Paid, Violent Construction Union Members Protest Pro-Taxpayer/Anti-Project Labor Agreement Press Conference in Harrisburg

1 September 30, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

A well-compensated angry mob and rude group of Pennsylvania construction union members descended on yesterday’s press conference, held by Pennsylvania Representative John Bear (R-Lancaster) and Republican House Policy Committee Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) on the Harrisburg capital steps, to protest the introduction of legislation that would end discriminatory and costly project labor agreements (PLA) on state and state assisted construction projects in Pennsylvania.

Representative Bear’s press release highlights the intent of the legislation and why government-mandated PLAs are bad public policy,

“We want to guarantee taxpayers get the best work at the best price, and ensure that no project bidder, large or small, is excluded from bidding on a large state project because of an affiliation or lack of affiliation with a union,” said Bear. “This is about fairness and openness in the contracting process. State contracts should not discriminate based on union affiliation, or be awarded as part of some political payback.”

House Bill 2010, known as the Open Contracting Act, would apply to all state and local contracts, and any corresponding agencies or authorities. The bill would ensure that no contract can specify that a successful bidder or any subcontractor must use workers who are members of a labor union or that workers must be referred by one. Also, no contract can recognize a labor organization as the exclusive representative of employees on a public works project. The union or non-union status of a bidder’s workforce cannot be used as criteria during the selection process.
“Open contracting practices should not be an endangered species in Pennsylvania. Rather, we should have a public policy where all contractors and all workers are eligible to work on a project regardless of their affiliation with organized labor,” said Bear. “PLAs are a form of mandatory unionism.  They amount to discrimination against non-union labor and provide an unmerited preference in the contract bidding process to unions and contractors who predominantly employ union labor. PLAs promote cronyism in government contracting, potentially driving up the costs of a project, all for a guarantee of labor peace, which should never be a threat to the project.”
Numerous studies show that PLAs deny taxpayers the accountability they deserve on government contracts and have found that their use can increase construction costs by 12 to 18 percent.
“Now, more than ever, it is important that government gets the most out of every taxpayer dollar it spends,” said Saylor. “That means we must find ways to eliminate waste and save money wherever possible. Representative Bear’s bill would make that possible by eliminating unfair and anti-competitive PLAs from state contracting.”

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation reports that PA building trade union protesters were not on their best behavior, and they were even paid to protest,

“However when Rep. Bear got up to speak he was catcalled and booed by the mob of union members.  His message was drowned out; in typical fashion organized labor used tactics of intimidation to silence the voice of opposition.  What’s worse is that we overheard union members mentioning that they were being paid $26 an hour to protest.  In contrast, most of Rep. Bear’s supporters were contractors who took time off of work to stand on principle.  And yet the union members had the nerve to persistently ridicule supporters as clueless businessmen in suits bought off by special interests.  

 It’s time to tell big labor that they can’t intimidate us into silence.  It is time to demand fairness and transparency in all government contracts.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports there were, “some testy exchanges and pushing and shoving followed [the press conference].”

The pro-taxpayer legislation is in response to state-wide controversy over the use of PLAs on $830 million worth of construction for six new Pennsylvania prisons.  Recently, the  Benner Towship prison, initially bid with a PLA, is being rebid without a PLA because construction bids came in tens of millions dollars over the $200 million estimate.

Click here for more coverage on the PA prison controversy.

In the interest of fairness, here is the pro-PLA press release from the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council. will again debunk some of the pro-PLA propaganda contained in this news release.

You can view photos from this event here.

Update: More media coverage from The Patriot-News (“Labor, business supporters hold competing rallies at Capitol,” 9/29).

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One Response to Paid, Violent Construction Union Members Protest Pro-Taxpayer/Anti-Project Labor Agreement Press Conference in Harrisburg

Rowdy Unionists Shout Down Opponents | September 30, 2009 at 11:31 am

[…] in Harrisburg, rowdy unionists disrupted a rally held by two Pennsylvania state legislators to promote legislation to end project labor […]

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