Republicans blast Butler commissioners over labor agreement
Butler County commissioners are drawing fire from critics who say they kept non-union companies from bidding to construct a $12.1 million annex to the county office building.
At issue is a labor agreement the commissioners approved with Butler-Venango County Building Trades Council, a regional union coalition.
“The (agreement) to govern the completion of the Butler County government center annex project is a bad mandate for the taxpayers of Butler County and the 76 percent of Pennsylvania's construction workforce that chooses not to join a union when given the freedom to do so,” the Butler County Republican Committee wrote in a letter last week to commissioners.
“We are puzzled as to why you have turned a blind eye to this reality and, instead, have chosen to act as de facto business agents for the unions to be associated with the government center project.”
Commissioner Chairman William McCarrier, a Republican, said non-union companies were welcome to bid, though he did not know if any did so.
He and A. Dale Pinkerton voted on Wednesday to award contracts to five companies, all union-affiliated.
Democratic Commissioner Jim Eckstein voted against the contracts. He'd pushed for the county to buy an existing building nearby and renovate it.
The labor agreement says that companies on the project who need workers will hire through local union halls. All three commissioners approved it in March.
County officials said similar agreements covered construction of the Butler County Prison and expansion at Butler Hospital.
County officials said the bids, which included the cost for work on the roof of the courthouse and government center and heating and cooling equipment, came in about $2 million lower than expected.
The roofs are expected to be done this summer.
The annex construction is scheduled to take 14 to 18 months once ground is broken. A groundbreaking date hasn't been set.
McCarrier said the agreement levels the playing field for all companies on the project and should help keep cost overruns down.
It also provides a guarantee that there will be no work stoppage.
“This will guarantee everybody is working together,” McCarrier said. “This is making sure that the work is coordinated.”
In 2012, Westmoreland County commissioners rescinded a similar labor agreement, saying it unfairly favored union contractors in the bidding process.
Several non-union companies stayed away from the bidding because of the agreement, said Andy Conlin, director of state and local affairs at Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. in Washington.
Conlin said studies show that labor agreements can boost the price of building projects by at least 20 percent.
“At the end of the day, the taxpayers of Butler County deserve the best construction at the best price,” he said.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.