Bristol, Conn.

The Connecticut Laborers' District Council is not a fan of ESPN's choice of nonunion contractors to build a new $100-million, 193,000-sq-ft digital center in Bristol, Conn. The council is encouraging union players in the major sports leagues to boycott ESPN. The general manager charges that the GM, Associated Construction Co., Hartford, Conn., and site contractor, Mizzy Construction, Plainville, Conn., are nonunion shops that “do not pay living wages or follow area standards.”

Neither ESPN nor the contractor firms returned calls for comment by press time. However, the Connecticut chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors throws its support behind ESPN.

“With the construction industry in the state struggling during this economic downturn, we applaud ESPN for offering equal opportunity to both union and merit shop contractors to participate on this project and get construction workers back to work,” says Lelah Campo, chapter president of ABC.

Work is scarce and highly competitive in the state for both union and nonunion contractors, says John Butts, Associated General Contractors of Connecticut executive director. “This is a construction-wide type of problem that affects all contractors, and ESPN is reflective of that,” he says. “Our goal is to get more projects and more work, but the frustration is on both sides.”

The council maintains that the project “is of no benefit” to the state. “ESPN is not a good corporate partner,” says Charlie LeConche, council business manager. The council represents 7,500 state construction workers. LeConche is also the business manager of Laborers' Union Local 230 in Hartford. Union members are picketing the ESPN site.

The center, which includes six production control rooms, broke ground in August and is set for completion by 2014.

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New York

Construction Starts Expected to be Flat in 2012

The New York construction market next year is likely to mirror that of the national market, which McGraw-Hill Construction recently forecast to be flat with about $412 billion in construction starts. McGraw-Hill Construction, the parent company of ENR New York, expects 2011 total starts to hit $410 billion, a 4% drop over 2010. The company cites slow economic growth, diminished federal and state funding, and “pervasive uncertainty.”

Next year “the top-line numbers are not expected to show much change, but there will be variation within the major construction sectors, with some gains predicted for housing and commercial building, assuming the U.S. economy avoids recession,” says Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs at McGraw-Hill Construction.

The situation in the tristate region is not expected to be much different, executives say. “The construction forecast for 2012 continues to look bleak for New York state,” says Mike Elmendorf, president and CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York State. “An aging and, in many cases, failing infrastructure is just one more item on an already too long list of factors dragging down New York's economy,” he says.

A recent forecast from the New York Building Congress, meanwhile, shows New York City construction spending remaining stable in 2012, at $27.3 billion, but dropping in 2013 to $23 billion with steep losses in jobs. The group expects modest industry job growth next year, to 109,100, but projects only 91,800 jobs for 2013.

New York & New Jersey

Cuomo Picks Heads of MTA and Port Authority

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended several high-level executives last month for positions at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He chose Joseph J. Lhota to serve as MTA chairman and Patrick J. Foye as PANYNJ executive director. The governor also has called for consolidation of the Moynihan Station Development Corp. and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. operations into PANYNJ.

Lhota, whose appointment is dependent on confirmation from the state senate, currently serves as executive vice president, administration for Madison Square Garden Co. Cuomo also selected Nuria Fernandez as MTA chief operating officer and Kevin Rae as deputy secretary of transportation.

Foye, whose nomination is subject to PANYNJ board approval, currently serves as the state's deputy secretary of economic development. He will replace Chris Ward, who reportedly plans to resign.

New York

Study: Community Work Force PLAs On the Rise

Project labor agreements that incorporate community work force agreements are on the rise nationwide and are becoming more comprehensive than they were prior to 2004, according to a new study by Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School.

CWAs, which typically include training and apprenticeships, help in job creation and career development, particularly for disadvantaged communities, says Kimberly Freeman Brown, executive director of the Washington-based American Rights at Work, a pro-union advocacy group that commissioned the study. She says this is an especially welcome development at a time when frustration over the nation's high unemployment rate and lack of job creation mounts, citing the Occupy Wall Street protests. CWAs are “a way out of this,” Brown says.

The study, “Community Workforce Provisions in Project Labor Agreements: A Tool for Building Middle-Class Careers,” examines 185 PLAs signed by 70 building trades councils nationwide during the last 15 years and includes case studies. Some 97% of the PLAs incorporated one or more CWAs, most of which have goals of hiring local area residents and using apprenticeship programs. Also, 139 of the PLAs included Helmets-to-Hardhats provisions, which focus on recruiting veterans; 103 included the hiring of women and minorities; and 45 included employment and career opportunities for those who are economically disadvantaged.

While PLAs are not limited to union participation, some groups have criticized New York City's use of these contracts in 2009 for construction projects worth nearly $6 billion. The Building Industry Electrical Contractors Association and United Electrical Contractors Association accused the city of favoring union over nonunion shops via these agreements. These groups are appealing a federal judge's ruling that PLAs between the city and the Building and Construction Trades Council do not violate the National Labor Relations Act.