In February, when North Carolina was awarded the Democratic National Convention over forced-union states, we alerted you to the devil in the details of the DNC having its convention in a predominantly union-free state. At issue is something traditionally known as Project Labor Agreements that give work to unionized employers and, as well, discriminate against union-free workers. Now, that devil appears to be rearing its ugly head and Democrat mayor Anthony Foxx, who is running from Republican challenger Scott Stone, appears unwilling to give Charlotte residents a straight answer on how much work will go to unionized workers.
Since North Carolina is a Right-to-Work state (which means workers are not required to join or pay unions), unions have not plagued the state like those in the North (see Ohio, for reference). However, it also means that there may not be enough qualified union members in the state to cover the DNC work which, with Charlotte's mayoral election up for grabs on November 8th, is raising all kinds of questions—including whether or not DNC convention planners plan on bringing union workers in from out of state.
Here is the source of the controversy:
The host committee must also establish a labor agreement within the next two months and organizers to hire union labor for tasks related to providing, services goods and materials.
And from the Master Agreement [in PDF]:
17.1. Use of union labor. To the extent permitted by law, to the extent, if any,such labor is available in the region, and except as otherwise expressly agreed by the DNCC, all services, goods, equipment, supplies and materials to be provided or procured by the Host Committee hereunder shall be performed or supplied by firms covered by current union collective bargaining agreements with the unions which have jurisdiction for the work or services to be performed.
17.2. Labor agreement. The Host Committee agrees that it will, within sixty (60) days of the date of this Agreement, conclude and execute with unions of potential jurisdiction in the Charlotte metropolitan area, an agreement obligating the Host Committee to utilize firms employing or contracting with members of those unions to the maximum extent feasible and obligating the unions to refrain from supporting, participating in or sanctioning any strike, sympathy strike, walkout, work stoppage or other labor action that would interfere with or delay work necessary to put on the Convention, or engage in handbilling or picketing (including, but not limited to, informational picketing) at the Convention Facilities.
As was noted back in February, "what the contract does not address specifically—which leaves the door wide open—is this: If there are not enough unionized companies (with enough union laborers) to fulfill the work, can the unions send in union members from other states and take the work? Short answer: It certainly appears that way."
On Tuesday, Democrat convention CEO Steve Kerrrigan awarded $7 million worth of convention work to three firms (tow of which are based outside of North Carolina), and evaded the union-only question.
Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan said the contracts also would "maximize union labor." But he declined to say to what extent union workers are expected to participate.
Scott Stone, the Republican candidate for Mayor of Charlotte has even called on the DNC Host Committee to release the PLAs that vendors are forced to sign.
“The contracts have been awarded and the DNC and Mayor Foxx cannot continue to put off these important questions about the extent to which organized labor will be used for the convention,” said Stone. “We understand that the DNC is going to use union labor and we think it only fair that they be transparent about how much union labor they will use.”
This issue may be causing some heartburn at the top of the DNC. If the DNC and Charlotte's Democrat mayor can dodge answering the questions of whether unions will take Charlotte work, or whether Charlotte workers will be required to join unions in order to do the convention work until after the mayor's race is settled on November 8th, they can avoid a potentially very damaging embarrassment.
On the other hand, if they answer the question and, in fact, Charlotte's workers are pushed aside or forced to join a union under the PLA, and it costs Anthony Foxx his job, the DNC would have an awkward time hosting a convention in a city where the Republican mayor has vowed to put Charlotte residents first.
Perhaps Charlotte residents are beginning to learn: If you do a deal with the devil, you're bound to get burned.
- The DNC’s 2012 Union Convention: The Devil’s Always in the Details
- Did Union Feuds Cause DNC Convention Planners to go Union-Free?
- Building Trades Unions to Boycott 2012 DNC Convention
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776