Ingham County PLA Proposal Passes with Merit Shop Concessions

1 June 26, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

We have written a few times about a Ingham County, Michigan PLA proposal before the Ingham County Board of Commissioners.

On June 23, the board voted 13-2 to approve a policy requiring that PLAs be considered for county-financed construction jobs valued at $100,000 or more.  Here are the details of the final proposal, according to this BNA Construction Labor Report (subscription required) from 6/25: 

The policy calls for evaluation on a case-by-case basis of the value of a PLA for each non-emergency project that would result in direct labor costs to the county of more than $100,000. It directs the county controller to issue a written report to the board at least 120 days before the projected mailing of bid packages, providing a recommendation as to whether a project labor agreement would “advance the interests of efficiency, quality and timeliness” of the job or a portion of the job.

Among the factors to be evaluated are cost savings, reduced risk of delay, enhanced access to skilled trades, and improved efficiency in project management.

ABC of Michigan waged a strong anti-PLA campaign which included the use of anti-PLA direct mail, a website, petition, letters to the editor and op-eds which helped secure considerable TV news coverage, print news coverage and even this anti-PLA editorial by the Lansing State Journal (“Labor policy creates an inherent conflict,” 6/23).

By implementing a rule on so-called Project Labor Agreements, the county would step beyond its clear role in a transaction and create problems for itself and taxpayers….

…But since they [Ingham County Commissioners] aren’t sure that PLAs will be the best thing for the county’s taxpayers, not acting seems the wisest option for commissioners.

There is no doubt that this campaign resulted in some concessions that will make any PLA that comes out of this ordinance slightly less offensive to merit shop contractors and their qualified and local workforce:

The policy requires labor organizations to waive initiation fees for employees of nonunion contractors required to join as a result of a county PLA. It also allows contractors to elect not to make payments to union health, pension or benefit funds in the event the company makes such payments directly available to its employees. However, if those fringe benefits are greater than 15 percent less than the cost of corresponding benefits otherwise payable to the union, the contractor must pay the difference directly to the employee.

Employers on PLA-covered projects may use their own workers, and are only required to use union referral systems in the event the contractor does not have enough qualified employees.

The board said it will review the policy within 12 months to determine its effect on local contractors.

However, the Ingham County PLA proposal will still subject contractors and their workers to union collective bargaining agreements and inefficient union work rules.  In the end, the policy will likely reduce competition, increase costs and serve as a significant barrier to employment opportunites for local and qualified workers.

ABC Michigan and will be sure to monitor future Ingham County PLA projects and will encourage Ingham County Commissioners to terminate this discriminatory policy when it comes up for review.

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One Response to Ingham County PLA Proposal Passes with Merit Shop Concessions

Greg June 26, 2009 at 5:20 pm

When will public boards learn to spend more time making sure the taxpayers get the best quality at the lowest price with on time completion instead of protecting special interest groups. The most important special interest group is the taxpayer. Bidders should be evaluated based on cost, quality and time of completion.

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