Update – PLAs Rock Plymouth: Big Labor Threats and Misinformation

1 November 20, 2009  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

There is an update to a TheTruthAboutPLAs.com blog post from November 19 titled, “PLAs Rocked Plymouth Studio.”  The post highlighted an op-ed by ABC Massachusetts Chapter Chairman Jerry Simmer of the same title that was published by the Boston Herald on November 17.

Through a letter to the editor in the Boston Herald and comments left in TheTruthAboutPLAs.com’s comments area, PLA proponents have strongly voiced their support for these Big Labor handouts.  We do not typically entertain these types of comments, but the letter to the editor published by the Herald and the comments left on the blog are misinformed (and slightly threatening) and warrant a response.

Here is the comment posted to TheTruthAboutPLAs.com in response to the “PLAs Rocked Plymouth” post

Scott Gustafson

Could you please provide a copy of the PLA for Plymouth Rock Studios. I know you can’t because it does not exist. It was a committment [sic] (unwritten) by a developer to build the project using local labor. Totally false and misconstrued propaganda artilcle [sic] by The ABC. You vomited on yourself again. The story doesn’t tell the truth about all of the wage violations by the ABC contractors against the workers on the Fall River projects either.

It appears that the commenter has three primary claims:

1.    That there was not actually a PLA on the Plymouth Rock Studio;

2.    That we vomited on ourselves again; and

3.    That (despite the fact that this blog isn’t TheTruthAboutPrevailingWage) we didn’t mention the Falls River prevailing wage violation issue from 2008.

We would like to answer each claim directly.

1.    That there was not actually a PLA on the Plymouth Rock Studio.

By referring to the Plymouth Rock Studio pre-hire agreement as a PLA is actually being generous to Big Labor.  As reported by Wicked Local Plymouth:

Keeping a promise made to union leaders, Plymouth Rock Studios co-founder David Kirkpatrick has signed a formal agreement with the Massachusetts Building Trades Council to hire only union workers for the construction of their movie and entertainment production studio.

Kirkpatrick, accompanied by Plymouth Rock Studios CEO Earl Lestz, signed a memorandum of understanding committing the studio to be union-built. The event took place Wednesday during the Massachusetts Building Trades Council’s annual convention at the Radisson Hotel Plymouth Harbor.

Lestz said he worked with trade unions for many years while at Paramount Studios in California and looks forward to continuing that relationship in Plymouth. He dismissed the notion that hiring union members would add 20 percent to the studio’s budget. He said using skilled employees pays because of the quality of the work.

Still can’t believe it?  You can watch the video!

In other words, the studio promised this project to the 20 percent of the Massachusetts private construction workforce who belong to a union.  As a result, the project’s price tag grew and this may have cost the studio its financing for the project – as Mr. Simmer pointed out in his op-ed.  In other words, it looks like the studio’s decision to use only union labor derailed the project and Mr. Simmer’s op-ed is accurate.

Additionally, it is worth noting that an internal Plymouth Rock Studios letter to studio president Bill Demello and the Mass Building Trades Council indicated that the studio would require contractors to sign a PLA in order to work on this project.  With the financing falling through, the project didn’t even get to the point where a PLA would be signed.

2.  That we vomited on ourselves again.

We haven’t vomited on ourselves in decades.  Promise.

3.  That we didn’t mention the Falls River prevailing wage violation issue from July 2008.

While this claim relates to prevailing wage and not PLAs, the facts of the case are simple and clean cut.  Local media covered the issue eighteen months ago.

This comment on TheTruthAboutPLAs.com was not the only thing Big Labor and their allies had to say about Mr. Simmer’s op-ed.  In a letter to the editor published by the Boston Herald on November 19, Daniel Saliba of Boston had some interesting (and perhaps threatening?) things to say about the issue.

Here is the full letter to the editor:

PLAs work for all

A project labor agreement does give something back to the taxpayer (“PLA rocked Plymouth studio,” Nov. 18). It gives back a third of my pay because I’m a union laborer and I pay my taxes. I don’t have family in a foreign country that gets half my salary from a job that I work under the table. I spend my taxed dollars right here in Boston.

The open shop may pay illegal aliens $15 per hour under the table and doesn’t check Social Security numbers, and that raises the profit margin. So before they drop the PLA, someone should drop Jerry Simmer on his you know what.

– Daniel Saliba, Boston

There are two important points we would like to highlight in this letter.  First, PLAs do nothing to address the problem of employers hiring undocumented workers.  PLAs do require contractors to recognize unions as the sole representative of their employees, pay union dues on behalf of their workers, hire from the union hiring hall and pay into union pension programs.  This letter essentially says that the only way to ensure that undocumented workers do not work on a project is to build union-only.  This is a false choice.

It is illegal to hire undocumented workers and reputable contractors follow the law.  Nevertheless, PLAs do not address the issue of undocumented workers at all.

Second and most seriously, this letter includes language that some may consider threatening.

So before they drop the PLA, someone should drop Jerry Simmer on his you know what.

To those not familiar with labor relations, this might seem like no big deal.  But according to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, the Institute has recorded 8,799 incidents of union violence since 1975, only 1,963 arrests and 258 convictions have been found.  Thus, it appears that of the violent incidents recorded in the Institute’s Data File, barely three percent of those incidents have led to an arrest and conviction.

As construction unionization density declined during the last 30 years, union violence became a common concern for honest, hardworking merit shop construction firms.  Considering the history of violence in the construction industry, this language is inappropriate.  Mr. Simmer is owed an apology.  Someone shouldn’t have to watch their back because they stood up for their community.

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