Labor Leaders Defend Site Hiring Practices

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007; Page B02

Labor leaders are defending the hiring practices at the construction site of the new Washington Nationals ballpark, saying that efforts to give jobs to D.C. residents have been an "unequivocal success."

In a letter to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, dated Dec. 6 but released yesterday, the leader of the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO said the project has been successful in hiring District workers. The letter disputed criticism from some local activists that the ballpark had not come through with jobs for city residents.

An October report from the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, which owns the ballpark, also found that hiring was falling short of goals. Contractors previously have said that there have not been enough skilled city residents to meet goals at the site in Southeast Washington.

The $611 million construction project requires union workers. A labor agreement among the unions, the city and the project's general contractor established goals for hiring city residents in skilled journeyman positions and in apprentice training positions.

The agreement "is achieving for the District of Columbia more than it bargained for with respect to the important goal of local workforce development," said the letter to Fenty (D), signed by local AFL-CIO President Joslyn N. Williams.

Williams noted that the agreement calls for 50 percent of apprentice hours at the ballpark to be worked by city residents and said that the actual total was closer to 77 percent. He also said that D.C. residents in journeyman and apprenticeship jobs had worked about 38 percent of the total hours on the ballpark construction.

That, however, is short of the goal of the agreement, which calls for city residents to work half of all the journeyman and apprentice hours on the project.

Williams could not be reached for comment last night, and other officials at the AFL-CIO did not respond to a phone message.

Unions on the project have been sparring with nonunion companies angered about being shut out of the ballpark work. Some of those companies have underwritten a campaign by the District Economic Empowerment Coalition, which is petitioning the city government not to have future labor agreements allowing only union workers. In recent weeks, the coalition has mailed about 25,000 pamphlets to targeted D.C. voters pointing out shortcomings in the hiring of city residents at the ballpark.

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