Big Labor’s Propaganda Machine to Decide Fate of Project Labor Agreements on PA Jail Construction

0 June 2, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

On 5/19 we wrote about the implementation of costly and discriminatory PLAs on approximately $830 million worth of construction for six new Pennsylvania prisons depends on the findings of an ongoing  PLA feasibility “study” conducted by a union propoganda machine  research firm with deep ties to Big Labor – the Harrisburg-based Keystone Research Center (KRC). (Note the KRC Board is loaded with union officials. Gee, I wonder if this study is going to recommend a sweetheart PLA deal for the jails? Why even bother with the added expense to taxpayers by conducting this study?)

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services (DGS) hired Hill International to oversee the construction of at least two of the prison facilities. (It should be noted the Hill International also has a storied history of recommending PLAs on projects in the Northeast via biased pro-PLA reports).

As if it wasn’t clear PA bureacrats will do everything in their power to implement PLAs and prevent qualified local workers and contractors from building PA jails, The Pennsylvania Business Central reports that PA Governor Ed Rendell wants PLAs on state prison construction despite legitimate objections from advocates of local businesses and workers who want to build jails paid for by their tax dollars.

“PLAs discriminate,” said Dave Remick, president of ABC Central PA. “Entering into a PLA significantly reduces the number of construction companies considering to bid and work on the project. More than 80 percent of the construction workforce in Pennsylvania is not signatory to a union.”

The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC ) opposes PLAs, according to Dan Abruzzo, vice president for government affairs.

“The use of PLAs will knock out non-union companies that would like to bid on the work,” he said. “Companies will have to contribute to the union whether they have union employees or not.  In Centre County, we have 750 commercial construction companies that are within an 80-mile radius. There are 21,000 workers who are employed by those companies almost all are non-union.”

A new 2,000-bed prison is planned for the Rockview area, which makes the PLA decision an urgent issue, Abruzzo suggested.

“We are trying to create jobs in and near Centre County,” Abruzzo said. “With PLA’s in place, union contractors will come in from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. That will take paychecks out of this county and region.”

Both Remick and Abruzzo agree that the taxpayer will suffer because PLAs do not encourage a competitive bidding process.

“Non-union companies are not going to want to bid on jobs that require them to hire from the union hall,” Abruzzo said.

Remick agreed. “Local merit shop contractors who are not signatory to a union have performed hundreds of millions of dollars of work on time and on budget with no Project Labor Agreements in place. They put local people to work. Why is the state doing a labor study when merit shop contractors already perform 80 percent of the construction work here in Pennsylvania?”

According to Remick, PLAs will lead to higher costs for the taxpayers.

“Things are happening so fast, it’s going to be difficult to stop,” said Abruzzo. “This flies in the face of what we are trying to do here in Centre County. It won’t help Centre County’s workers or economy. Based on my experiences in the industry, there won’t be many contractors who can do the work, unless they convert to union employees.” agrees with the above arguments against PLAs and will be monitoring these jail projects closely.

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