Union leaders and building contractors rally in support of arena

Union leaders and building contractors rallied in support of the proposed NBA arena in Sacramento today, although a group representing some contractors said it would withhold its backing if construction of the hotel rooms, stores and restaurants surrounding the arena was limited to union shops.

At a press conference in front of Old City Hall, leaders of The4000, the group aligned with the Kings and Mayor Kevin Johnson, said the arena is needed to help revive a construction industry that has lost half its jobs in greater Sacramento since the onset of the recession.

An economic study commissioned by The4000 said the $448 million arena would create more than 11,000 temporary construction jobs. The figure includes jobs created by the dollars spent in the community on groceries, etc., by construction workers on the job.

Some nonunion contractors, angered that the Kings agreed to build the arena with union labor, have donated thousands of dollars to the petition drive seeking a public vote on sports subsidies. While the city clerk has rejected the petitions as legally flawed, it's expected that Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork will go to court soon to try and get her decision overturned.

The city has tentatively agreed to a $258 million subsidy for the Kings arena.

John Cooper of Associated General Contractors said his group, which represents both union and nonunion builders, supports the arena project. "We see an opportunity for huge leaps and bounds when it comes job creation," said Cooper, the AGC's regional manager.

But Cooper said he'd "pull my support" if the ancillary development - a hotel, retail and more - isn't open to all bidders. He said "I've been assured" there won't be a project labor agreement covering this ancillary development, like there is for the arena itself.

Political consultant Chris Lehane, who is part of The4000's leadership, said it's "premature to ask those questions" about how the ancillary development would be built.

"Our focus right now is to make sure we get those 11,000 jobs," Lehane said.

Numbers released by the California Employment Development last week showed that, despite the economic recovery, only 35,700 construction workers had jobs last month in greater Sacramento. That's about half as many as the region had before the housing market collapsed.

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