Richmond casino supporters promote ‘family-sustaining’ construction jobs

Posted at 11:48 AM, Sep 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-26 12:14:18-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond voters have another factor to consider when voting to approve or reject a proposed casino on Richmond’s Southside. The Richmond Area Building and Construction Trades Council (RBCTC) and the ‘Richmond Wins, Vote Yes’ referendum campaign announced Tuesday a project labor agreement (PLA) has been reached for the proposed Richmond Grand Resort and Casino.

The PLA is a pre-hire agreement between Richmond-based Hourigan Construction Corp. who will serve as general contractor for the project on Philip Morris-owned land just off Interstate 95. The agreement includes one or more labor unions that set out the terms and conditions for a project, which is RBCTC.

“This agreement will ensure jobs with family-sustaining wages and benefits for the skilled laborers in the building trades who will work on the project, and help make sure the project is delivered on time for Richmonders,” according to a press release.

Charles Skelly, president of RBCTC and CEO of local union IBEW 666, said this agreement will bring thousands of construction jobs to metro Richmond and help lift laborers into the middle class.

“Project labor agreements, among other things, promote apprenticeship opportunities for disadvantaged communities, help SWAM [small, women, and minority-owned] businesses, implement safety standards, and prevent the exploitation of vulnerable workers,” Skelly said at the Tuesday morning press event in downtown Richmond.

Skelly said local union apprentices start at $15 per hour and all members are offered paid healthcare for both themselves and their families, and one or more retirements and pensions.

He said he couldn’t speculate exactly how many construction jobs would be created if voters approved the casino on the November 7 ballot. Most of their skilled laborers earn $60,000 to $70,000 per year, he said.

The announcement came one day after Richmond City Council unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Mayor Levar Stoney to establish the first-ever Richmond Child Care and Education Trust Fund using annual gaming tax revenue from the proposed casino.

Allan-Charles Chipman, a former city council candidate, argued Richmond got its chance at a casino two years ago when voters rejected the project.

The "do-over," Chipman said, was viewed by some as going against the will of Richmond voters.

"I don't think we can afford a roll of the dice for our democracy because developers and politicians didn't get the election results they wanted," he said. "The first referendum was about a casino. This referendum we need to focus on do we want to say our democracy is for sale or not, or do we want to say that referendums count and stand for something in Richmond."

CBS 6 reporter Brendan King asked Skelly to respond to that criticism.

"There’s some folks who you'll never convince of a good thing," Skelly said. "But this project offers so many Richmonders the opportunity for a pathway into the middle class. I think they should really think long and hard if that makes sense in their community to vote no for something that would give so many people a great opportunity."

In July, Richmonders who spoke out against the casino being added back on the ballot questioned promoters' motivations and were concerned about transparency with the allocation of revenue.

Voters who oppose the rebranded casino call it an “extractive business” especially for low-income families. They claim that casinos make money off the backs of those who need help the most.

Knight Williams, an apprentice with Regional Council of Carpenters Local 205, said the casino offers his family and coworkers more opportunities.

“This project is requiring a fair wage and benefits that would allow a lot of people to move to the middle class. And I know personally how that’s life-changing especially in the City of Richmond,” Williams said.

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