A few weeks ago, while driving to campus, I noticed a few people from Ironworkers Local 10 standing in front of the entrance to UMKC. They were all standing behind a banner that read “UMKC Should Apologize.” I was curious as to why they wanted UMKC to issue an apology, but I never found the time to stop and speak with any of the members.
A few days ago, my U.S. Labor History professor, who also happens to be very active in the labor movement, forwarded an email detailing the underlying issue.
Currently, UMKC is adding on more space to the school’s Miller-Nichols library. While most of the work is being done by local labor, it appears that UMKC has hired the Curtis Company, a non-union subcontractor from South Carolina, to install the new stacker system.
The workers want UMKC to issue an apology for not awarding the contract to local labor. According to Mike Bright, a member of Local 10, unemployment within the local is 20%. The school is not required to hire locally, but should it not support the local economy?
In urban economics, total local employment is determined by a multiplication of an economic base multiplier with basic local employment. In order to increase total local employment, you can increase the basic local employment, i.e. the amount of services that are exported outside your region or increase the economic base multiplier by producing exclusively for local consumption.
UMKC could have increased total local employment and reduced unemployment within Local 10 by issuing the contract to their members instead of issuing it to an outside firm that doesn’t contribute to the local economy, except its own.
An unemployed member of Local 10 also happens to be a Ph.D student with UMKC. It seems that he has no problem supporting the local school by paying his tuition, but the school doesn’t want to reciprocate and support his local labor. No wonder the iron workers want an apology!