D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, D.C. United investors and local labor leaders announced a deal Tuesday that would require mostly union workers to build a 20,000-seat soccer stadium pegged for Buzzard Point in Southwest.
The stadium project is still far from certain. The mayor has not acquired the needed land nor approval from the D.C. Council to build the stadium under a complex series of deals proposed by City Administrator Allen Lew, and critics have begun questioning the project’s value to taxpayers.
But Gray and Lew said that by agreeing to use union labor, the District and team would ensure that the project would provide job opportunities for D.C. residents and could be completed on-time.
Under the agreement the team agrees to require its general contractor, as well as subcontractors earning as much as $6 million in stadium work, to use union labor. A provision under the city’s First Source program will require the hiring of D.C. residents.
Lew said that a no-strike provision in the deal will also prevent work stoppages, which he called a critical safeguard against delays to a blistering schedule he has laid out to get the project done.
Under a July 25 term sheet between the team and the city, the District is expected to deliver the land and pass legislation by Jan. 1 of next year so the team can begin play in the new stadium by 2016.
Lew said he is still negotiating with Pepco and other landowners on Buzzard Point and hopes to submit legislation to the council in November. Gray said there were no updates on negotiations with other landowners. “I don’t think there’s anything new and significant,” he said.
Gray announced the deal outside the south entrance to Nationals Park, construction of which Lew oversaw under a project labor agreement that he said was the template for the soccer deal. City officials were joined by members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, clad in orange T-shirts, as well as investors in D.C. United and head coach Ben Olsen.
Lew said the costs to the city are unlikely to be much greater with a project labor agreement because under the mayor’s stadium proposal, in which the District would provide up to $150 million in land and infrastructure, wages would likely be set by the federal Davis-Bacon Act.
Jason Levien, D.C. United managing partner, said that hiring locally was important to the team and the project. “In order for this to work we need to put D.C. residents to work,” he said.
Brent Booker, secretary-treasurer of North America’s Building Trades Unions, said the deal illustrates the team’s commitment not only to quality and on-time construction work “but also projects a commitment to providing a respectable standard of living to D.C. construction workers and affording structured career training opportunities for other D.C. residents.”
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