Union Challenges Tenaska’s Hiring Practices

The Richmond Building and Construction Trades Council has accused Tenaska of bringing in out-of-state workers to construct their new Fluvanna power plant, making their provision $50MM in wages considerably less useful to the county. Says a member of the trade union, regarding the imported workers, “if we had these jobs, money would be recirculated throughout the state, whereas these guys aren?t paying property taxes and are renting homes. They’re basically taking from the area, but they?re not giving a whole lot back.” Tenaska denies the accusation, and says that they’ll ultimately spend $50MM with area businesses. If all of this seems a bit familiar, it might because a cvillenews.com user forecast this scenario back in October. Austin Graham has the story in Sunday’s Progress.

28 thoughts on “Union Challenges Tenaska’s Hiring Practices”

  1. The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors literally sold out their constituents’ interests to Tenaska. At the time that they made the decision to approve the construction, the Board was well aware that it would not create any new jobs for locals.

    However, they were well aware of the money to be made by selling some of their personal real estate holdings to Tenaska- real estate that would only be especially valuable if the plant was to be built there.

    The value of neighboring real estate will, of course diminish rapidly. Who wants to live next door to a smoke-belching power plant? Coupled with the rapid depreciation of the plant, Fluvanna’s tax base will be nibbled away to a certain extent, while the plant’s very existance may create additional need for publicly funded infrastructure.

    I do not believe that there is any rational arguement in favor of power plant construction being helpful to Fluvanna County. It has been demonstrated that it is directly harmful to local interests.

    The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors are crooked- plain and simple. Voting them out of office isn’t good enough. Like many others, I’d like to see a Commonwealth’s attorney take a good, hard look at what happened in Fluvanna County.

  2. One thing I’d like to add; During the several years since this issue first appeared, I have never heard any member of Fluvanna’s Board of Supervisors or any community member attempt to make a point by point explanation of how the power plant project could be beneficial to the community, or at least not harmful. I would greatly appreciate it if any one reading this would be kind enough to portray a point of view opposite my own.

    Fluvanna politicians and boosters, I encourage you to create a free account on cvillenews.com and tell us your side of the story.

  3. Was part of Tenaska’s agreement with Fluvanna the payment of $50 million in wages only to in-state workers? I agree with using local workers whenever they’re available, but I don’t believe businesses are bound to do so. And if out-of-state workers are renting homes and living in the area, their money is certainly "recirculated throughout the state".

    Please note: I’m not pro-Tenaska, just commenting on the issues covered in the Progress story, and I welcome any additional information.

  4. How many people in fluvanna are qualified to build something as complex as a coal burning power plant?

    Could YOU build a power plant? I didn’t think so.

  5. From what I’ve been able to gather, the vast majority of the construction of a power plant is little different than any other industrial construction project, of which Fluvanna residents have performed many. So as to your first question, there are many people qualified for this work. Which is why they’re complaining.

    And for your second question, well, it’s so pointless and irrelevant that I’m not going to waste my time on it.

  6. You are just assuming fluvanna residents have performed many major industrial construction projects. If you’re a construction worker, you have to move around, you don’t just build things near your home. There are not 200 skilled construction workers sitting on their hands in fluvanna waiting for a job.

    Its not just a building. Its a huge machine. Sure, it has a roof over it, but thats where the similarities with any other large building end.

    You dont just hire some drunk white trash and say "ok, you’re an iron worker now".

  7. What he’s probably referring to are some sales that hadn’t taken place yet. The most discussed example was former county supervisor Buck Pace’s attempt. He had (reportedly) attempted to sell some family land for the Tenaska plant’s water out-take site. I haven’t been following this fiasco for some time, so I’m not sure if the deal had gone though or not before he died. There was considerable uproar because it was suspected at the time that other members of the board of supervisors hoped to sell their own land at much higher prices for industrial use. If true (again, I am in no position to verify the current status of this), that would result in the board members gaining heavily from land sales, but the residential real estate that Joe Fluvanna owns would (and of course, will) still drop considerably. Their Board of Supervisors has quite a reputation so far for corrupt activity (please don’t ask me to specify, just google it or ask someone who lives there). Why they don’t just stop electing them is beyond me if they have that many problems. The impression I get is that the the people that border Fluvanna get the most pissed because they have absolutely no control over any of this power plant business. But regardless of whether anyone stands to profit, one thing is still true. Fluvanna would have done much better to have just invested in it’s public schools. The place was smack-dab in the middle of a residential boom, and this kills it. Oh well.

    I’m in a confrontational mood today anyway, so here goes… I must say that what Lars said earlier about VA being the new New Jersey cuts right to the heart of this. Why in the hell should we let this happen? And if one doesn’t give a shit and really doesn’t mind living in a hell hole, then why not just move the f**k away? That’s enough cursing for one day for me. ;)

    PS- Indie, the cursing was in no way directed at you, as I hope my pronoun indicated. I’m just venting.

  8. You do have a point, but unintentionally you draw attention to one of the problems with the whole situation. Okay, so no Fluvanna construction workers. What about the labor for the plant once it’s built? Will they import them, too? And how many will they need? When you get down to it, the only benefits Fluvanna really gets are pollution, and 7 years of taxes. After that small period of time, Fluvanna is forced to get it’s hands dirty holding the shit end of the stick. Cheers!

  9. If there had been some crooked land sales by the Fluv. Sups, I would imagine that the media would have uncovered it by now. There has also been a strong contingent of anti-power plant folks in Fluvanna who also would have discovered evidence if there had been any to uncover. Believe me–I’d like for someone to find some information b/c I don’t want the power plants to take root in Fluvanna (but I guess it is too late for that….)

  10. You have to remember that we’re on the ass end of the country, we get all the pollution from the rest of the country. A coal burning plant isn’t going to put a dent in that.

    I don’t think its a good idea to build a power plant, but then again, thats the way things are. You keep buying electricity dont you? Where do you think it comes from? Bunnies and flowers?

    Keep in mind, that UVA burns tons of coal, nobody ever complains about that. With the possible exception of the recent strange black substance story here.

    Cars burn tons of oil and some power plants use oil for peak loads. It’s all the same, burning carbon based fuels causes pollution and contributes to global warming. You can ***** and moan about it and then turn around and drive your car and use thousands of kilowatt hours in your home. You can have it one way or another, but not both. I guess being honest is a bad trait these days, but I choose power over political correcteness. Its cool, it runs my computer. I’m all for it. We rape the rest of the planet in order to live these lavish lifestyles. The way I see it we’re lucky. Sure beats living in africa with no food, no clean water, no shelter, and definitly no energy to speak of.

    So if you post here, you’re using a computer, which is burning coal in some far away power plant. So you can’t possibly be against power plants. If you’re off the grid, you’re still using the internet which is burning plenty of coal on your behalf. No way to squirm out of that one.

    You may say, sure, I like power plants, but not in my back yard. Well gee… where do you want us to put them? The moon?

    Can you tell political correctness is irksome to me?

  11. You are certainbly right about Tenaska’s right to use whomever they wish. However, you would think that they would like to build some goodwill in the community and the state. This would only help their case when they try and build a plant somewhere else (IE: "Look what we did for Fluvanna…") however they may not be interested in that.

    It’s possible that they are having trouble finding people – hell, McDonalds can’t even find people who can successfully build a Big Mac with no onions on it, so the labor market must be tight. :)

  12. Naw, I pretty much a nuclear guy myself. Give me uranium over coal any day. I don’t finf fossil fuels challenging enough.

  13. I think for the sake of this argument we could expand "local workers" to mean at least central Virginia, or Virginia in general. Even if they used workers from other parts of Virginia, they could build some good blood with the populace and the state government.

    However, they need people and if they ARE really having trouble finding them, then, of course, the show must go on.

    I would guess that they would use "local" labor if it was available – as out of state contractors normally need room and board, etc. and are more expensive. I would assume that some specialists would probably be hired for certain portions, regardless.

  14. WHy wouldn’t the country continue to collect property taxes on the plant and the land it sits on?

    Can someone explain that? Is this a deal Fluvanna made, or is it standard?

    My stepfather was Plant Manager for a nuke plant in New England and the town collect the vast majority of their taxes from the plant for over 30 years. They had no property tax whatsoever. When the plant closed, the town had to instate a huge tax to cover the high standard of living they had grown used to.

  15. Ditto on everything you said.

    We’re all a bunch of hippocrites at heart. The definition of an activist these days is standing in front of the courthouse with a sign two days a week. Half those people probably drive gas-guzzling SUV’s, have not insulated their hot water heater, don’t turn their thermostat down to 60 or 65 at night, let their car "warm up" for 15 minutes every morning, buy tons of plastic, throw old televisions in the landfill, use disposable diapers on their kids, and water their lawns for two hours every summer morning.

    People love to be "for" or "against" something, and it’s funny the things that they pick.

    Personally, I am "for" continuing to live the lifestyle I have become used to.

  16. Personally, I don’t drive a gas-guzzling SUV. My hot water heater is insulated, I turn the thermostat down to 64 degrees at night, I warm up my fuel-efficient 4 cylinder car maybe 5 times a year (okay, maybe 10 times *this* year, b/c of cold weather) and I don’t water my lawn (b/c there’s too much to do and I like it natural looking). And I do this not b/c I can’t afford to be wasteful.

    We tried cotton diapers and I must say, we couldn’t hack it. If they were to make bio-degradable diapers for even twice the price, we’d have bought them. We have driven several old and broken appliances to the dump, and for that, yes, we are guilty.

    But obviously, some of us are more “hypocritical” than others. And of course, some don’t even make any effort at all. So, by reading you and Lars, either we live in Tepees or we say “screw the planet”?

  17. If you want to label me a "hypocrite," then that is what I am, but I still don’t want it "in my backyard" and if I still lived in Fluvanna, where I grew up for the first 18 years of my life, I would fight it tooth and nail, and if I won, I’d then go turn on my computer, throw the lights on, and start up the car. Screw political correctness. This arguement deals with Fluvanna, and trying to protect it from the blight of power plants. Don’t ask me to start telling stories of "back in my day…."

  18. You’re absolutely right about a media field day. That’s why I suspect that nothing actually went through. I attended a couple of CAPP meetings myself, and there were a lot of upset people talking about members profiting off the whole deal. So it’s not surprising that the uproar would have scared people away from making such controversial deals.

  19. Bingo. We can desire to not have power plants in our backyard and not be hypocrites. I’m perfectly happy to have the power plants here that satisfy the needs of our state. But having twice the power produced as our state needs? Nope. Hate the idea. But that opinion doesn’t mean I’m leading some overly lavish lifestyle, or am opposed to interstate commerce. I follow my husband around the house turning lights off after him, and he tells me when I’m using too much water. I wish I were rich and could afford a new incredibly efficient car. But I’m not and have to make the best choices I can according to my conscience and means. We can all advocate and support new technologies that are less impacting, and agree not to s**t in someone else’s yard. Having to deal with our own waste in each respective area means that we can make more realistic decisions about our lifestyles.

  20. Depreciation of it’s value = less tax money later on. Which means that while they continue to get extra (that one’s for you Lars) pollution the monetary benefit goes down significantly. I’m not a tax expert, so beyond that I couldn’t tell you why another plant in another state in other decades with a different government could collect significant tax revenue.

  21. This is the crux of this matter. It’s also the crux of American Life, which tends to be "extremist". I know that term shocks most of you reading this, but believe me, from outside these borders, it is very evident.

    It is routinely said for instance, “this is a Free country, and I’ll do/drive whatever I want”. So a now majority of people choose the extreme of maneuvering hulking, wasteful Chevy Tahoes and Ford Expeditions to the strip-mall. They’re not fishermen, loggers or even live on a country property, where these vehicles are often appropriate. They live in Hollymead or one of the thousands of suburbanite areas of the country.

    It’s the same thing with the political bent of most countrymen: either we’re Capitalist or we’re Communist. “Anything in the middle is a sell-out”.

    There are hundreds of examples of this extremism in today’s America and none of them make sense within the maturing, complex contemporary world. But then, somewhere in the socio-political life, Americans can suspend belief when the forces of indoctrination make it so: we are free to do what we want, as long as it’s not marijuana. We are free to make a nuisance of ourselves in the National Parks with our 4 wheelers and snowmobiles, but we can’t have a glass of wine with our picnic on a Park’s bench (most everywhere, this is the ordinance). Our children will be assaulted with the most violent scenes on TV and the medias, but they shall not be exposed to naked human bodies. Corpses can be horribly mutilated, but don’t show a female breast for heaven’s sake!

    Anyway, I know Trisha has not given me permission to get back on my usual bandwagon, but hey, I am only a smelly beyotch.

  22. You are just assuming fluvanna residents have performed many major industrial construction projects.

    Yes. Just as you are assuming they haven’t. I’m basing my assumption on the fact that I have seen a notable number of industrial developments in that county built, of which I think it’s reasonable to assume a fair number were built by local workers.

    There are not 200 skilled construction workers sitting on their hands in fluvanna waiting for a job.

    So far I’ve only seen information indicating the opposite. Like the workers themselves complaining about it. Seems pretty clear to me.

    …but thats where the similarities with any other large building end.

    Having just consulted an industrial architect and two workers with industrial experience over the past two days, I can comfortably say that this is simply not true. Certainly every project is different and specialists have to be brought in on everything, but according to them the vast majority of the work done on such construction projects is similar between different ones. Most use many of the same component systems, just pieced together in different ways with different specialized components here and there. Think about how a gas- or coal-burning power plant work. They’re really not that complicated in the grand scheme of things, and many of the major parts can be found in other industrial projects as a result.

    But even if you were right, they still didn’t hire much in the way of locals to build just the buildings. As a matter of fact, having studied all the media coverage I’ve found on this matter, it appears that Tenaska didn’t even look for local workers. It’s not that there aren’t qualified workers locally, because there are: that’s who’s complaining. It’s that Tenaska didn’t even check them out. That’s the source of the problem and that’s definitely worthy of criticism.

  23. Well, I said 1/2 the people probably did these things, so you can choose to be in whatever half you wish. All power to you if you indeed make the efforts you say you do. It’s more than many people do.

    We as a society tend to pick and choose what we’re "for" and "against" quite often. Look at the media – they blame cell phones for every accident on the road, and have gotten "activists" all fired up to the point that legislation was passed in several localities. How often is it mentioned that smoking, switching CD’s, yelling at kids in the backseat, talking, arguing, sleeping, having oral sex, and eating while driving are all just as likely or MORE to cause an accident. Hardly ever.

    I have some friends that are the "activist" type. They get all fired up about all sorts of things on the liberal and environmental agenda, quite often. Except, they leave every light in the house on, all the time. They leave doors open in the summer and let air conditioned air spill out into the Virginia countryside. They take long showers in steaming hot water. And they put out at least twice as much trash each week as my family does.

    So, if you are "for" or "against" something, go all the way with it. Or at least admit that you’re not the shining example of civic responsibility that you make yourself out to be. ("you" being a generic term and not referring to any one poster.)

    Gotta go warm the car up ….

  24. You say: “So, if you are “for” or “against” something, go all the way with it. Or at least admit that you’re not the shining example of civic responsibility that you make yourself out to be. (“you” being a generic term and not referring to any one poster.)”

    Why? Although I am pretty much leaning with the greens and I am certainly much more environmentally responsible than most, I do not understand the need to have to “go all the way with it”. I think any effort people make should be encouraged.

    Your polarization is exactly the problem, and an American epidemic, see my other post.

    So, for people following the either “for” or “against” reasoning, like you said, are the “against” the ones that throw their trash out the window onto our otherwise beautiful Blue Ridge? Because, hey, either you collect your junk and dispose of it responsibly, or hey, who cares? Is that it?

    No, I think folk should be encouraged to be conscientious whenever they can muster enough will-power; with their trash and with their habits and lives. That doesn’t mean everyone has to minimize usage of zip lock bags and then even reusing them like we do (after washing, of course).

    Last comment: this is another pet peeve of mine: I believe a good portion of the trash on our roads comes from the fact that the county doesn’t have universal trash pick up service. And yes, I would GLADLY see taxes levied for this. In the long run, it would actually save money AND we would live in a much more lovely place. Who knows the other secondary consequences: more tourism, higher property values, etc. What I can observe is a dichotomy between big-mouth patriotism and utter disdain for the land (not directed at mmike87).

  25. "As a matter of fact, having studied all the media coverage I’ve found on this matter, it appears that Tenaska didn’t even look for local workers. It’s not that there aren’t qualified workers locally, because there are: that’s who’s complaining."

    When you want to build a power plant, you hire a contractor to build it. Tenaska is a bunch of guys in suits, they’re not standing out there in a white helmet with a clipboard. The company you hire already has employees. Which contractor do they use? Simple, the lowest bidder. Chances are the lowest bidder isnt a construction company in fluvanna, or even in central VA for that matter.

    How would you like it if someone hired a bunch of local joe blows who’ve "done some coding" and told you you had to get them to develop an accounting package in 3 months? Now consider what it would be like if everyone in your company, whom you know and have worked with were asked to do the same thing? Which would you choose?

    As for the employees once it’s open, they will LIVE there. Just because they didn’t live in fluvanna before doesn’t make them any less "resident". Anyone is allowed to apply for any job in this country. The reality is most of the people are specialists, and will probably be relocating from someplace else in the country that already has a power plant. If the most qualified people are from out of state, great. If the most qualified people are local, then I’ll eat my hat if they don’t hire them.

    All of this is just dancing around people’s real grudge, they think it’s an eyesore. If it was a flashy corporate campus with no smoke stacks they’d be singing a different tune.

    Fluvanna is exactly the kind of place you build a power plant. Sparsely populated, cheap land, and cheap labor. If you don’t want to live near a power plant, move to northern VA where the land would be too expensive to build a plant on. They build more money-dense things like starbucks and office buildings there. Maybe I think a starbucks is ugly and polluting (spewing yuppies everywhere). Does that mean I have the right to be protected from it by my local government? Or does a company have the right to operate where it wants to?

    And if you happen to live next door and your land becomes less valuable… thats how investments go, sometimes land prices go up, sometimes they go down. At least you’re not being killed by toxic waste like some people in that situation. Consider yourself lucky.

  26. "Which contractor do they use? Simple, the lowest bidder. Chances are the lowest bidder isnt a construction company in fluvanna, or even in central VA for that matter"

    There is the problem. No local contractors were even invited to bid this project. The plan was from the very beginning to import the workers, build this one and the next one in Buckingham and then on to the next one wherever. The advantages of using local contractors, aside from the obvious economic reasons, are the training programs that they offer. They have apprenticeships that take young people who aren’t going to go to college and teach them a skill that makes them productive tax paying citizens. Tenaska and Gilbert Southern offer nothing in this regard. Local workers and contractors aren’t asking for the job to just be handed to them, but they would like a chance to compete. The hiring of locals (and I mean Fluvanna, Cville, Albemarle, Louisa, Orange, Greene etc.) should have been part of the Special Use Permit if the BOS really cared about the economic benefits to their constituents and to the area.

  27. I had done much of the researching along with a private investigator and there was a stench to the tenaska deal. It was known many months in advance from Buck and Mel meeting in Richmond right to the "done deal" vote.

    Overlooked was the fact that an "insurance" company (John Hancock) put the 20,000 option on the land to be rezoned before Tenaska would buy it. (options are usually 10% of the selling price). One of the board members was a retired insurance agent, And he was for this deal sight unseen.

    The infrastructure that the other supervisors wanted is now being developed by Tenaska and will eventually be sold over to a water company since tenaska is not in the business of maintaining water systems.

    There is some information archived at http://www.fluco.homestead.com or http://www.geocities.com/newkent2000

    I had many more documents that I had not yet archived online and lost in a fire…….

    And to top it off now one of these cronies plabs to be the county commissioner of revenue!! GOOD Nite!

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