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Controversial Union Ordinance Brings out the Masses

Unions Prevail in PLA Battle: Musella Sides with Taxpayers

PARSIPPANY — Parsippany-Troy Hills Township Council passed ordinance No. 2022:24 on Tuesday, October 18, to mandate to use Project Labor Agreements (PLA) on all direct township construction projects valued at $5 million or more.

Union members from across New Jersey met at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 102, 50 Parsippany Road, and drove in caravans to Parsippany Hills High School, where the Township Council meeting was moved due to the large number of attendees expected.

Click here to view video of union workers marching into the council meeting at Parsippany Hills High School.

Parsippany-Troy Hills Councilman Justin Musella listens to the speakers at the Council Meeting of October 11. File Photo

Parsippany’s PLA ordinance was approved with a 4-to-1 vote. Councilman Justin Musella was the lone “no” vote in advocacy for the beleaguered township taxpayers: “I have a financial responsibility to the taxpayer and from the beginning tried in vain to get a thorough understanding of why Parsippany had to be the first town in Morris County to do this, but the [Barberio] administration provided no answers or supporting evidence. On multiple occasions, I provided independent and careful studies to the administration and my colleagues about how PLAs drive up costs, harm small businesses, and are anti-competitive.”

Click here to download a copy of the Ordinance 2022:24.

Mayor James Barberio responded to Musella, admitting  to disregarding Musella’s inquiries. “And you know what, I wasn’t going to waste the time. Because it was a way out, that’s all it was. It was to reduce it [the PLA].”

“I made an oath from Day 1 to fight to keep Parsippany affordable and enable to enable residents to stay here and not flee our town,” Musella said prior to the voting against the ordinance. “With that said, I see no compelling reason to depart from our competitive bidding process that brings benefits to our taxpayers as it stands today.”

Parsippany resident Richard Corbett said “On February 4, 2022, President Biden issued an executive order requiring the use of PLAs for all federal construction projects. Thanks to this town council and mayor, the same failed economic policies of the current Biden administration that continue to cause economic hardship for Americans are coming to Parsippany. Now we can all look forward to even higher taxes. Thank you. This council should be working to make the lives of Parsippany residents better, not more expensive. Thank you, Councilman Musella for supporting sound economic principles and the taxpayers of Parsippany.”

Kenneth Dukes

Kenneth Dukes stated “I support this legislation of PLA legislation, both as a union carpenter and as a residence of Parsippany. I like going to work knowing that I’m going to be in a professional clean work environment safe. I’m going to give the contractor a full day’s work in exchange for a fair wage, and at the end of the day, I’m gonna return to my family safe. 90% of the dollars that I make on these projects remains right here in the community. Obviously, I pay taxes, I support police officers, firefighters, public schools, libraries, et cetera. As regular consumers, me and my family, do everything right here in town. We go to the movies here, we go to restaurants here. We support businesses here. We take our kids out to events here.”

Morris County Commissioner Thomas Mastrangelo

Morris County Commissioner Thomas Mastrangelo said “I believe in project labor agreements at the county for certain projects over $5 million. There are projects in this state where non-union contractors are charging prevailing wage, but they’re not paying their employees prevailing wage. The other thing is competition. PLAs allow competition for non-union companies to bid as well. You have to look at is a safety. We had some projects right here in Morris County in Hanover, the firehouse, a generator fell on two individuals and safety wasn’t installed. Those two people got killed. And there, there was another one up at a Castle where another worker got killed because safety wasn’t implemented. These people work hard and they have to be safe. When you look at fiscal conservative approaches to government, Morris County has done it well. We’ve been one of the top rated fiscal conservative counties in this nation. We continue to strive to be one of the top fiscally managed counties in this country. We’re a Republican operated or managed county, and if you look at the Legislators, just about every Republican Senator and every Republican Assemblyman supported PLAs for the right reasons. Because projects come in on time, projects come in safely, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to fix all the mistakes from contractors who aren’t doing the right thing. As a county commissioner, as a taxpayer in this county, I support PLAs. I support these workers, and I will stand up here repeatedly to support you when in implementing this policy.”

Morris County Commissioner Stephen Shaw, after listening to the Council Meeting tape published on Parsippany Focus, submitted this comment:

“Regarding County Resolution 2021-909 adopted October 27, 2021 (Click here to read). The County PLA resolution was referred to during public comment at the October 12 and 18 Parsippany Council meetings. I checked with the administration to confirm that the resolution gives the administration the option to employ a PLA on a project by project basis and does not mandate its use. To date, the County has not used a PLA on any projects.”

Brendan Kelly

“I’m a Morris County resident, a United States Marine Corps veteran, and a second year apprentice in the Local 254 Carpenters. Been a Morris County resident all my life and plan on staying that way. And hopefully one day, once this job’s done, when you say yes to the PLA and get us in here, we’re gonna be looking at this job, passing by it every day. And hopefully once I have kids, I could tell them I built that and we’re all gonna be proud to show what we’ve built,” said Brendan Kelly.

Councilman Paul Carifi Jr. outlined the opinion of the council majority, citing benefits for public projects that include higher-quality results from trained workers who operate under agreements that prohibit strikes, work slow downs and other costly delays. PLAs would guarantee projects use documented workers who pay taxes, while non-union contractors may employ underpaid illegal workers to lower their bids, Carifi said.

Carifi added that public construction projects costing $5 million or more are rare, even in Parsippany. The town is the most populous in Morris County, with 56,000 residents and a $122 million capital budget this year.

Mayor Barberio scoffed at suggestions that his support was bought by the unions that contributed to his campaign, saying he shared those funds equally with his running mates, Musella and Councilman Frank Neglia.

“When you contribute to me, all you get is good government,” he said.

He also said “I’ll explain what a keyboard warrior is. It is those people that go on and they continue to put letters to the editor out; who are guided by individuals to get their point across. I do respect Mr. Heller, Mr. Corbett and Mr. Venezia who actually come up here to state their concerns on this ordinance. I have a lot of respect for individuals like that and I applaud you for that because that’s what the process is all about. I’m gonna go all the way back to the “Tap Into Parsippany” editorial with Samantha DeAlmeida, who comes and puts false information. And if you notice, all the emails we get are very generic, very similar to what the statements that council member Musella made; all the same, every single one’s the same.

Parsippany resident Bob Venezia

“I live in Parsippany. After listening to the presentations that were made during the public session of last week’s council meeting, I don’t know how any council member can justify voting in favor of Ordinance 2022:24, which mandates project labor agreements or PLAs for Parsippany projects valued at $5 million or more. About 200 union workers travel from all parts of the state in order to lobby on behalf of the ordinance. On the other side of the issue are Parsippany residents who are not affiliated with the Union Council members should take note that every non-union Parsippany resident that spoke at the meeting was unanimous in their disapproval of the ordinance. I would also like to remind the council members that your primary responsibility is to the residents of Parsippany and not to non-resident union members who are solely looking out for their own monetary interests.
In speaking against the ordinance, several Parsippany residents cited results of two studies, which compared the time and cost of PLA projects versus non PLA projects. Both studies, one of which originated from the New Jersey Department of Labor, were in agreement that the PLA contracts increase the time and cost of projects by about 30%. Union members and the council members who spoke favorably about the ordinance didn’t dispute the results of these studies, but they more or less implied that the union workmanship is worth that extra premium. While sympathizing with the union member’s desire to improve their living standards, Parsippany taxpayers made it very clear that they were unwilling to pay a 30% PLA project surcharge, which calculates to an extra 1.5 million for each 5 million project. What happened to the council members that were dedicated to cutting costs and reducing taxes during the previous administration? What changed between then and now? Make no mistake, approval of this ordinance is equivalent to passing a 1.5 million tax increase for every large construction project. It’s also a class example of pandering to special interests as well as a complete sellout of the taxpayers of Parsippany,” said Parsippany resident Bob Venezia.

Barberio’s support drew loud cheers from the over 200 people who attended the meeting. Many wore union shirts and waved signs reading “Local Jobs for Local Workers”
Parsippany resident Hank Heller

Parsippany resident Hank Heller said “I’ve been a taxpayer and voter in Parsippany for over 51 years. At the last meeting, I was surprised and perhaps somewhat taken back by the large showing of members of the various unions that attended to show their support for the project labor agreement issue. Tonight, I’m still chagrin because it’s fairly clear that this strong showing of union support is meant to perhaps overpower those who might not be in agreement and thereby silence discussion of an issue that is of a great importance in this community. Some of the union attendees said that they live in Parsippany, some of the speakers told of how union membership had saved their lives and allowed them to live lives of greater dignity. I am and was, I was, and I am respectful of that. However, the purpose of local government is not to provide better paying jobs for the public at large, but to make judicious decisions in the use of public funds so that the citizens of Parsippany benefit. When we voted you into office, we expected you to enact laws that would do not damage us. In this terrible time of inflation and possible recession. We’re seeing our retirement funds decline by 20 to 30% or more. We are seeing our savings go up in smoke as an irresponsible national government causes us to spend 20 to 35% more to heat our homes, drive our cars to work, and just to put food on the tables for our families. We are being squeezed in every way imaginable. And to have our local government decide to give union leadership with new laws that precludes small local contractors from bidding for large government projects, if they are not a union shop is just wrong. The demands of PLA actually from all that I have been able to read cost a taxpayer 25 to 37% more in cost and even more in time to completion. I think that is unconscionable to vote for, for PLAs at this time. Frankly, I might have expected such gifts to come from a democratic administration, but no, it is a gift to us by our current Republican administration. And additionally, amazingly, almost unanimously, I tell you, if you care at all, you will not be able to defend yourselves from this vote. Those who will look to unseat you in the future, who look to cast aspersions on your decision making and on your effectiveness will serve you this meal over and over and over again. I was treated well when I spoke at the last meeting the union. But I also learned that not everyone was treated respectfully. In fact, I now know that a few of the people in the audience were threatening to some who dissented. I’m here to say that no matter the size of the opposition, this municipal body has a, a responsibility to make sure that all people who live in Parsippany and come to speak civilly and express themselves reasonably can be fairly heard and they should not have to worry about email threats, telephone threats and voice threats.”

Barberio’s support drew loud cheers from the over 200 people who attended the meeting. Many wore union shirts and waved signs reading “Local Jobs for Local Workers”
Union workers met at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 102, 50 Parsippany Road, and drove in caravans to Parsippany Hills High School. Pictured is a truck with an Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters logo. A large video sign on the side of the truck displayed an image of Musella and a message: “Tell Justin Musella: Support Parsippany workers.”
Union workers met at International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 102 and drove in caravans to Parsippany Hills High School. Pictured is a truck with an Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters logo. A large video sign on the side of the truck displayed an image “PLA ALL THE WAY.”

Parsippany’s PLA ordinance was approved with a 4-to-1 vote.

Click here to watch the video of the meeting.

Click here to read related story regarding the. October 11 Township Council meeting.

Frank L. Cahill
Frank L. Cahill
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, President of Kiwanis Club of Tri-Town and Chairman of Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board.
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