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BACKGROUND • Most people welcome a construction boom; the problem is how it gets done

Oregon has endured rough times for the past three years. One thing that has insulated the economy to some extent has been a small boom in construction in and around the Portland area.

Large-scale projects at or near completion include the expansion of the Oregon Convention Center, additions to the MAX light-rail transit lines running both north and west, projects in the Pearl District and the renewal of the Brewery Blocks.

And there's more to come: The South Waterfront Project promises a major overhaul in the riverfront acreage near Southwest Macadam Avenue; plans are already under way for construction of an aerial tram linking that neighborhood with Oregon Health & Science University on Marquam Hill, along with a project that would cover Portland reservoirs. Additionally, there is the prospect of building a stadium that would house a major league baseball team.

Given the region's high unemployment, the competition for jobs created by major projects such as these is intense. Recently, construction unions and contractors have battled over project labor agreements. PLAs are pre-construction agreements reached by contractors and unions in which signatories to the agreement consent to forgo strikes, work stoppages or job actions and provide a guaranteed flow of skilled labor. In exchange, policies were set on wages and work hours and rules.