Prince George’s (PG) County in Maryland is currently considering a project labor agreement (PLA) for the county’s blueprint schools program, which will use a public-private partnership model for more than $1 billion in school construction in the county. The PLA, which has faced opposition from entities like the Association of Builders and Contractors, would be crucial for local SMART members and working families, particularly those from historically underserved communities.
SMART News was on the scene as SMART members, local building trades workers and allies rallied in Greenbelt, Maryland on February 15th for a town hall hosted by PG County At-Large Councilmember Mel Franklin, Jr. on the school construction project. Brandishing signs that read “Local Jobs for Local Residents,” “Union Jobs = Quality Jobs” and more, workers from SMART, IUPAT DC 51, Plumbers Local 5, Mid-Atlantic Carpenters union, Steamfitters Local 602, Iron Workers Local 5 and pro-labor advocates made their voices heard on the need for a PLA.
“I’m a Prince George’s resident, and I may have done one job in Prince George’s County in over a decade,” SMART Local 100 (Washington, DC-area) member and PG County resident Antonio Palmer explained to SMART News. “We want to be able to have an equal opportunity, as Prince George’s County union members, to be able to work within the county.”
“Everyone deserves a wage that can sustain a family here in Prince George’s County,” Progressive Maryland Executive Director Larry Stafford, Jr. told the crowd ahead of the town hall. “And that applies to our school construction!”
“One of the greatest ways we can protect Prince George’s County residents is through a Project Labor Agreement,” added PG County Councilmember Edward P. Burroughs III.
During the town hall, multiple union workers conveyed the importance of PLAs to Councilmember Franklin and Jason Washington, director of the PG County Public Schools Office of Alternative Infrastructure Planning and Development. Workers stressed that merely having prevailing wage on public school construction isn’t enough – by using a project labor agreement, the county can better ensure fair pay, local hiring provisions and fight back against worker misclassification. Additionally, some added, putting local union members to work on local schools sends a strong message to PG County students who are interested in the trades.
“It’s really huge that we have this, because it helps bring the work and the money right back into Prince George’s County,” said SMART Local 100 member and PG County resident Victor Champion.
“I’ve been travelling to Virginia for over 17 years to work,” added Local 100 member and PG County resident Warren Hackley. “I think we should have a fair opportunity to work within the Prince George’s County area.”