The cover story of World Magazine investigates how unions are looking for payback “after doling out $450 million in 2008 to elect Democrats in Washington” (“Bargaining Hunting,” 10/24 edition). Emily Belz uses the controversy surrounding the discriminatory and costly government-mandated project labor agreement (PLA) on the new U.S. Department of Labor Job Corps Center in Manchester, New Hampshire to illustrate this point.
The Manchester Job Corps Center requirement is an example of what critics say is a larger trend: Unable to keep union membership from a long-term decline, big labor is counting on a friendly administration and Congress to make workplace changes in its favor. And this is bad news for many of the independent business owners who drive economic growth.
The New Hampshire dispute flows from an executive order President Barack Obama issued soon after he took office to encourage federal agencies to award contracts higher than $25 million to firms working under project labor agreements (PLAs). PLAs essentially require unionized contractors, excluding 84 percent of construction firms. The president’s order said PLAs keep labor disputes from interrupting construction.
Awarding contracts to unionized businesses means much of one of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, construction, isn’t benefiting a lot from the steadier flow of federal projects or government stimulus efforts—$111 billion of the stimulus is designated for public infrastructure projects. Construction businesses were some of the first to feel the economy’s free fall but haven’t been the first to recover. Nationally, the unemployment rate in construction is at 16.5 percent, compared to the overall unemployment rate of 9.8 percent.
Brett McMahon of ABC’s own member company Miller and Long, is quoted extensively about the union-payoff of PLAs and the Employee Free Forced Choice Act (EFCA).