News from Patrick Flynn

An electric atmosphere

In addition to our three-hour “special” meeting Tuesday night, we had another two-hour work session on budgetary matters on Friday, February 20.  Despite that additional time we still haven’t managed to wade through the administration’s explanation of their cuts and the reasoning behind them, so we’ll have yet another work session this coming Friday.  While excessive pontification by Assembly members certainly bears part of the blame for the amount of time spent on this subject, it’s worth noting that a fair amount of time at the Tuesday meeting was spent discussing the new IBEW contract.

The issue, as a series of non-union electrical contractors iteratively testified, is that the new contract (specifically section 2.14.4) expands the jurisdiction of IBEW work from two departments – Municipal Light & Power and Traffic – to five, adding Maintenance & Operations, the Department of Neighborhoods and Development Services.  That means that sub-contractors performing electrical work for those departments either need to employ IBEW-represented employees or have a letter of assent from the IBEW.  The non-union contractors’ primary concern is that they won’t be able to compete for this work thus losing the amount of business they do and requiring them to lay off employees.  Given that, it’s fair to ask why that language was included.

While I read through the amended contract prior to our December deliberations I did not pick up on the expansion of jurisdiction.  To the best of my knowledge none of my colleagues did either.  It only came to light when an AWWU procurement employee mistakenly thought the provision applied to a contract he was putting out to bid and included it in his bid package.  At that point the Associated Builders & Contractors, a trade organization representing non-union contractors, picked up on the issue and since then has aggressively campaigned for a retraction of IBEW jurisdiction. 

In the intervening months I’ve been investigating the matter and, as best I can discern from the various entities involved, the language in the preceding contract was viewed as too broad – meaning that affected departments seeking to sub-contract, for example, carpentry or snow removal services were technically only supposed to use companies with IBEW-represented employees.  (I could insert a joke about how many snowplow drivers it takes to screw in a light bulb, or how many electricians it takes to plow a road, but that’d be cheap humor.)  To the best of my knowledge the IBEW never sought to enforce their jurisdiction over that sort of work and instead bargained to focus on the electrical work, hence the existence of the new section 2.14.4.

So where are we today?  My colleague, Dan Coffey, filed a “Notice of Intent to Move for Rescission of Assembly Action” in approving the IBEW contract.  It will be introduced this coming Tuesday with a public hearing at our March 3 meeting.  While there seems to be some willingness to address the concerns of non-union contractors I don’t think that necessarily means repealing the entire contract, which is what a rescission motion would do.  In fact, there are some concerns that such a move would expose the city to litigation, though I don’t know my labor law well enough to say one way or the other.  That said, the Assembly cannot negotiate with labor on behalf of the municipality, only the administration can do that.  By introducing the motion Mr. Coffey has effectively said to both the IBEW and the administration that he thinks there’s a problem with the contract and he wants them to sit down and come up with an amendment, or even an administrative letter, to resolve the issue.  Meanwhile yours truly will continue working in the nebulous world of “shuttle diplomacy” to find a way forward.

Now you know what I know, and your comments are welcome.



This contribution was made on Saturday, 21. February 2009 at 13:28 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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1 Comment

  1. […] I wrote last week, the first deals with the IBEW contract and was brought by Dan Coffey.  It seems the […]

    Pingback: Patrick Flynn’s Blog » Rescission decision | – 03. March 2009 @ 7:28 pm

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