LOS ANGELES (AP) — Friction between organized labor and the developers of a potential NFL stadium near Los Angeles threatens to tangle up the project even before construction begins.
St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is part of a development group planning to build an 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, roughly 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles. But unions are troubled because they say developers have not reached agreements assuring that labor will be part of a nearly $2 billion project that would create thousands of jobs.
Labor trouble could make a stadium project less appealing to the NFL and its owners, who ultimately decide on possible team moves. The politically powerful unions have been quietly gathering petition signatures in Inglewood that could lead to a local vote on the plan, potentially delaying development of the project and forcing organizers to invest additional time and money.
Any delays could be costly, with a rival stadium plan proposed by the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders moving ahead in nearby Carson.
In stadium development, what team owners and the league look for is certainty, said Marc Ganis, a Chicago-based sports finance consultant.
"Unionized labor can be a great supporter or significant impediments to a project going forward," Ganis said. "If they are ignored or pushed aside, it is done so at a developer's own peril."
Rusty Hicks, executive secretary of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said in a statement Thursday that the group wants "signed, written agreements" from the Inglewood developer committing to jobs for construction and operations at the stadium.
"The developer promises Inglewood good jobs. And, the developers have told us the same thing that they told the (Inglewood) City Council: 'Everything will be OK,'" Hicks said. "But, if there's one thing the NFL Players Association has taught the rest of us about NFL owners, it's that you get it in writing before the game is played."
"We've got enough poverty jobs. We don't need any more," Hicks added.
Christopher Meany, a senior executive with the joint venture designing and financing the project, said in a statement that construction for the stadium and other development on the nearly 300-acre site will be handled by union workers. He also said developers have agreements "regarding labor with ... important local unions."
"We are proud of our commitment to union labor for construction (and) anticipate long-term union jobs after construction," Meany said.
The tension in Inglewood is in contrast with Carson, where the Chargers and Raiders are planning a shared stadium if both teams fail to get new stadiums in their current hometowns. At an event launching the Carson project last month, labor leaders praised the teams for assuring unions would be awarded the prized work.
"We have good commitments that this thing is going to be union from top to bottom," Ron Miller, executive secretary of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building & Construction Trades Council, said at the time.
On Thursday in San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his stadium advisory committee held a news conference to formally announce that they'll seek to build a new stadium on the current site of the Chargers' Qualcomm Stadium in an attempt to keep the team.
The Chargers showed little enthusiasm about the choice, saying they remained "neutral" on the location of a San Diego stadium.
Under current rules, the next opportunity for a team to file to relocate would be in January 2016. State and local officials in Missouri have been maneuvering to keep the Rams.
The Inglewood City Council approved its stadium plan in February, allowing the city to bypass a local election on its merits. The union-backed proposal would seek to overturn that action and place the plan on a future ballot.