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Labor groups oppose new Senate Bill 333

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By Jessica Wray

As union workers flooded the Statehouse on Wednesday, the line for the entrance spilled down the front steps.

Workers were there to attend the Senate committee meeting hearing on Senate Bill 333, which would eliminate project labor agreements.

Project labor agreements are collective bargaining agreements that require all employees and workers on government-funded projects, whether union or non-union, to establish set terms and conditions.

Tom O'Donnell, executive director of Quality Connection, an electrical union cooperative group, said that a project labor agreement "makes one big agreement for a job, which standardizes your starting times, overtime" and other job specifics.

"It makes no sense at all to pass this bill, when that's ... the standard way they've done business for the past 25 years, on the major projects in the city of Indianapolis, and the state for that matter," O'Donnell said.

"And it's like, when they do this kind of thing, all that does is invite inferior labor to come in and do jobs. You know what I'm talking about there – pay somebody little or nothing to come in without being highly skilled."

Union worker Jim Crabb was one of many waiting to enter the Statehouse to oppose the bill.

"It would raise the cost of projects," Crabb said. "PLA guarantees that it will be done on time, usually under budget. We just want them to know that we are concerned, and that we'll come out in forces. This early in the year, it's not going to stop here."

Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, sponsored the bill and said that he feels research is inconclusive to whether or not project labor agreements guarantees quality and efficiencies. He also said that he believes there are skilled and trained workers outside of unions.

"The research is indeterminate," Walker said. "I have read a great deal that does not have me convinced that the taxpayer is going to get the lowest cost projects with a PLA in place, but I also recognize the economic reality that you get what you pay for. Price is not the only decision and is not the only factor."

The above is one of an ongoing series of daily reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.

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