Virginia labor unions deal blow to proposed Wizards and Capitals arena move

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations said Tuesday that it will oppose the proposal to relocate the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Capitals from downtown Washington, D.C., to northern Virginia.  

“Taxpayers should not make a massive investment in a project that is only going to create more low-wage jobs for local workers,” Virginia Diamond, president of the AFL-CIO’s Northern Virginia branch, said in a statement.  

Introduced by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) and Ted Leonsis, who owns the basketball and hockey teams, the $2 billion proposal includes a relocation to the Potomac Yard in Alexandria, where the 70-acre land would be home to a performing arts and esports center and practice facility in addition to the new arena.

Youngkin was not pleased with the union’s decision, insisting that “labor leadership backtracked” on the progress the project’s workers made over recent months.

“My administration and the partners in this project have worked in good faith over the last few months to give union workers a substantial role in this project. Today, labor leadership backtracked on that progress and announced their opposition to a project that creates 30,000 jobs, including 12,000 construction-trade jobs,” Youngkin said. “Virginia is a right-to-work state, and unreasonable demands from union leaders will not derail this project. I will continue to work with the General Assembly to complete this opportunity and bring $12 billion in economic contributions that will fund shared priorities in Virginia.”

While Virginia lawmakers are the ones who will ultimately approve the proposal in order for it to move forward, they have said they won’t fully agree to it unless labor unions support it, the Washington Post reported

“When you propose to build a $2 billion state asset, you need to make sure that things like wage theft are not occurring and that people are adequately compensated,” Democratic state Sen. Adam P. Ebbin said.

Ebbin reportedly added that while he wouldn’t say the union’s opposition “kills” the deal, “it certainly doesn’t help.” Alexandria City Councilman John Chapman agreed with Ebbin, saying he also wanted to secure the labor union’s support ahead of the proposal approval. 

“One of the things I wanted to make sure was that we had labor support on not just the building of the project, but on the whole plan,” Chapman told the outlet. “With additional discussions going on in Richmond, I’d be very surprised if the thing actually moves forward. If labor were to change its stance, there’s a conversation.”


Earlier this month, Virginia House Appropriations Committee lawmakers easily approved the proposal in a 17-3 vote. Other critics of the proposal have raised concerns about traffic and transportation in an area that is already congested, as well as how it will affect taxpayers in the region. 

While Leonsis and the city would help foot the bill, along with taxes and parking fees from the facility itself, taxpayers could be expected to contribute about a third of the finances if the arena’s revenue doesn’t meet expectations, the Associated Press reported.

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