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Updated: Labor Unions Sue Florida Over SunRail Construction

Jessica Palombo
Sid Matthew
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News
AFL-CIO Lawyer Sid Matthew says the state broke its contract to use union workers on the SunRail project.

Two labor unions are suing the state of Florida for hiring non-union workers to build and maintain the Orlando-area SunRail commuter train line. The suit filed Thursday claims the state is not honoring what it agreed to in order to break the legislative stalemate over the SunRail construction in 2009 and in a contract in 2011.

The Florida AFL-CIO and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen are asking a Leon County circuit court judge to order the state to let union workers take over construction and maintenance of the SunRail track.

Labor union lawyer Sid Matthew says the state agreed in 2009 it would award the contract to federally qualified workers. “The risk is so high that if you build a substandard track that we have no confidence in there’s a higher risk that we’re going to have trouble down the road, and we cannot afford that," he says.

The suit states a qualified company had bid for the work but was rejected even though it was the lowest bid. Currently a non-union company is subcontracting to do the work.

The line, which runs north and south from Orlando, is scheduled to open to passengers in the spring.

The Florida Department of Transportation has released a statement saying none of the companies submitting bids were "responsive," and that is why a union company, United Signal, was rejected. But Matthew says United Signal and two other companies submitted bids a second time, and all three were scored and rejected, this time without cause. One of the other companies submitting bids, RailWorks, is the subcontractor performing the work now.

FDOT also says it intends to use union workers for signal maintenance work on the project.