A bill that was authored by an Ironworkers’ union organizer to expand union-only Project Labor Agreements–to include Hurricane Sandy cleanup and reconstruction–passed the New Jersey Senate on Monday along party lines 23-13.
The Ironworkers’ union organizer who drafted the pro-union bill, Steven Sweeney, also happens to be the president of the New Jersey Senate and recently accused New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of “praying” for Hurricane Sandy to hit New Jersey.
New Jersey has had a project labor agreement law on the books since 2002, but highways, bridges, pumping stations and water and sewage treatment plants were exempted. With extensive rebuilding needed on those structures along the shore, this bill includes them.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who authored the legislation and fast tracked it, said the agreements are key to making sure work goes to New Jersey workers. [Emphasis added.]
A Project Labor Agreement, according to the bill, “means a form of pre-hire collective bargaining agreement covering terms and conditions of a specific project.”
In other words, non-union construction workers are not welcome.
According to New Jersey State Senator Tom Kean, Jr. (R), a study conducted during Democrat Governor John Corzine’s reign showed that the costs of union-only PLAs increase the costs on a project from 18-24 percent.
According to Patrick Stewart, the president of New Jersey’s Associated Builders & Contractors–a trade organization comprised of primarily merit shop construction businesses opposed to the legislation, the bill now heads to the New Jersey assembly and, if it passes there, it may or may not be signed into law (or amended) by Governor Chris Christie.
Governor Christie, facing re-election next year has not said whether he will sign or veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
However, the bill’s passage in the New Jersey Senate may just be a political move by the Ironworkers’ Sweeney to draw Christie out and pull union support away from the popular governor, more so since the Laborers union endorsed him in December.