that local union leaders are more than capable of taking care of their members in negotiations for work on Marina District projects. They do not require anyone's help.

It is long past time for the Marina District to move forward. City Council should facilitate that process, not throw 11th-hour roadblocks in its path. Mr. Szollosi's interference, however principled and well-meaning, is neither welcome nor useful.



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