Dayton -

Dayton —

The head of a local construction trade group that represents non-union contractors is challenging the preferential hiring of union-represented builders at the Dayton racino at Needmore and Wagner Ford roads.

John Morris, president of the Ohio Valley Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC), says Turner Construction, at the direction of Penn National Gaming Inc., is giving union-affiliated contractors or union-represented workers preferential treatment at the Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway construction site.

An email from a Penn executive acknowledges an agreement with construction unions but says non-union contractors and suppliers may still bid on work that union-affiliated contractors can’t perform.

Morris believes the arrangement will push out most Dayton-area construction workers, bringing in more workers from outside the area. To fulfill Penn’s requirement for “union-only” firms, Turner Construction — the general contractor on site — must look to firms in Michigan, Indiana and West Virginia, and other Ohio cities to find bidders, he said.

“They’re shutting out the local construction community, ” Morris said Thursday.

In an Aug. 22 email exchange between Morris and Eric Schippers, senior vice president, public affairs for Penn, Schippers acknowledges an agreement with building trades unions and writes,”Please understand that our relationship with buildings trades dates back to our statewide casino ballot initiative in 2009, and a result of our successful partnership on that measure and continued legislative efforts on issues of mutual concern.”

Penn supported Issue 3 on the November 2009 ballot. The successful measure amended the Ohio constitution by authorizing casinos in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo.

In the same email to Morris, Schippers said non-union contractors will “still be given an opportunity to compete in those instances where the trades do not have the capacity to meet our needs. Notably, there have already been a number of bid packages awarded to non-union companies.”

Bob Tenenbaum, a spokesman for Penn in Columbus, said Penn has an agreement with building trade unions that gives preference to union construction firms. That is based on “a long and very positive relationship with the building trades statewide,” he said.

However, he added: “There has been significant work on the Dayton project by non-union firms.”

A message seeking comment was left with a Turner official.

Morris said it’s ABC’s position that the “best” contractors should be hired, union-affiliated or not, but the ABC has long opposed “union-only” project labor agreements, arguing that such agreements drive up construction costs. Proponents of union-only pacts argue that they support better-paying union jobs and drive down costs in the long run.

A union-only labor agreement has contractors agree to recognize unions as representing employees on a job, use union halls to hire workers and pay union wages and benefits, among other provisions.

Morris said 87 percent of the commercial construction market is not union-affiliated.

The Dayton raceway is expected to open in mid-2014.

Two other casino or gaming projects which are open to non-union workers are being built within 60 miles of the Dayton site, Morris said. Miami Valley Gaming Raceway in Warren County is set for a December 2013 opening while River Downs is being built on the Ohio River.

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©2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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