Is Vegas going PLA?

0 August 19, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Remember when Vegas construction unions were willing to gamble with union pension funds to secure union-only PLAs on public projects?  That effort failed so now they are turning to their political friends to secure union-only contracts.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that Clark County Commissioners are reviewing a policy that would require discriminatory and costly project labor agreements (PLAs) on county construction projects estimated at $100,00 or more (“County moves toward project labor agreements,” Aug. 18).  Las Vegas is part of Clark County, so qualifying Vegas public projects funded by county dollars would be subject to this ordinance.

Opponents of PLAs describe how this policy will hurt local contractors, workers and taxpayers:

Warren Hardy, representing a builders’ group, said the agreements could drive up project costs by as much as 20 percent because they discourage competition from nonunion contractors.

Hardy estimates that 80 percent of contractors in the valley are nonunion, so to exclude them would hurt the labor market and local economy.

He said it was futile to oppose the agreements given that most commissioners seemed in favor of them.

He asked that the county dispense with national guidelines that he argued were unfair.

One of the national rules requires a nonunion company to hire one worker from a union labor pool for each employee it uses on a project, Hardy said. This contractor is limited to using seven of its own employees and after that must hire only union workers.

A nonunion shop also must pay premiums on the union’s benefits even if it already offers benefits to its employees, Hardy said. That typically results in a company cutting its workers’ benefits because it can’t afford to pay both.

Workers wind up with no health care because the employer hasn’t paid into the union’s medical plan long enough for the workers to qualify, he said.

Contractors should be able to use their own workers without pulling from a union pool, Hardy said. And they should be allowed to augment medical benefits so they’re on par with a union’s, rather than paying double premiums, he said.

The Clark County Republican Party is concerned about the costs and discrimination inherent with PLAs so they are urging the public to contact commissioners and tell them to say “No” to PLAs.

Commissioners supported by Big Labor are pushing for PLAs and have the majority, so they have directed county staff to form a panel made up equally of contractors and labor representatives who will spend a month working on a compromise to bring before the commission. has witnessed previous attempts at compromise across the country using this “panel” solution.  The panels are generally stacked with Big Labor’s cronies and they tend to produce a final product that hardly addresses legitimate concerns raised by taxpayers and local and qualified contractors and their workforce. In the end, competition is decreased, costs increase, and political cronies benefit from an unfair advantage in exchange for a promise to support the re-election of pro-PLA politicians. Let’s hope this panel produces a different result.

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