Juneau Assembly committee looks to simplify labor agreement resolution

Randy Wanamaker

Assembly member Randy Wanamaker wants a simplified resolution guiding Juneau departments’ decisions on the use of project labor agreements. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

A Juneau Assembly committee wants to simplify a proposed resolution dealing with Project Labor Agreements.

A Project Labor Agreement is a pre-hire deal between the owner of a project – the city, for example – and contractors, setting terms for things like wages, benefits, and working conditions.

In October, the Juneau Assembly voted unanimously to confirm a policy it adopted in 2008, which says the agreements should be used to the fullest extent of the law.

Assembly members also asked the city attorney for a resolution standardizing the review process city departments should use when deciding whether or not a project needs a labor agreement. A draft of that resolution was described as too wordy and overly complex by members of the Assembly Public Works and Facilities Committee on Monday.

“There are things like, ‘Where the agreement is rationally related to the competitive…'” said Assembly member Karen Crane, quoting from the resolution. “I mean, the word ‘rationally…’ Are we going to have irrational? It just, that word can be taken out and the sentence is the same, and I think there are a bunch of places in here where you could do the same thing.”

City Attorney Amy Mead says some words or phrases are needed to legally justify the city’s use of project labor agreements.

“Some of what has been defined as very wordy comes directly from case law, and there are certain standards in order to justify the use of a PLA that we must meet,” Mead said. “That’s where some of the language that is repeated in this resolution comes from.”

Randy Wanamaker chairs the Public Works committee. He says the Assembly has already made its project labor agreement policy clear. The purpose of the resolution, he says, is to guide department heads making decisions, and he argues it does not need to be so complex.

“I’m a layperson, I’m not an attorney, and I find it difficult to follow the language in there,” Wanamaker said. “I know where we’re going, so I’m able to follow it better than a person looking at it for the first time, but I still think it’s unnecessarily complex and overly cautious.”

The committee will meet with the attorney in a work session next week to review the draft resolution and makes changes.

Opponents of project labor agreements say they unfairly benefit unions. Courts have upheld their use by government entities, as long as they can justify a strong public interest.

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