Big Labor has a strong ally in U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. We previously wrote how she openly supports discriminatory and costly PLAs.
If you won’t take our word that Secretary Solis personally wants to advance Big Labor’s agenda, read the Secretary Solis interview in The Washington Post (“Solis Hopes to ‘Level the Playing Field’ for Unions,” 6/30).
Read the interview transcript.
Clearly, Secretary Solis is marching lockstep with construction unions’ legislative agenda ranging from support of the unfortunately named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) to limiting green jobs training funds only to entities that partner with labor organizations.
Secretary Solis’ support of Big Labor’s agenda – including PLAs – is an area of concern for proponents of free and open competition on federal and federally funded construction projects because Section 7 of Executive Order 13502 requires Secretary Solis to make recommendations about whether broader use of PLAs will benefit federal and federally funded construction projects.
The Director of OMB, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor and with other officials as appropriate, shall provide the President within 180 days of this order [Aug. 5], recommendations about whether broader use of project labor agreements, with respect to both construction projects undertaken under Federal contracts and construction projects receiving Federal financial assistance, would help to promote the economical, efficient, and timely completion of such projects.
We’re hoping Secretary Solis has a change of heart, but the writing is on the wall – previous statements suggest she is going to encourage the broader use of PLAs on federal and federally assisted construction projects.
Government mandated PLAs don’t “level the playing field for unions” – they give Big Labor a massive advantage, if not a complete monopoly, on all federal construction contracts – and that advantage could impact state and local construction contracts and budgets soon too.
State and local construction “owners” that receive federal financial assistance – from school districts to energy and health care facilities – would benefit from a lack of government mandated PLAs. They cannot afford the financial burden of PLAs that will impact local and state construction budgets negatively if broader use of PLAs are recommended.
In addition, qualified and local non-union workers and their employers should not be discouraged from bidding on construction contracts because of PLA requirements, especially when federal construction spending and infrastructure projects are designed to stimulate all sectors of the economy. If PLAs are mandated in low construction union density states, out-of-state union workers called travelers will have preference over experienced and qualified local workers.
The OMB Director and other Obama administration officials must depart from Secretary Solis’ consistent support of Big Labor and limit the unfairness and favoritism inherent with PLAs to only projects over $25 million managed by the federal government on a case-by-case basis.
(A return to the President George W. Bush era of government neutrality in federal construction contracting is ideal, but that won’t happen while Democrats and Big Labor control Congress and the White House).
Taxpayers and the construction industry would benefit if common sense, fairness and fiscal responsibility prevailed over special interests.