Editorial: Workers Should Be Angry About Union Preference

1 January 4, 2010  Federal Construction, Uncategorized

Ohio’s Tribune Chronicle today published an editorial critical of project labor agreements (PLAs) and Executive Order 13502 (“Workers Should Be Angry About Union Preference,” 1/4).  Add it to the long list of newspapers across the country opposed to discriminatory and costly government-mandated PLAs.

Most construction workers are not members of labor unions. They should be angry that President Barack Obama wants to give preference to unions in some federal projects.

It has been reported that the General Services Administration is considering a requirement that project labor agreements, or PLAs, be included in some major construction projects. A PLA requires contractors to recognize union representation of their workers, use union work rules, contribute to union pensions and hire at least some union workers. That costs contractors – and taxpayers – money.

It also restricts the number of non-union workers that can be used on a project. Finally, according to published reports, even non-union workers on a PLA project must pay union dues.

GSA officials planning a $100 million project to renovate a federal official building in Washington at first insisted that contractors submit PLA bids. Later, they backed away, saying that bidders would have to submit two prices – for PLA work and for a project without it.

Given the fact that only about one in seven Washington-area construction workers belongs to a union, that ought to infuriate many of them. It also should upset taxpayers – who are entitled to federal projects accomplished at the lowest practical cost.

Clearly, Obama is attempting to placate his union supporters. He ought to be worrying more about taxpayers and the non-union workers who would be penalized by his PLA plan.

The editorial board clearly understands that PLAs are a corrupt tool that gives Big Labor a big advantage, but do they know that the GSA has identified a project in Cleveland, Ohio funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 – the A.J. Celebrezze Building Facade Recladding – that will be procured in a similar manner as the Lafayette Building in Washington, D.C. and may include a PLA?

In the Celebrezze project’s Q&A Pre-Proposal Meeting document (here is the link to the original document posted on 10/1/09 but it is locked to the public now), question 8 discusses PLAs: 

Q 8. Will the Project Labor Agreements (PLA) need to be priced in the proposals?

 A. The contract includes requirements for PLA, as required under ARRA. After award of the contract, GSA and the CMc will review pricing both with PLA and without PLA and determine the best means of moving forward.

It should be noted that nowhere does ARRA require PLAs.  In fact, President Obama’s Executive Order 13502 does not even require PLAs.  ARRA requires the payment of federal prevailing wages, as do almost all federal construction projects, but again, there is nothing in ARRA that requires PLAs. However, the GSA’s Procurement Instructional Bulletin 09-02 lists the Celebrezze project as one of the 10 projects where the requirement of a PLA will be considered. Perhaps the GSA made a mistake in their initial response and interpretation of ARRA.

On 12/23 dck North America, LLC was awarded the contract for the Construction Phase Services  in the amount of $98.695 million. It is unclear if this project will proceed with a PLA.

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One Response to Editorial: Workers Should Be Angry About Union Preference

Hilary January 6, 2010 at 4:21 am

Yeah, race to the bottom. Let’s get rid of all the good jobs by busting unions. Great idea.

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