Clinton County legislators passed a resolution approving a Project Labor Agreement for work at the Plattsburgh International Airport. The move at Wednesday’s meeting followed pleas by union members to approve the measure and an attempt to modify it.
A terminal expansion at the Plattsburgh International Airport was recently completed and work is ongoing to construct other facilities including an international customs center. In July the U.S. Department of Transportation approved funding to rehabilitate the runway. Eight projects are currently ready for bids that will be put out by the county over the next six months.
The legislative agenda included a resolution authorizing a Project Labor Agreement for the revitalization initiatives at the airport. A study conducted by Seeler Engineering found approval of the PLA would save the county at least $3 million on the projects.
Legislators faced a sea of yellow t-shirts worn by pro-union individuals supporting the PLA. Union sheetmetal worker Jim Hack told them too many union members are forced to drive long distances for jobs because a PLA does not protect them. “It’s sickening seeing Vermont mechanical plates all over the place. When you are a construction worker like we are and see this coming in our back yard and we’re traveling 3, 3 ½, 4 hours away to feed our families it’s, it’s it’s really sickening.”
“Good evening. My name is Megan O’Brien and I am a union member and I am very proud to represent over a thousand unionized educators and school employees in Clinton County. What this Project Labor Agreement will do is allow apprentices to work on this project, gain valuable skills, and continue to bring in a trained workforce for Clinton County.”
Legislature Chair Harry McManus: “The next speaker is David Curry.”
Curry: “Good evening. I’m speaking on behalf of the Northeast Central Labor Council. This is about fiduciary responsibility. It’s going to be very hard for you to justify an extra $3 million expenditure when you’ve been shown evidence that that’s how much you can save.”
Luck Brothers is a non-union construction company that operates across the North Country. President Ted Luck stepped up to question the need for the PLA and whether the dozens of union members in the chamber were residents of the area. “If this PLA is voted in for the first time in my 43 years in this business our 150 workers plus the hundreds of non-union workers in Clinton County will be excluded from this project only because they’re not union. That’s totally wrong. And I would guess that the people in these yellow shirts I would challenge these people to produce a license that shows they’re Clinton County residents.”
A study on the Project Labor Agreement was required prior to its potential authorization. Associated Builders and Contractors Vice President Joshua Reap stepped up to question its accuracy. “I don’t think you got your money’s worth out of this study. Mr. Seeler’s done a number of other studies across the state and I can tell this one’s effectively a rubber stamp in comparison to other ones. There’s been a lot of talk about a purported $3 million in savings. Mr. Seeler cites three studies that were done, one of them dating back 30 years. There’s no reason why you can’t bid this job both ways. I think that’s the best way to see that you get best value out of this.”
Area 8 Legislator Mark Dame attempted to set aside the resolution in order to offer an amendment that would put out bids as Reap recommended. But the move was defeated and legislators approved the original resolution. “This PLA agreement calls for 66 percent union. When we only have 20 percent union in Clinton County the math shows that we were going to have reach outside of Clinton County to get those union workers instead of using our non-union workers. So the playing field’s unfair. I wish everybody’s that working on the project luck and prosperity but I don’t really think it’s fair.”
The Project Labor Agreement was approved by the Clinton County Legislature on a 7 to 3 vote.