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Labor issues discussed at Charles roundtable

 People not familiar with labor issues may never have heard the acronym PLA. It stands for “Project Labor Agreement” and it was the subject of a forum held Wednesday by the Charles County Commissioners.

A Project Labor Agreement or PLA, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, “is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project.”

The poster child for PLA’s in Southern Maryland is the Dominion LNG project in Calvert County. The almost $4 billion project will be the state’s largest current project and the largest ever for the Virginia- based energy company.

Carolyn Moss, Dominion’s managing director for Mid-Atlantic Region State and Local Affairs, said the company “has every confidence we made the right decision.” She added, “I think large projects are well suited for PLA’s.”

A number of representatives of labor agreed with Moss, but several representatives of private industry disagreed. Jay Baldwin, president of Reliable Contracting Company, Inc., defended his firm’s wage and benefits package and said his employees stay with the company for many years. “We do not work on projects that have PLA agreements. We want our employees to work for us.” Baldwin charged that with PLA’s, labor unions would steal his valuable employees.

Facchina Construction is one of Charles County’s biggest builders. They did the addition on the Charles County Courthouse and were leaders in redeveloping La Plata after the tornado. The company’s Director of Business development George Nash, Jr. also said that Facchina would not bid on PLA projects.

Nash, however, agreed with several union representatives in concluding that there is a looming construction worker shortage in the area. He said both sides needed to emphasize training of potential new construction workers.

Larry Greenhill, Sr., vice president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26, said PLA’s were not necessarily about union versus non-union labor, as both were allowed. “We are all part of the labor market,” he said.  Greenhill believes the advantage of PLAs to the bidder is to insure projects come in safely on time and on budget.

Susan Cooksey, a healthcare management and broker consultant, noted that good benefits can be provided under both union and non-union environments. She observed that the representatives of private business speaking at the forum may be doing it right, but she added, “Maybe you might want to think of those out there that aren’t doing the ri

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