For months, the Prince George’s County Board of Education has been working towards beginning Phase 2 of its plans to construct new schools for Prince George’s County students. These projects are in desperate need and improvements on construction planning were necessary due to wage theft accusations that took place during Phase 1 of the project — called the “public-private partnership” or “P3”. To ensure these schools were built professionally, safely, on time, and with local workers, a Project Labor Agreement Was approved by the Board on September 30, 2023.
“Prince George’s County School Board picked principle over politics,” said William C. Sproule Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, “Our skilled union carpenters spoke out, wrote letters, and educated the public on how our local schools should be built on time, with local workers, and the cycle of wage theft prevalent on Phase 1 construction needed to end. This is a great decision for our students and local workers.”
This decision did not come without opposition from some Board of Education members and anti-union special interest groups. An original attempt to move forward with Phase 2 was delayed by these Board of Education Members when a Project Labor Agreement was asked to be required.
Among the pro-union voices that worked to move these projects forward responsibly was proud Local Union 197 member, Steve Sinclair Jr. A Prince George’s County resident and a father, with one child already in the public school system and another on the way, Sinclair saw beyond bricks and mortar. He saw a labor agreement as a driving force, not just for the workers but for the families they support.
“You see children arriving at school, starving, because their parents are struggling to find work,” said Sinclair. “This labor agreement isn’t just about jobs; it’s about nurturing our community, allowing parents to provide for their children.”
Phase 2 construction includes eight new buildings including Fairwood Area Elementary School in Bowie, Margaret Brent Elementary School in New Carrollton, Springhill Lake Elementary School in Greenbelt, Templeton Elementary School in Riverdale Park, James Duckworth Elementary School in Beltsville, Hyattsville Elementary School, Robert Frost Area PK-8 Academy in New Carrollton, and Brandywine Area PK-8 Academy.
Lashon Middleton, another dedicated member of Local Union 197, also advocated for support. She commutes as far as an hour and a half to work, emphasizing that a Project Labor Agreement isn’t merely about employment but about empowering individuals to thrive within the county they call home.
“A PLA will offer people a chance to not just work, but to live right here in the heart of Prince George’s County,” said Middleton.
This transformative labor agreement isn’t just about securing fair wages; it’s about investing in the county’s own. It aims to open doors for those in apprenticeships and CTE programs, ensuring that the youth of this community find a clear and promising path towards a fulfilling career.
“We’re not asking to have the whole enchilada, we just want a piece of the pie,” said union leader Lamar Mutts. “Our mission is to guarantee that the young men and women entering our program find a lasting and prosperous career trajectory.”
In this resounding decision, Prince George’s County is not just building schools; it’s constructing a brighter future, one that echoes with the voices of opportunity for all.