Troutdale City Council gets earful from IBEW Local 48 members

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 and allies in East Multnomah County protested before the Troutdale City Council Jan. 10 the awarding of a contract to an out-of-state, nonunion electrical contractor on a new police station currently under construction.

Local 48 and its training center are located a few miles west of Troutdale and many of the union’s members live in Troutdale. Last year voters approved a $7.5 million bond to build the police station. Local 48 endorsed the bond measure and most of its members living in Troutdale voted for it.

P & C Construction was awarded the general contract, and it in turn awarded the electrical portion of the job to nonunion Prairie Electric of Vancouver, Washington.

Local 48 Business Manager Clif Davis told the Labor Press that Prairie Electric was up against three nonunion and one union contractor for the job. Davis said the initial union bid by Heil Electric wasn’t the lowest, but it was $20,000 lower than Prairie’s bid.

“The construction manager cited ‘non-responsive bidder’ issues as the reason for the decision, but has failed to show us the basis for this claim,” Davis said. “They will be profiting from a project paid for in part by our members due to the fact that the construction manager chose to exclude the union bid for reasons that have not been explained.”

Davis told city councilors the decision to use an out of state contractor could cost the city millions in lost revenue. “Governments always talk about the ripple effect of public works projects where a million dollars turns into as much as four million dollars to the local community due to wages, taxes and other spending related to the jobs created. So Troutdale is choosing to send millions across the river.”

Additionally, several members of Local 48 who live in Troutdale pointed out to city councilors the donated work, supplies, and money they and their union have contributed to the community. Those donations include, in part, the installation of electrical services, outlets and modifications of the street lamps that are along the Historic Columbia River Highway in downtown Troutdale, and a scoreboard for the local high school.

“This was at zero cost to the City of Troutdale. The City requested this of us and we willingly donated it to them,” Davis told the Labor Press. “Yet the project was awarded to a company with absolutely no community ties or any history of community involvement.”

Troutdale Mayor Jim Kight directed the city staff to prepare a response to the issues brought up by the electricians.  “We will take your comments to heart and see what we can do for the future,” he said.

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