Op-Ed: Beware of Big Labor Paybacks in PA

0 December 18, 2009  Federal Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Central Penn Business Journal’s Op-Ed by Gus Perea warns of the economic consequences of Big Labor paybacks via Executive Order 13502 and project labor agreements (PLAs) (“Pennsylvania Taxpayers and Employers: Beware of Big Labor Paybacks,” 12/17). 

On the rare occasion that a nonunion contractor wins a PLA contract, the order would bully its employees into joining a union or paying union dues on projects their taxes already fund. Those provisions typically discourage nonunion contractors from competing.

The lack of competition from the nonunion sector and inefficient work rules that PLAs require can boost construction costs by up to 18 percent — a cost the taxpayer eats.

So let’s review: PLAs rob job-seeking locals and the majority of the construction work force of the chance to work on federal projects, and deny taxpayers the accountability they deserve from the government.

It’s natural to wonder how the Obama administration justifies such bad policy. The answer is, by emphasizing the possibility of labor disputes that might delay projects and increase costs.

Some studies have completely invalidated those claims, the latest of which comes from the Beacon Hill Institute. Beacon Hill combed the years under the PLA-prohibiting Bush administration for any instance of a labor dispute derailing a federal construction project and found, interestingly, not a single documented instance of a dispute a PLA could have prevented.

So, why is the president inventing problems that don’t exist? A look at his campaign game tape might give us a clue. Among Obama’s biggest supporters is Big Labor, which has, coincidentally, been one of his most frequent visitors to the White House.

But even forgetting that paybacks are the purest form of political corruption, handing such a disproportionate amount of power to such a small subset of the work force will bring side effects bound to harm the Pennsylvania economy.

Click here to learn more about the Beacon Hill Institute’s September 2009 study, Project Labor Agreements on Federal Construction Projects: A Costly Solution in Search of a Problem.

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