Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 call on airport board to require Community Benefits Agreement

On Jan. 30, affiliated Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council members and other area labor unions attended the Columbus Regional Airport Authority Board of Directors Meeting and called on the board to enter into a Community Benefits Agreement with the building trades. 

The message was made clear to the CRAA board that a CBA will ensure minorities, women and workers of all races and genders will be hired for all the construction work on the new $2 billion terminal at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus. 

As an affiliated member of the C/COBCTC, Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 strongly supports the efforts to promote the use of CBAs on projects across Central Ohio. 

Colorado-based construction manager at risk Hensel Phelps was hired by the CRAA to perform preconstruction and construction services for the project. 

According to Dorsey Hager, C/COBCTC Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Hensel Phelps broke off all CBA talks after more than half a year of negotiations with the C/COBCTC.

“It has been obvious the last seven months that Hensel Phelps wants all the benefits of a CBA, but at the same time, refuses to commit to the equal treatment of workers on your project,” Hager told the CRAA Board of Directors. For their first community outreach event, they failed to invite the Columbus Building Trades or the Columbus NAACP. At their first meeting with potential contractors, a public meeting, they stated they were not going to require contractors to pay Prevailing Wages.”

During their negotiations, Hensel Phelps wanted exclusions for minority-owned and women-owned contractors, which Hager called a non-starter.

“Imagine telling your kids that you’re taking a Disney family vacation, but some of them have to stay home,” said Hager. “That’s what Hensel Phelps is asking of me.”

Hager added that Hensel Phelps wants workers, depending on who they work for, to be treated as an exception when it comes to equal treatment like quality wages, healthcare and retirement benefits. 

He stressed that C/COBCTC affiliated unions have a track record of completing projects on time, under budget and with a local and diverse workforce. `

Jahaan Harris, a member of IBEW Local 683, explained the benefits of Prevailing Wage to the board and how it guarantees fair compensation for workers and promotes economic stability within Central Ohio communities. 

 He also noted that Hensel Phelps has been caught evading Prevailing Wages on past projects.

Furthermore, The Columbus Dispatch reported that Hensel Phelps defrauded workers when it was ordered to pay $2.8 million in May 2022, after an investigation found they defrauded small, veteran-owned businesses.

For Laborers Local 423 member Sara McEnery-Guice, a CBA is a way to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion on the project.  

“Workers in these communities – specifically people of color, women and women of color – are most at risk for contractor wage theft,” McEnery-Guice said. “They deserve a guarantee that they will be paid family-sustaining wages with benefits.”

Creating Central Ohio Futures CEO Leland Bass also addressed the board and explained the role CBAs play in putting members of the award-winning Building Futures Program to work.

He noted that over 300 men and women have graduated from the Building Futures Program, an Apprenticeship Readiness Program that helps members of underserved communities overcome career obstacles.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 has graduates of the Building Futures program in their apprenticeship program. Without a CBA, these apprentices are far less likely to work on the airport terminal projects.

Hager closed out his comments by stressing the importance of having a diversified and equal jobsite and reminded the board who had the final say on the CBA.

“The Columbus Building Trades and our community partners are not going to let Hensel Phelps use local minority contractors as props in an effort to deny workers industry-standard wages, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training, benefits like quality healthcare or mechanisms to enforce their rights on the job,” he said. 

After the meeting, Hager and over 50 members of organized labor waited outside the CRAA offices to speak with the Board of Directors, but the board members did not want to talk and walked past the group.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 and other C/COBCTC affiliated unions strongly urge the entire Board of Directors to enter into a Community Benefits Agreement with the C/COBCTC.

Watch the videos of Dorsey, Leland, Jahaan and Sara from the CRAA meeting here: 

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