Graterford Prison PLA Confirmed

3 August 4, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Bulletin is reporting and sources confirmed that the Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS) will require a wasteful and discriminatory union-only PLA on the Graterford prison reconstruction project in Montgomery County, PA.  This $400 million project is one of at least six upcoming prison reconstruction/renovation projects in Pennsylvania.  The price tag for all six projects is expected to be approximately $830 million.

On May 19 and June 2, we reported that DGS hired Hill International – a PLA proponent in the Northeast– to oversee the construction of the two prisons that make up the Graterford project.  At DGS’ request, Hill International contracted with union-supported Keystone Research Center (KRC) to study the feasibility of a PLA on the Graterford project.

This study was a farce from the beginning.  As we have blogged about before, KRC is a mouthpeice of organized labor.  The President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trade Division, AFL-CIO is on KRC’s Board of Directors.  In fact, Big Labor makes up about half of KRC’s Board.  This fact alone immediately calls KRC’s ability to study the feasibility of union-only project labor agreements objectively into question.  Additionally, Governor Ed Rendell (D) had already made it clear that he wants all six projects to be built with PLAs – essentially excluding the 80 percent of the commonwealth’s private construction workforce who decided not to join a labor union from working on the project.

It seems like DGS also believes the PLA feasibility study isn’t worth the paper KRC would print it on.  DGS decided not to wait for KRC to release their study and bowed to Governor Rendell’s pressure.  DGS’ July 14th Bulletin 3 shows that the Graterford prison project will be built with a PLA.

The Bulletin’s reporting also contained some very troubling information about DGS’ timeline for approving this PLA:

“There were assurances that there wasn’t going to be a PLA,” said Geoffrey Zeh, president of Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) southeastern Pennsylvania chapter. “Then at the 11th hour, they come in.”

DGS’ decision in favor of union labor came to ABC’s attention only last week, but it was made in the spring of 2008. Another prison rebuilding project in Center County and another in Forest County also are designated as PLA-governed projects.

As Pennsylvania enters day 36 of a budget stalemate to close a $3 budget deficit, now is the time for good government – not political handouts to Big Labor.  In additional to discriminating against women, minorities and the 80 percent of the Pennsylvania workforce who decided not to join a union, PLAs increase construction costs by as much as 20 percent.  It is mind blowing that Governor Rendell is more than willing to propose the most significant income tax increase in Pennsylvania history to close the budget deficit, but he isn’t willing to curtail his own political handouts.

Here is one last excerpt from The Bulletin article on the Graterford PLA:

ABC, along with many of its affiliated companies and workers, has filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court alleging that DGS and the Department of Corrections violated procurement laws. DGS is expected to submit a response in short order.

Clearly, this fight is far from over.

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3 Responses to Graterford Prison PLA Confirmed

Kevin Dayton August 4, 2009 at 7:59 pm

The exact same racket goes on regularly in Northern California. Local governments hire San Francisco-based construction firm Swinterton to handle construction management services. Swinterton then recommends a PLA and gets union-friendly Bay Area consulting firm Scarth-Lyons & Associates to produce a phony study explaining why a PLA should be used. Then Swinerton negotiates and/or administers the PLA. They both make tens of thousands of dollars in consulting and administration fees and make the unions very happy. The latest victims of this scheme are the taxpayers of the City of Brentwood, a San Francisco Bay Area suburb that has decided to build a $65 million civic center. The PLA was approved on a 3-2 vote of the city council in June. The only thing PLA opponents can do is make the three city councilmembers accountable to the voters for their foolishness.

LU 420 Apprentice September 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

Training, money and benefits for “Scabs” is substandard! I used to be non-union. If u want to sell yourself short and not receive better money, better training, and better benefits, be my guest! Unions fight for your rights as a tradesman! What’s gonna happen to a non-union if he gets hurt or when he retires. Unless its a government job he’s screwed. Even if u have time in a company they can *!#@can u anytime. It happens for us too but the likelyhood of finding work surpasses non-unions chances.

Graterford Prison Project to be Rebid | Think Merit Construction March 28, 2011 at 10:58 am

[…] the move eliminates the anti-competitive government mandated project labor agreement (PLA), which Associated Builders and Contractors has contested since it was announced in 2009. PLAs discourage or eliminate merit shop contractors from competing for and winning contracts on […]

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