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Decatur Unions, City Officials Clash Over Dredging Labor

Updated: Thursday, April 24 2014, 01:08 AM CDT

DECATUR --- Two Decatur unions say the contractor on the Lake Decatur dredging project is bringing in out of state labor - a charge city officials deny vehemently.

With more than 13 percent unemployment, a $90 million dollar project to dredge the lake is a an opportunity for work, but the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 965 and say the opportunities at the Oakley Basin - one of the project's two sites -  haven't gone to local residents. Local 965's business representative said the union has been observing the site since February and has seen many out-of-state license plates on vehicles heading into the site.

"The better part of the first month, there was all out-of-state license plates," Kent Campbell said, adding that the highest they'd seen at one time was 12.

Campbell said there is some local help on site, but some are still from out of state.

The contractor, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, promised to hire almost 100 percent of the hourly workers from local labor for the basin site and 50 percent for the dredging work on the lake.

The apparent departure from that has prompted local 965 and the Laborers International Union of North America local 159  to take out ads and billboards claiming Michigan workers are the ones on site.

City officials say that's simply incorrect.

"They're wrong," City Manager Ryan McCrady said. "They don't have the facts to make that accusation."

McCrady said an out-of-state vehicle doesn't necessarily means an out-of-state worker. Four of the six workers at the basin site are locals, he said,  as are eight of the nine who are at the lakeside site.

"And I don't think the contractor has any reason to lie about that, because they know the certified payroll is going to show the real number," he said.

Despite its cost, the dredging project will only produce about 25 to 30 jobs, and only about 15 of them will be long-term.

"The contractor, Great Lakes, had a job fair and had about 500 people show up to it," McCrady said.

The pay is the same for union and non-union employees on the project, but the unions say that doesn't matter, only that the labor is local.

"If it its a qualified person who lives here in the community, the money stays here," Campbell said. "That's what this is about."

McCrady said the city expects the first certified payroll within the next few months. He said the unions have already requested a copy of it under a Freedom of Information Act Request.

Decatur Unions, City Officials Clash Over Dredging Labor

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