Today’s Washington Examiner ran an outstanding Op-Ed questioning President Obama’s Executive Order 13502 and the White House’s support of discriminatory and costly project labor agreements (PLAs) from Jerry Gorski, president of Gorski Engineering in Collegeville, Pa. and the 2009 National Chairman of Associated Builders and Contractors.
President Obama and many others are using popular words like “choice” and “competition” to push their public option for health care. Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Harry Reid, D-Nev., touted their new tag line, “lowering cost through competition,” at a press conference Wednesday. There were even pictures in USA Today.
Frankly, Associated Builders and Contractors — which represents 25,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms with two million employees — could not agree more. ABC believes free and open competition is the cornerstone of the nation’s economy. Competition serves the interests of consumers and taxpayers alike.
Unfortunately, the president earlier this year signed an executive order that promotes exclusionary project labor agreements on construction projects costing more than $25 million. A union-only PLA is a contract that requires a federal construction project to be awarded only to contractors and subcontractors that agree to certain stringent union rules.
The contractors and subcontractors must recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job; use the union hiring hall to obtain workers; obey the union’s restrictive apprenticeship and work rules; and contribute to union pension plans from which their employees will never benefit unless they join a union.
In short, PLAs discourage competition from nonunion contractors and their employees, who compose 84 percent of the U.S. private construction work force. PLAs are nothing more than special interest handouts that deny taxpayers the value and accountability they deserve from public construction contracts.
The competitive principles Obama hopes will guide health care reform and the insurance industry are just as applicable to the construction industry. Without competition, taxpayers suffer as the price of construction goes up and the quality goes down.
Additionally, there is abundant evidence that PLAs reduce competition and increase costs. This lack of competition will result in billions of wasted tax dollars.
So, how could competition be good for health care but bad for the federal government and the U.S. taxpayers when procuring construction services? The answer, of course, is that there should be competition when it comes to selecting contractors to build the nation’s infrastructure.
The president clearly pays lip service to choice and competition in the health care debate, but that guiding principle also should apply to all of the industries and hardworking taxpayers that make America strong.