Editorial: Rein in Union Payoffs

0 September 29, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Another editorial, this time from Sunday’s Orange County Register, tells the public the truth about project labor agreements (PLAs) and commends the Orange County Board of Supervisors for taking legislative steps to end these costly and discriminatory special-interest sweetheart deals (“Editorial: Rein in Union Payoffs,” 9/27). 

One of the most noxious types of laws that localities will pass involve what are called Project Labor Agreements. By imposing such agreements, officials require that all private firms that bid on government public works projects use union workers. Such laws are terribly unfair to open-shop contractors, and they greatly increase the cost to taxpayers given that these restrictive laws limit the number of competitors who can bid for the construction and other work that governments contract out.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is developing an ordinance to ban the passage of PLAs.

…PLAs are pure political payoffs to union leaders. County governments already are required to pay union-scale wages, so this isn’t about pay. It’s about buying labor peace from politically powerful labor organizations. The proposal would be for an ordinance that would require a simple majority vote by the board. A future board could overturn the law, but it would provide an extra hurdle for supervisors who are more interested in helping union allies than benefiting the taxpayer. An ordinance doesn’t offer as strong a protection as a county initiative. But when a future board gets wobbly on the issue, we think it will be helpful if they must first be forced to overturn an anti-PLA initiative rather than simply be able to quietly impose a new PLA.

In January 2000, the board – with the support of now-Assemblyman Jim Silva and then-Supervisors Cynthia Coad and Chuck Smith – voted one of the most far-reaching PLAs in the nation. It gave unions a monopoly on nearly all county public works projects for six years and was countywide, rather than specific to any project. The board did this, apparently, to win union support for the El Toro airport plan the majority was pushing. The deal was scrapped in 2004, but it should never have been approved in the first place.

The anti-PLA law will aid in that direction.

TheTruthAboutPLAs.com encourages local, county, city and state governments to promote fairness and the responsible use of taxpayer dollars by discouraging or prohibiting the use of PLAs by passing a similar ordinance. Taxpayers deserve a government that serves everyone instead of Big Labor’s narrow special interests.

You can learn more about states that support and prohibit PLAs on public construction projects here.

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