The Sacramento Kings are getting a new basketball arena. As is the custom with stadiums these days, the team is also getting a big fat $258 million public subsidy, more than half the arena’s estimated $448 million price tag.
On Wednesday, the city reached a labor agreement mandating that the franchise hire at least 60 percent of construction workers and 70 percent of apprentices from Sacramento and the surrounding region. That means it can’t bring in cheaper labor from, say, Illinois. The majority of the people building the arena will be local, taxpaying citizens.
This isn’t anything new. The regional transportation authority for Los Angeles included a U.S. jobs commitment in its contract for a fleet of new buses from a Canadian manufacturer. And Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper passed the Keep Jobs In Colorado Act this June, which requires — much like the Sacramento agreement — that 80 percent of public workers on publicly funded construction projects be Colorado residents.
This is good for a host of reasons, from the sentimental (civic pride) to the very tangible (a larger tax base). But you can’t please everyone, and nonunion labor groups are livid. They feel they’re being squeezed out of the possible 3,500 construction jobs on the arena.
“We think if it’s an arena for all Sacramentans, it should be built by all Sacramentans,” Kevin Dayton told CBS Sacramento. (We think Dayton is this guy, although CBS doesn’t identify him. We called to ask and will update if we hear back.) Now, nonunion labor groups are joining Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork in its initiative to get the $258 million subsidy put to a public vote.
It’s a drag that nonunion labor groups are being shut out of jobs here. But it is nice of the Kings to at least attempt to employ local construction workers, even if it’s almost exclusively unionized workers. But the whole labor battle overshadows the fact that a wealthy sports franchise is getting $258 million in subsidies for an arena that will only increase the value of a privately held company. Government pork at its best!
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Bill Bradley is a writer and reporter living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Deadspin, GQ, and Vanity Fair, among others.