COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The plans for a new $2 billion terminal at John Glenn International Airport brought out a crowd late Tuesday afternoon as many central Ohio unions are asking for an agreement on who is hired and how they’re paid.
Union members are asking the Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA) for a community benefit agreement (CBA) or a project labor agreement. They say that ensures local dollars go to local workers and that all workers on the job will earn the industry standard.
The Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council said a CBA is an agreement that would benefit the entire community and the airport. They say it would guarantee workers are paid a living wage, hired from within the area, are diverse and they say it creates new building opportunities in the building trades especially for young workers.
“We’re just trying to get this across the line because one, we want the CRAA to do right by the community, but also we want to do it for the community and do right by the airport authority, too, and help them build this project, which is going to be a keystone for economic development as people come in and out of the city,” Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trade Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Dorsey Hager said.
The council said it has taken its asks to both the airport and to construction managers, but has not seen progress.
“Without a community benefit agreement, it opens it up for people to be paid less,” Hager said.
“It’s a race to the bottom. Without the project labor agreement, you don’t have any assurance of any health benefits, retirement benefits or even training,” Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mike Knisley said.
The council adds that without a PLA, out-of-state contractors can be brought in.
“Obviously, our feeling is if something’s going to be built here in Columbus in central Ohio, using local dollars, we want local people to be able to build those projects,” Hager said.
Despite the board meeting being a public meeting, NBC4 was told we could not record video and that no one on behalf of the airport could do an interview and answer our questions.
We were sent a statement that reads:
“The Columbus Regional Airport Authority supports policies that benefit the community, which includes working with underrepresented businesses and supporting local workers, including unionized labor.
CRAA is committed to ensuring that all labor on the new CMH terminal project earns prevailing wage.
CRAA and the Construction Manager at Risk, Hensel Phelps have a 25% Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Disadvantaged Business Program (DBE/DBP) participation goal for the new CMH terminal project.
That participation equates to approximately $400 million worth of contracts going to underrepresented businesses including small, local, minority, women- and veteran-owned firms.
The project team is dedicated to continuing good faith dialogue with the Trades Council and any other community group in order to achieve the project’s inclusion goals.– Columbus Regional Airport Authority”
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners and Columbus City Council both sent letters to the airport board in support of a PLA outlining times they’ve used them. One of those times was for the new Franklin County Corrections Center.
NBC4 asked Knisley what he thought could be some reasons that the CRAA may not use a CBA.
“In my 36 years in the construction industry, I don’t have that answer,” he said. “It is beyond my comprehension in today’s tight labor market.”
Both the CRAA and the union reps said these talks have been ongoing.