By DAVID BOYLE
At the same times voters in Anchorage denied the Anchorage School Board its $111 million bond request, the two largest construction trade associations in Alaska are suing the Anchorage School District, citing discrimination and pointing out the rising costs of recent board policies.
This lawsuit comes after the Anchorage School Board had approved a community work agreement for future construction contracts. The agreement requires all workers to be hired through union halls; non-union workers must pay union dues and pay into pension plans; and union rules must be applied to projects.
In voting for this policy, Anchorage School Board members decided to require all construction companies to pay union dues whether their employees belong to a union. Basically, this is forced unionization for nonunion companies that want to bid on projects.
The policy applies to all projects with budgets over $1 million, which would be most all the contracts the awarded by the district. Only minor construction projects would not be included
The Associated Builders and Contractors/Alaska (non-union) and the Associated General Contractors (union) base their lawsuit on the violation of equal protection, because the policy sets hiring preferences with no justification.
“It’s unfortunate it came to this, but a lawsuit was necessary to stand up for the hundreds of contractors being illegally discriminated against by the school board,” said Alicia Maltby, president of ABC.
“AGC believes the choice of whether to adopt a collective bargaining agreement should be left to the contractor-employers and their employees, and that such a choice should not be imposed as a condition to competing for, or performing on, a publicly funded projects. Government mandates and preferences for project labor agreements often restrain competition, drive up costs, cause delays, lead to job-site disputes, and disrupt local collective bargaining. This lawsuit is our way of advocating not only for our members, but also local taxpayers who will ultimately pay the price for the school board’s largesse,” said Alicia Amberg, executive director of AGC.
The community work agreement was crafted by the school board and Local 341 Laborers Union. Neither ABC and AGC were invited to the table when establishing this new process.
ABC voiced strong opposition to the community work agreement policy and asked the board to hold off to determine the consequences of the policy. District management also opposed the policy due to the adverse impact on construction costs.
There will be fewer bidders and needed project construction costs will go up due to less competition. Some projects will be awarded on a sole-source basis because there may be only one union company bidding.
The community work agreement will shut out about 75 percent of Alaska’s non-union contractors. Unfortunately, their workers will also be out of work. Many of these are minorities and women-owned businesses.
The district recently enacted an equity policy, but it appears to not apply to construction contracts with nonunion shops.
At least three of the current school board members who voted for the community work agreement are associated with unions.
The Anchorage School Board has tied the hands of the Administration for managing construction projects and taxpayers will pay the price.
Now the ABC and AGC have filed an injunction to stop all Anchorage School District construction projects pending litigation.