The good citizens of Charlotte, NC are probably still feeling euphoric over besting Cleveland, Minneapolis and St Louis as the chosen city for the 2012 DNC Convention. However, as the giddiness subsides and people begin to take stock of what they just bit off, it may serve them well to check the fine print of the contract(s) they've obligated themselves to. If they do, they may find that being a host isn't always what it's cracked up to be, especially if your guests turn around and leave your house a mess.
What many North Carolinians are about to find out real soon is this: If you want to play with the Chicago Democrats, y'all are going to have to play by their rules and be expected to pay a hefty price for them too. This includes their union rules.
In fact, just as Charlotte's Democrat Mayor Foxx could have told Michelle Obama, if you want good barbecue in Charlotte, you’ve got to truck it in—So too are North Carolinians about to learn that Democrats want unions at the DNC’s 2012 convention. And, in order to entice them to support the DNC Convention going to non-union North Carolina, there may have been a little Chicago-style side deal going on to bring unions in from out of state.
Oh yeah. You didn't think just because unions are fighting turf wars with each other in the three other states, they were going to let Charlotte get off completely union-free, did you?
The Devil in the Details.
Here's the crib-note version
City officials told News 14 Carolina that they spent about three months adjusting the contract details to match exactly what the DNC wanted and what Charlotte had to offer.
Among the obligations, the host committee is required in writing to raise more than $36.5 million in private funds for the convention. The committee must also recruit at least 500 volunteers leading up to the convention and at least 7,000 volunteers during the convention itself including up to 200 drivers.
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.
Now, if you're starting to wonder about the kind of contract Charlotte's Host Committee signed, there are actually three contracts (one, two and three). However, because they've got about as many costly demands (including a teleprompter control room) as the Super Bowl has advertisements, you may want to print the contracts out for yourself and read them during those ads on TV this Sunday. For now, though, let's just address the union stuff, shall we?
From the "Master Agreement"
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.
Translation? Wide open. Essentially, the DNCC wants union labor to work the convention and, as well, for Charlotte to use already unionized firms that already have contracts with unions. Now, since North Carolina is the least unionized state in the nation, there may be slim pickins' insofar as finding a lot of unionized companies.
Unions to have their cake and eat it too?
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.
Additionally, the DNCC wants the Host Committee to sign (within sixty days) what appears to be "labor peace agreements" with unions that have "potential jurisdiction" in the Charlotte Metro area. This may mean that the Host Committee has taken it upon itself to invite unions and/or unionized companies in from out of state to agree sign union contracts. That way the unions can use unionized companies as "hiring halls" for the unions recruit from the local Charlotte area.
If that's the case, there may be a bunch of "union" companies moving into Charlotte from elsewhere around the country to lease space and open up offices to process people and dues through. This way, those
sham "union companies" can hire locally—so long as the locals don't mind signing up with a union and paying the dues and fees for the short time they get to have the work. The unions get their money, the locals get some work and everybody's happy.
Skilled vs. Un-Skilled Work
Now, realistically, unless there is an overabundance of unemployed union skilled tradesmen in Charlotte (or the state for that matter), it is not likely that the traditional convention trade-type work would be filled with local labor unless the trade unions are willing to waive their apprenticeship requirements and push a lot of new recruits through before 2012. More likely, the traditional trade work would come from out-of-state labor, if that's the direction the unions instruct the DNCC to go.
However, for the non-skilled work (janitorial services, vending services, shuttle bus drivers, etc.), national companies could easily move into Charlotte, lease space, open offices and and recruit locals for union work. In that sense, it's a match made in...Chicago.
The Convention Arena License Agreement as similar language as the first paragraph in the Master Agreement in that unions T-Shirt, hats and other assorted goods and services go to union vendors first:
7. UNION LABOR
7.1. 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.
The third contract replicates the first contract (cited above) as it relates to the union of union labor.
Over the next few weeks, more details of the deal Charlotte's Host Committee made with the DNCC will emerge. However, upon first glance, it appears that much of the deals were done behind closed doors and North Carolinians will ultimately find out the union price that their week of Democratic debauchery will cost them. Let's hope they don't wake up with too bad a hangover.
Illustration: Aaron Meshon
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776