Though much of this blog’s attention has focused on public PLAs, it’s also important to note the negative impact of private PLAs and the tactics used by Big Labor to get them as well. Sure, a private entity is free to enter into an agreement with Big Labor that will increase its construction costs by as much as 20 percent and discriminate against women and minorities if it so desires. Unfortunately, private entities that enter into PLAs typically do so because of union threats and intimidation.
Big Labor has several tactics at their disposal to pressure private businesses into PLAs, many of which we have discussed in this blog. In California, the unions abuse environmental regulations by repeatedly filing fraudulent claims against private construction projects until the owners agree to require contractors to sign a PLA. Additionally, unions often threaten private construction owners and contractors with boycotts unless they give in to union demands. Unions generally use this method against private entities that conduct business with them – like banks and other financial institutions. Typically, Big Labor will threaten to pull all of their accounts from a bank – including their large, and possibly underfunded, pension programs – unless the bank agrees to require a PLA on the construction of their headquarters or individual bank branches.
The most visible way unions try to force private construction an owner into PLAs is through public relations campaigns. Some of these campaigns are very small. For example, a local union might print fliers with false claims or threatening images and then picket outside a project. Other campaigns are large and sophisticated. These larger campaigns are not only meant to pressure an individual business into accepting Big Labor’s demands, but also intimidate other business as well.
Campaigns like this force corporations to consider whether to pay 20 percent more for construction and lock out merit shop contractors, or fight a public relations battle with an organization whose only objective is to smear their opponent’s corporate brand by any available means. This month in Minnesota, Walgreen’s took the easy way out and decided not to risk a union smear campaign. It is an understandable business decision, but it also emboldens Big Labor and their underhanded tactics. These corporate PR campaigns will continue until someone says, “STOP…NO MORE.” Private construction owners need to stand up to Big Labor’s demands and unions need to spend their resources figuring out how to be more competitive in the 21st century economy, and not spreading lies about solid corporate citizens.
Professor Jarol B. Manheim from George Washington University has an outstanding breakdown of union corporate campaigns, please read his study for more information.