To the Editor:

As a proud former member of IBEW Local 2304 and proud son and grandson of United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners members, I am not surprised to learn that contractors associations are leery of union access to job sites (guest editorial July 6, 2011). However, I was surprised to read the disingenuous reasons listed for their opposition to a new North Clackamas School District policy. Mr. Killin and Mr. Salsgiver claim that the board draft policy allowing for access to district construction job sites for the purpose of checking for prevailing wage compliance would cause 'serious impact on construction cost and jobsite safety.'

Labor unions like the ones to which my father, grandfather and myself belong(ed), along with many other trades unions, care about members' safety above all. Appropriate wage and benefit rates mean little to members who lose fingers, eyes and the like on unsafe job sites. In fact, for that reason a regular topic at labor-management meetings on job sites is job safety. By simply allowing unions access to the sites for the purpose of ensuring compliance with labor laws, those unions will not set aside their basic safety tenets. They will continue to advocate that their members and all workers on a job site get home safely.

Further, I fail to understand how opening the site would 'seriously impact construction costs.' Construction unions are very proud of their capacity to affect job efficiency and job quality. In fact, in order to better affect efficiency and quality, many construction unions provide their own apprenticeship programs, which allow members to stay current in modern construction practices and train the next generation with the knowledge gained by the current. It is not in the unions' interests to slow their employers' construction progress as that would negatively impact their employers' ability to secure the next job.

Finally, if the general contractor on site is following labor laws, the contractor need not worry that allowing access to those who might ensure compliance would have much impact at all. Instead, I believe Mr. Killin and Mr. Salsgiver worry that unions may do a job that an underfunded and understaffed Bureau of Labor and Industry is not able to adequately do: ensure that all contractors on public job sites follow all labor laws. The self-reporting done by contractors is not always a reliable way to ensure compliance. I therefore applaud the North Clackamas School Board for its desire to ensure that public dollars go to contractors who follow the law. The board members deserve our support.

Jesse Reschke


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