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Gray Signs Agreement Giving Unions Leg Up In Construction Of New Soccer Stadium

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A rendering of the new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point.
D.C. United
A rendering of the new D.C. United stadium at Buzzard Point.

Plans are moving forward for the proposed 20,000-seat, $300 million soccer stadium in Southwest D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has signed a labor agreement for the project, requiring the bulk of the big construction contracts go to local unions.

District officials say the project labor agreement, or PLA, guarantees that D.C. residents get first crack at the trade jobs and apprenticeships, and that all of the contracts valued at $6 million or more go to union shops. The deal was announced outside Nationals Park, the other big sports venue that was funded with taxpayer money and used a PLA.

City Administrator Allen Lew says that he is modeling the soccer stadium deal after the Nationals Park PLA, and says that the soccer stadium, which will cost taxpayers $150 million dollars—D.C. United will cover the remaining $150 million—is worth the investment.

"We are estimating about $143 million in economic development activity just for the the soccer stadium, 400 full time equivalent jobs during the construction phase, and then during the non-construction phase, we expect $70 million in economic activity and 380 full-time equivalent jobs," he says.

For the deal to move forward, the city still needs to acquire several parcels of land from private developers, and talks continue over proposed land swaps of city-owned land, including the Reeves Center on 14th and U Streets NW.

Gray, who will likely announce this week whether he will sign or veto the so-called living wage bill that would require certain large retailers to pay employees $12.50 an hour, was quick to reiterate his support for labor unions

"This project labor agreement is another indication of my strong support for workers and people being able to work in the District of Columbia," he said.

Chuck Thies, a political commentator and consultant, says the timing of the announcement is important.

"It's widely expected that the mayor is going to veto the living wage bill that has been talked about for several months, and labor is upset that he's going to veto. So this is an opportunity for Mayor Gray to say to labor, 'Hey, I am with you on a lot of things, we disagree on the Walmart legislation but we can agree on this project labor agreement,'" says Thies.

The stadium deal will require the approval of the D.C. Council, and observers say the labor agreement could help convince members to sign off on the soccer stadium.

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