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Council OKs project labor agreement law

City required to use union workers

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Toledo City Council approved a controversial project labor agreement ordinance Tuesday — a move Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson tried to push through last year but withdrew after criticism.

Council voted 9-2 in favor of the provision that applies to all construction contracts that are $100,000 or greater and supported by the city. It requires negotiating project labor agreements with the Northwest Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, a cooperative of unions, for such projects.

Councilmen Tom Waniewski, a Republican, and Sandy Spang, an independent, voted no. Matt Cherry, a business agent for Sheet Metal Workers Local 33, abstained because of his union employment.

The mayor, a Democrat who enjoyed strong union support in her successful election bid last year, said the provision was needed to ensure the city uses highly trained and skilled local workers.

“It was just last week I learned of a contractor in the city that was violating all kinds of rules,” the mayor said. She added, “It provides for quality work being done by quality people.”

Some councilmen were not pleased that council President Steven Steel and the mayor pushed for an immediate vote Tuesday on the new rule without warning.

“It would have been nice to have some forewarning; some foreknowledge that you were going to present this,” Mr. Waniewski said.

Councilman Rob Ludeman, the other Republican on council, also said he should have been told ahead of Tuesday's meeting.

Project labor agreements are controversial. The Ohio House in 2015 passed a budget that prohibits project labor agreements for construction jobs that use state funds. 

Generally, such agreements allow unions to negotiate wages and terms for workers before they are hired. It requires contractors to hire workers through union hiring halls and follow union rules.

Shaun Enright, executive secretary and business manager of the Northwest Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, said the provision was needed because without it, some contractors have avoided paying wages or offering benefits.

“This levels the field and makes sure workers are taken care of,” Mr. Enright said.

Council also agreed to sell four acres in East Toledo at Ravine Park for $50 to the trades council so it can construct a 6,000-square-foot, two-story office building.

As part of the deal, the union group will have to maintain things such as grass-cutting and lighting in Tribute Park, which occupies land on the upstream side of the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway East Toledo approach that had been the site of ramps for the I-280 Front Street interchange.

The Lucas County auditor’s website values the 19.2 acres on that site at $381,000. Bill Burkett, Toledo’s economic development commissioner, said the four-acre site is worth up to $20,000. Council voted 10-0 in favor of the sale, with Theresa Gabriel absent and Mr. Cherry abstaining.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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