Pennsylvania’s York Dispatch ran an excellent Op-Ed from PA Rep. Stan Saylor (94th District in York County) and Rep. John C. Bear (97th District in Lancaster County) opposing the Rendell administration’s corrupt attempt to reward one of its largest political contributors — Big Labor — with lucrative state construction contracts via project labor agreements (PLAs) (“Discriminatory PLAs must end; taxpayers deserve better,” 10/28).
With a little less than 13 months to go before we elect a new governor, the Rendell administration is working vigorously to find ways to reward one of its largest political contributors — organized labor/unions.
The problem is that it is being done at the taxpayers’ expense, and to the detriment of the majority of state construction workers, including many right here in Central Pennsylvania.
The authors have sponsored legislation that would prohibit these special interest handouts to Big Labor. The Open Contracting Act (H.B. 2010) is especially important because it would prohibit discriminatory and costly PLAs that were attached by the Rendell Administration’s Pennsylvania Department of General Services to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of state-funded prison projects.
Rep. Saylor and Rep. Bear’s persuasive case against government-mandated PLAs in Pennsylvania is best summed up in this Op-Ed passage.
State and local governments should not be in the business of promulgating contracts that: a) discriminate against 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s state construction workers who choose not to be part of organized labor; b) add additional costs to public construction projects; c) are not necessary to protect workers’ wages; and d) create an uneven playing field. That is exactly what PLAs do.
The Op-Ed also crushes weak arguments offered by PLA proponents.
Advocates argue that without PLAs, public construction projects would be under-bid and badly executed, using an unskilled workforce and possibly illegal aliens from out-of-town who are poorly paid and do not receive any benefits. In fact, the opposite is true.
By using PLAs, government-funded construction projects are frequently awarded to out-of-town companies and workers at a much higher cost to taxpayers. For proof, look no further than the state’s Centre County prison project bid and Pottsville’s new transportation hub.
In Pottsville, the contractor who was awarded the project was from New York. In the case of the Centre County prison project, the PLA designation was pulled after the bids came back considerably higher than the estimated $200 million, not to mention that multiple lawsuits were filed and less than 1 percent of the workforce is unionized in this part of Pennsylvania.
It is important to note that all of these projects are subject to Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage laws and require verification of citizenship, with or without a PLA.
If we truly want to be accountable to our taxpayers and not discriminate, Pennsylvania needs to pass House Bill 2010 to allow open contracting that guarantees taxpayers get the best work at the best price, and ensures that no project bidder, large or small, is excluded from bidding on a government-funded construction project because of an affiliation or a lack of affiliation with a union.