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Unions want PLA for Edgewater job

By Paul Snyder

Madison labor unions, not the Common Council, might ultimately decide the fate of the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment.

The Building and Construction Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin is ready to blanket the Common Council with emergency lobbying for the project, but only if Hammes Co., the Brookfield-based developer, shows it is committed to a project-labor agreement on the job, said Scott Vaughn, the trades council’s executive director.

“We’d stay out of it with the proviso that we deeply regret we were not able to reach agreement on fair labor standards,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re against the project, but we will withdraw our support.”

PLAs require project owners and contractors negotiate with unions. In exchange, unions agree not to use strikes and lockouts, accepting alternative means to resolve labor disputes and create other forms of labor-management cooperation.

Vaughn said the trades council this week set a Friday deadline for Hammes to make a decision on a PLA. Hammes officials were expected to meet with labor representatives Thursday afternoon to discuss the agreement.

That meeting, Vaughn said, will determine if the unions will support the project.

Amy Supple, Hammes development director, said the company is working on an agreement, but it might not be ready by Tuesday, when the Common Council reviews the project. The city’s Landmarks Commission essentially rejected the project Monday, prompting a Hammes appeal to the Common Council.

“We need as much support as we can get,” Supple said. “The reality of the situation is we’ve done what we can to address concerns at every level. This is what we can do, and Madison’s got to make up its mind on whether it wants this project.”

The Landmarks Commission, in rejecting the project, argued it would be too big for the surrounding neighborhood. The Common Council will need 14 votes to overturn the ruling. Two aldermen, Michael Schumacher and Larry Palm, will be absent Tuesday.

“You’ll have 18 (council members) there,” Schumacher said. “If five do not support the project, it’s dead.”

Labor unions helped deliver 17 council votes to keep $16 million in tax incremental financing for the project in the city’s 2010 budget, Vaughn said. He said he expects unions Tuesday would get it done again.

“We’ll pull out all the stops,” he said. “But Tuesday is less than a week away, and we need to be able to mobilize our people soon. We can do miracles for them.”

Other council members are not as sure the 17 budget votes will translate into votes to keep the project alive.

“The language in the budget was merely a place holder,” Alderman Mark Clear said. “It actually said the amendment does not constitute support for the project.”

Labor unions swayed the Common Council the first time, Clear said, and labor unions will be needed again.

That, Vaughn said, depends on the agreement with Hammes.

“They said they were going to sign a PLA back in April,” he said. “To be honest, I’m disappointed they did not talk to us (Wednesday) before going to the media and announcing the appeal.

“We considered ourselves partners.”

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