A handful of local non-union contractors are looking to the Mahoning County Commissioners to remove a Project Labor Agreement from their contracts. 

They claim that so-called PLAs hurt their companies when going out for bidding contracts around town. Several contractors explain their frustration behind the agreement and their confusion about why commissioners aren't taking much action. 

Rudzik Excavating and Baird Tree Services are just two of several contractors asking county commissioners to remove their contract's Project Labor Agreement. The agreement means the non-union companies can't do work for the county, which is why they asking to strip it away.

"Any projects funded with their general funds, no federal money involved, they will issue a project labor agreement if the dollar value of the contract is over $1 million," explained Jim Tressa with Rudzik Excavating. Tressa added the current agreement would force employees to become union members and pay union dues.

Removing the project labor agreement language would allow non-union local companies the same opportunities for county projects. Tressa believes the PLA has been in place since the early 2000s.

"Having a PLA is discriminating against us non-unioned companies because it takes us, non-unioned workers, out of the running," explained an employee with J.S. BOVA Excavating during Thursday's commissioner's meeting.

"I do not believe the PLAs are necessary any longer," explained Greg Burbick with Yarian Brothers Construction. "There are other stipulations in place that create a level playing field between union and non-union companies. This includes the Prevailing Wage Act, insurance, and bonding, including bid bonds, performance bonds, and maintenance bonds that insure the customer against faulty work from the contractor. The ODOT prequalification status requires a company's financial status be reviewed and other qualifications certified."
Burbick said his company also offers a retirement package 401(k) with a company match, paid vacations paid holidays, and competitive wages. "This creates a great family atmosphere and very loyal employees," Burbick said.

The companies told 21 News they must go through the commissioners to get this removed. 21 News reached out to all three commissioners on Thursday and we have yet to hear back.

"If you look at our cost per wage and the cost of a union wage, it is almost doubled," explained Matt Baird with Baird Tree Services.

Rudzik Construction has two projects out for bid: Lake Milton Waterline Project and Poland Township's Burgess Run Sewer Project. Removing the PLA could also benefit taxpayers.

"What they're doing with the PLA is reducing the number of qualified bidders on construction projects to a select few, local," Tressa explained. "But more importantly, they're inviting out-of-town contractors that are unioned contractors. They're inviting them to come take the same local tax dollars back to their community."

"What considers a union contractor more competent than a non-union contractor?" Baird asked. "Is it a PLA? Is it someone's opinion?"

Tressa said Commissioner Anthony Traficani recently met with him and other contractors to discuss their options. 

Rudzik Excavating representatives plan to attend every commissioner's meeting until they reach a solution.