Chamber leaders chide Mooney

November 15, 2000

Chamber leaders chide Mooney

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

Some Hagerstown business leaders are accusing state Sen. Alex Mooney of misrepresenting the Maryland Chamber of Commerce's position on an important business issue.

Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, wrote to Chamber members last month with the "shocking news" that the state Chamber wasn't fighting pro-union work rules on the $2.2 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project.

Maryland Chamber of Commerce President Kathleen T. Snyder told the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday that her organization opposes a labor agreement.

Many business leaders oppose building the bride under a "project labor agreement," or PLA, because they argue it would prevent nonunion companies from bidding on the work.


Gov. Parris Glendening is expected to decide by the end of the month whether to impose a PLA.

Instead of criticizing Glendening in the press, the state Chamber's executive committee decided to express concerns directly to officials in his administration.

"We refused to go out and battle the governor in the press with this issue. That strategy isn't going to work. The governor has all the cards," Snyder said.

The Chamber believes it has made headway, she said.

Mooney and some other Republican officials, including U.S. Rep. Robert L. Erlich Jr., R-Md., are unhappy with the Chamber's public silence on the issue.

But Snyder said neither Erlich nor Mooney called the Chamber before mailing letters to Chamber members.

"What this episode displays is the failure of our elected officials to cull facts and communicate courteously," said Fred Teeter Jr., president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, in a Nov. 9 fax to members.

Chamber Chairwoman Suzanne Hayes also wrote to Mooney, inviting him to contact local business leaders in the future "to avoid perpetuating a misunderstanding."

"We appreciate your pro-business voting record and do not want you to jeopardize your relationship with Maryland's pre-eminent business organization," Hayes wrote in her Nov. 8 letter.

Mooney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Several Hagerstown business leaders defended Mooney's actions at the Chamber meeting, suggesting Snyder should have contacted Republican elected officials to explain the strategy.

"The telephone works both ways," said Victoria Nelson, a member of the Washington County Republican Central Committee.

Michael Callas of Callas Contractors said he doesn't agree with the Chamber's strategy. Callas is a member of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., which is also concerned about the PLA issue.

Hagerstown construction companies are hoping to get some of the bridge work being done over the next seven years.

Callas and other opponents of project labor agreements contend they hamper competition and increase project costs.

Supporters say they help prevent strikes that can result in costly delays.

Snyder was at the Ramada Inn Hagerstown Wednesday to talk about business issues that may arise during the next session of the Maryland General Assembly, which begins in January.

The Herald-Mail Articles