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Some say Allentown shuts out nonunion labor

Brian Pedersen//May 20, 2013

Some say Allentown shuts out nonunion labor

Brian Pedersen//May 20, 2013

Nonunion builders and contractors are fuming over the parameters required to bid for the contract to build a new fire station in Allentown.

Although the city maintains that any contractor – union or nonunion – could bid on the building of a new East Side Fire Station, it attached a stipulation requiring that union labor be used on the project. That, nonunion contractors acknowledge, goes against an October 2011 federal lawsuit filed against the city by the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.

Boyle Construction Inc. of Allentown won the contract on a second round of bids — first-round bids were too high — for $1.8 million to build the three-bay, two-story station on North Irving Street. For the second round of bids, however, the city downgraded requirements for the building in order to meet the $1.8 million threshold it desired for the project.

Mary Tebeau, president and CEO of the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, said by making the project a “union-only” project, it limited the pool of applicants that could bid.

“It shuts down open-shop contractors,” Tebeau said. “If you get the contract, you have to be signatory to the union.”

Allentown spokesman Mike Moore said the design was not changed to fit a union-only project but that it was changed because it was $1 million over budget.

When the city first proposed the project, it opened the bidding to union and nonunion contractors, he said. However, Moore said, the initial – and second – proposals both included a Project Labor Stabilization Agreement requiring contractors to use union labor on the project.

He defended the use of the PLSA, saying Allentown used Keystone Research Center of Harrisburg to assess the need for one.

“It found that it would be appropriate,” Moore said.

At least half of Keystone Research Center’s board members are union officials and its fourth largest source of funding is from direct contributions by unions.

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