- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

A once airtight political partnership over baseball between District Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Ward 5 Councilman Vincent Orange has fractured over a recently approved project labor agreement (PLA) for the construction of the Washington Nationals’ stadium.

Orange, chairman of the D.C. Council’s Government Oversight Committee, held a hastily called hearing yesterday on a bill he introduced Tuesday that effectively would dismantle the PLA struck earlier this month between the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission and local building trade unions.

The PLA aims to establish minimum levels of hiring of District residents and local, small or disadvantaged businesses to work on the ballpark, which will be located near the Anacostia River waterfront. But Orange said he believes the pact’s provisions mandating union workers will shut out many city residents, particularly blacks, from getting construction jobs on the stadium.

“The case against this is out there. The facts are out there,” Orange said. “We need the prosperity happening around us actually reaching the entire city and residents of this city.”

Orange’s moves, according to city sources, enraged Williams yesterday. Orange also tried unsuccessfully to strip out the stadium PLA on Tuesday during the council’s 10-3 approval of the agreement, and in the eyes of the mayor, the latest salvo represents a “superfluous” attempt to circumvent the political process.

“Such a move reflects a cynicism and political motivation that should concern every District resident,” Williams said in a statement. “Vincent Orange is obviously taking marching orders from corporate interests who are afraid that if they want to help build the city’s beautiful new ballpark, they’ll have to pay workers a fair wage. I can only assume that Mr. Orange would rather see construction sites in the District stacked with day laborers, even though a study by UCLA this week documented widespread pay abuse among non-unionized workers.”

The PLA requires most contractors on the stadium to use union labor. But ballpark subcontracts worth $10 million or less will be allowed to use non-union workers, a clause Williams considers critical to the pact. Some opponents of the PLA estimate as many as 85 percent of District construction workers and 95 percent of minority-owned contractors in the city do not belong to a union. The stadium is scheduled to open in April 2008.

During heated legislative battles last fall over funding for the Nationals’ stadium, Orange was arguably the steadiest supporter of Williams’ push for the project. Orange even went around the city, frequently giving humor- and prop-laden speeches touting the anticipated economic development benefits of the ballpark.

Six months after victory on the stadium fight, however, political ambition has surrounded the discussion because Orange has declared his candidacy in the 2006 mayoral election. Williams has not disclosed whether he will seek a third term. But Orange, like fellow council member and mayoral aspirant Adrian Fenty, has begun to distance himself from Williams’ track record and covets the political support from local business sectors now held by Williams.

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