In an October 22 editorial titled, “Level the Playing Field on Contracts,” the Lancaster (PA) New Era voices its support for Representative John Bear’s H.B. 2010, which prohibits the use of wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements on taxpayer-funded projects in Pennsylvania.
The editorial is so good that we’ve decided to post it in its entirety:
Level the Playing Field on Contracts
By LANCASTER NEW ERA
The term “Project Labor Agreement” or PLA is a misnomer. The term that better describes agreements which limit bidding on projects funded with tax dollars to union shops (or to non-union contractors who agree to use unionized workers), is “Protect Labor (Bosses) Agreement.”
PLAs used in Pennsylvania today are a hold-over from the union movement in its heyday of the 1970s and ’80. Since then, however, union membership has plummeted to roughly 15 percent of the total work force.
PLAs give unions a decided advantage over non-union workers, whose numbers are far greater. This imbalance is unfair.
The agreements remain in use, in large part as a nod to the union bosses and their lobbyists who continue to exert influence over the politicians in Harrisburg &tstr; Democrats, primarily.
Unions argue that PLAs assure high quality work by a highly skilled and trained work force. But that assertion is an insult to the many skilled, dedicated and reliable non-union employees who take their work just as seriously.
Unions use the work-quality argument to justify the higher pay that goes to unionized workers &tstr; payroll costs can be 20 percent higher on a union job. But it matters not to the union bosses that these costs are passed on to taxpayers.
Unions point out that non-union construction companies can still bid on public-works projects where PLAs are in force. But this drives up costs (payroll, possible pension obligations) for open-shop companies that discourage them from doing so.
Unions contend that PLAs create local jobs. But taxpayer-funded construction projects are frequently awarded to out-of-town companies. For example, the contractor who was awarded Pottsville’s new transportation hub is from New York.
Unions have any number of reasons for supporting PLAs, but they all revolve around money &tstr; money for higher pay for their workers (at taxpayer expense). This satiates the union workers, and keeps the union bosses in power.
State Rep. John Bear, a Lititz Republican, recently introduced a bill (H.B. 2010) that would do away with PLAs.
Bear’s bill would ensure that no contract for a public works project can include language that requires the use of union workers.
Also, no contract can recognize a particular labor organization as the exclusive representative of employees on a public works project, according to the bill.
Bear’s bill would level the playing field for contractors who employ non-union workers &tstr; who make up a solid majority of Pennsylvania’s work force.
Of course, this would be a welcome benefit for those non-union employees. But, it also would benefit Pennsylvanians, who would not be saddled with added costs on projects their tax dollars support.
Despite unions’ dwindling numbers &tstr; and influence &tstr; in Pennsylvania, Bear faces an uphill fight in winning approval for his legislation. The union bosses won’t give up easily.
Bear experienced that recently, when he attempted to host a rally at the capitol in support of his bill. Turned out that the lawmaker and his supporters were shouted down by union members who were alerted to the rally by their leadership.
The unions, it seems, employed a strategy that served them well in their halcyon days &tstr; intimidation. But somehow it doesn’t have the effect that it once had.
Bear should ignore the union bosses, and press for what is fair and just.
The unions aren’t the only ones with a strategy though. The “Save His Endangered Job” campaign is in full swing with billboards in Harrisburg and radio ads on the airwaves. We encourage everyone to visit their website (www.theendangeredspecies.org). Additionally, visit their “Take Action” page for more information on what you can do to oppose wasteful and discriminatory PLAs in Pennsylvania.