Durbin, Enyart criticize Corps for not using local unions in initial levee reconstruction

News-DemocratJuly 12, 2013 

U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, left, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

DERIK HOLTMANN — dholtmann@bnd.com Buy Photo

Two federal lawmakers are calling out the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use local union workers in future phases of the levee repairs to be done in the metro-east.

Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, are criticizing the Corps for not using a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA, for the initial levee improvement project in the region.

A PLA is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project.

The Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council, which is leading the $161 million project to improve the metro-east area's levee system in order to meet federal standards by 2015, has reported that PLAs have recently been used successfully on almost all major projects, public and private, throughout Southwestern Illinois.

The two Illinois legislators have sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy strongly encouraging the Corps to include PLAs when contracting future levee improvement projects.

In the letter, Durbin and Enyart wrote, "Frankly, this decision is baffling to a community that has so strongly pursued this project. As the full levee reconstruction plan includes several federally funded projects, we strongly encourage you to limit today's decision to this portion and make PLAs part of future levee improvement projects. Cooperation among all parties is essential for progress and, in spite of this decision; we are hopeful that the levee improvements will be able to move forward without delay."

Mike Petersen, a spokesman from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Louis District, said that by law the Corps can consider, but not require, PLAs for these kinds of project.

"The Corps' job is to ensure the federal investment delivers the best value to the nation," Petersen said.

"We reached out to a lot of different folks and did out due diligence. We want to be a partner in this and the federal law is pretty clear."

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 239-2526.

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