Bayonne to vote on challenge labor settlement at subsequent council assembly

BAYONNE — The city council is set to introduce an ordinance that would require developers of projects exceeding $15 million to hire local labor unions to carry out the work. 

The ordinance, if approved at the Jan. 17 council meeting, would require private developers of residential and commercial projects receiving PILOT abatements to enter into project labor agreements (PLAs) with local labor unions seeking jobs on the project sites.

The agreement would apply to private projects that cost more than $15 million, and would mandate that 20 percent of the hired workforce come from local labor unions.

“If you look at this and compare it to other PLAs around the state, this includes one of the most aggressive local hiring clauses in the state,” Mayor Jimmy Davis told The Jersey Journal.

But the ordinance faced immediate criticism from Jason O’Donnell, a mayoral candidate looking to unseat Davis in May’s municipal election, who called the timing of the ordinance “completely disingenuous.”

In a lengthy statement slamming the proposal, O’Donnell called the ordinance a campaign stunt that is an “insult to the intelligence of every working man and woman” in Bayonne and to members of organized labor in the state.

“For three and a half years and running, the Davis administration has, through its actions, denied the men and women of organized labor an opportunity to compete for work in the City of Bayonne,” O’Donnell said, adding that Davis administration has approved well over 30 tax PILOT abatements with no PLA agreements.

“Let’s be clear, PILOTs used as development tools should not just be for the benefit of wealthy developers while leaving Bayonne residents without community benefit agreements or good paying jobs,” he said. “I would make sure that Bayonne residents benefit from Bayonne projects and that the projects are done responsibly and with quality union labor.”

O’Donnell has been endorsed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, as well as the United Steel Workers Union Local 4-406.

Davis and his campaign manager, Joe DeMarco, rebuked this claim, telling The Jersey Journal that they have attached labor provisions to several projects on the Military Ocean Terminal, and others in the city, that encourage developers to seek out local union labor.

“But now this PLA will require it,” DeMarco said.

Asked if the ordinance was presented to combat O’Donnell’s criticisms of his administration, Davis said he doesn’t “pay attention to what Jason O’Donnell says.”

“I’m here working every single day to move this city forward like I have the past three years and for the first time in 10 or 15 years the development market in the city of Bayonne is hot,” he said.

Additionally, Davis said his administration has been working to create PLAs — pointing to the city’s passing of a PLA agreement in 2015 for public projects in the city — but were monitoring the status of an ongoing federal lawsuit against a similar PLA agreement…

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