- General contractor Mortenson Construction has entered into a project labor agreement (PLA) with local trade unions and workers on the new $524 million Milwaukee Bucks arena, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.
- The agreement establishes a prevailing wage guarantee, sets up a dispute resolution process prohibiting any activity — strikes or lockouts — that could hold up construction and requires a veteran employment program through the organization Helmets to Hardhats.
- Although it is typical for publicly funded projects — or partially publicly funded like the Bucks arena — to use union labor or pay a prevailing wage, there is a growing trend for large companies, even in union strongholds like Boston and New York City, to choose to use cheaper, nonunion labor.
Bucks President Peter Feigen praised the deal and said the team was proud to "enlist local labor" in the safe and efficient construction of the arena. Local trade union representatives also hailed Mortenson's willingness to use union labor and its understanding of "the role of the PLA from the quality, productivity and the safety it provides."
Mortenson is considered a sports venue expert and has a history of success in meeting hiring and minority goals on its projects. Mortenson recently completed construction on the new $1.1 billion Minnesota Viking stadium and is the chosen contractor for the $120 million Minnesota United soccer venue. The company has also been tapped to build the $1 billion Golden State Warriors arena, along with Clark Construction.
While all sides to the Bucks PLA seem content, plans for a PLA for the construction of the $1.8 billion San Diego Chargers stadium and convention center were met with derision from nonunion workers. The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction called the proposed labor agreement a pact and kickback scheme meant to increase costs and keep good-paying jobs away from nonunion workers.
PLAs are an ongoing controversy in the construction industry, as they create major clashes between proponents, who claim they are a way of controlling costs and quality on the job, and opponents, who claim they place an undue burden on non-union contractors and employees.