The labor question…

There may have been no more staunch supporters of the Vikings stadium than the construction trades labor unions. Heck, the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation even has a president on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority board, in the person of Bill McCarthy. (That’s him, at the mic, joining Gov. Mark Dayton at a stadium rally on April 6th in Minneapolis.)

McCarthy’s colleagues on the authority did their working comrades a good turn earlier this month, as well, passing a resolution in support of a project labor agreement — typically a formal collective bargaining agreement with labor unions to guarantee working conditions, wages and work continuity during a big project.

“From a practical construction standpoint, this is something that you’ll want to have on this project,”  general counsel Jay Lindgren told the MSFA. “These are issues that can be controversial, but the fact of the matter is it shouldn’t be on this issue. It’s just really a requirement so that you have a smooth operating project.”

Chair Michele Kelm-Helgen concurred: “There was a project labor agreement that was done originally,  however many years ago,  there was one for TCF Stadium, one for Target Field, and really for all the major parks that have been done in most cases around the country…For a project this size, this is something that most often is done and is good protection.”

They voted to start preparing a project labor agreement requirement to be included in the RFP for a stadium construction company.

Which drew this response, within moments on Twitter, from Kevin Watterson, the Director of Media Services for the Minnesota House GOP caucus. He first noted the award of Department of Employment and Economic Development money to the St. Paul Saints stadium the day before:

 

And it didn’t stop there.

Yesterday, the Minnesota and North Dakota chapter of Associated Contractors and Builders fired another salvo in the labor battle, headlined “Non-Union Construction Offers a Good Deal on Vikings Stadium”. Here’s the gist of what they had to say:

Associated Builders and Contractors of Minnesota/North Dakota (ABC) today announced that they will promise no strikes, lockouts, or pickets of the Minnesota Vikings stadium project if they are given a fair shot at working on the job.

Last Friday, the Minnesota Stadium Facilities Authority voted to draft a resolution requiring a Project Labor Agreement on the project. Such agreements are generally designed to give construction trade unions exclusive representation rights on the job, in exchange for a no-strike guarantee.

This means that workers on the project have no choice whether to affiliate with a union, and must pay dues, follow union work rules, agree to be represented by union officials, and pay into health and pension plans into which they will not accumulate enough time to qualify for benefits.

“More than two-thirds of construction workers in Minnesota choose to work based on merit, and they simply want a fair and open shot at winning the work,” said Robert Heise, President of ABC. “When you choose merit workers, you don’t have to fear them walking off the job, or picketing to demand higher wages.”

Approximately half of today’s NFL stadiums were built under a Project Labor Agreement, while the others realized healthy savings through a competitive bidder pool that did not discriminate against merit shop contractors.

The upshot here: if you thought the political battles over the stadium got settled in May, you may want to stock up that snack tray and check the fridge. It looks like we might be heading into an overtime.