Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 were among a group of Central Ohio building trades members who requested a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) be signed for the $2 billion expansion of John Glenn International Airport in Columbus.
At the SMW Local 24 Union Hall in Columbus, affiliated members of the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council held a press conference to urge the Columbus Regional Airport Authority (CRAA) to enter into a CBA on this project and ensure local dollars go to local workers. They also want all workers on the job to earn the Prevailing Wage.
“We’re just trying to get this across the line because, one, we want the CRAA to do right by the community, but also we want to do it for the community and do right by the airport authority, too, and help them build this project, which is going to be a keystone for economic development as people come in and out of the city,” said Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trade Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Dorsey Hager.
In August, the CRAA announced plans to replace its existing 65-year-old terminal with a new, $2 billion terminal. Hensel Phelps is the project construction manager. Work on the airport is expected to start next year.
Hager had discussions with both the CRAA and Hensel Phelps, but has not seen any progress.
“Every day that they waste not agreeing to a CBA is a day that they can’t partner with the Columbus Building Trades,” Hager said. “Let’s talk about schedules to talk about contract first-rate participation. Talk about workforce demands, talk about retention and also talk about workforce development programs.”
For Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mike Knisley, it is imperative the project does not turn into a race to the bottom.
“Without the project labor agreement, you don’t have any assurance of any health benefits, retirement benefits or even training,” he said.
Hager also emphasized that without a CBA, out-of-state contractors can be brought in to perform work on the project.
“Obviously, our feeling is if something’s going to be built here in Columbus, in Central Ohio, using local dollars, we want local people to be able to build those projects,” he added.
Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 Apprenticeship Instructor McKenzie Quinn also spoke.
She explained how a CBA can help both minorities and women get into good-paying jobs that provide great benefits.
“It is critical that elected public officials and those appointed to public boards by these elected officials support the efforts of the union building trades to grow the number of woman and
minorities on construction projects in Central Ohio, and to ensure that public dollars being used on construction projects create good job opportunities on a fair playing field,” Quinn said. “This is why I stand in support today of a Project Labor Agreement on the new John Glenn International Airport Terminal.”
Quinn noted that the CBA will also emphasize diversity and local workforce goals.
“These goals ensure that not only the owners of the companies performing on the project are diverse, but the employees of these companies that are performing work on the project daily, are diverse,” said Quinn. “It will ensure that woman and minorities are provided the opportunity to work on this high-profile project while also ensuring that the construction is done by a local workforce that will support the local economy with their wages.”
She also discussed how a CBA will require proper jobsite safety and mandate training through registered apprenticeship programs or journeymen upgrade classes.
In a prepared statement, Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 Business Manager Rodney French stressed the need for the CRAA to do right by everyone.
“It is my strong belief that engaging in a Community Benefits Agreement with the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council for the upcoming terminal project is the right thing to do for the interests of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, the residents and taxpayers of both Franklin County and the City of Columbus, as well as the members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 24,” he said.
In addition to the press conference, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin and City Councilman Rob Dorans sent letters to the airport board in support of a CBA and outlined how similar agreements have helped the County and City complete projects on time and on budget.
SMW Local 24 thanks Quinn for speaking at the press conference and also thanks the members who attended the CRAA meeting in support of the CBA.