Cloquet City Council set to tackle project labor agreement
Cloquet City Council is set to hear two resolutions that could amend its current project labor agreement. The first possible change would be increasing the cost threshold for projects that fall into the agreement, and the second involves including prevailing wage language into the agreement.
After postponing a decision during the last meeting, the Cloquet City Council has another opportunity to address the current project labor agreement it has with contractors on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
The city’s agenda for the meeting has two proposed amendments to the current project labor agreement.
The first amendment includes increasing the threshold of projects that fall into the agreement from $175,000 to $250,000. The reasoning behind this is that the threshold has not been adjusted since the project labor agreement was first put into place in 2017, and it should be adjusted for inflation.
Ward 2 Councilor Sheila Lamb brought the question up during an Oct. 5 city work session to Dan Olson, business manager and financial secretary and treasurer for the Laborers International Union of North America Local 1091, who thought there would not be any impact with the change.
“We talked quite a while ago that if you wanted to make adjustments to it, we would be open to it,” he said.
Olson referenced the increased cost of living as well as cost of materials when saying the conversation about increasing the threshold would be welcome.
The second change to the agreement involves including prevailing wage language into the agreement, an amendment that had been previously tabled by the council and is less favored by union contractors.
Adding prevailing wage language would mean that non-union contractors would not have to pay any fringe benefits to their employees. Instead they would be paying a wage set by the Minnesota Department of Labor to ensure no low-ball offers are made on a project and workers are paid fairly.
The current language of the agreement states that all contractors have to pay for fringe benefits. Adding prevailing wage to the agreement would level the playing field for non-union contractors, according to city officials.
When the option of adding prevailing wage language into the PLA was brought up in September , Craig Olson, president of the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council, said it would be a way to “cheat employees.”
“We find everyday that non-union members will do things that are legal under the prevailing wage law, but cheat their employees out of benefits and wages that they’ve earned,” Craig Olson said.
The amendment would not remove the project labor agreement for union contractors, just add in a prevailing wage requirement for non-union contractors. Councilors had expressed concern over the current agreement requiring non-union contractors to pay into benefit programs, which their employees might never be able to access.
A general consensus at the previous meeting between city staff and council members was that they wanted to finalize the issue before the end of the year.