The PLA Fight Moves to Indiana

2 January 15, 2010  State & Local Construction

The latest salvo in the fight for common sense – as opposed to union favoritism – to drive public construction contracting is taking place in Indiana, where state lawmakers have introduced legislation to end wasteful and discriminatory government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) on state and state funded construction once and for all.

The bill (H.B. 1010) was introduced by Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel) and referred to the House Labor and Employment Committee, where it is likely to die without getting serious consideration by the committee before the Indiana General Assembly adjourns in March.

Why would the committee fail to seriously consider legislation that would save the taxpayers money on state construction and ensure that the 80 percent of the Indiana construction workforce that decided not to join a labor union has the opportunity to compete for projects paid for by their own tax dollars, you ask?

Let’s check the Indianapolis News Channel 6 coverage of the bill’s introduction:

The bill, now in committee, is in the hands of Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, a plumber who records indicate received campaign contributions from unions.

“As labor and employment chair, on this one I can say, ‘Not on my watch,'” Niezgodski said. “I’ve never seen any evidence that a PLA hurts other workers’ chances or businesses’ chances of being involved in a project.”

Niezgodski said PLAs help keep jobs on time with fewer work-related injuries. He denied that the reason he won’t allow the bill to be heard has anything to do with union connections, but more about time.

Wait, really?  We also suspect Chairman Niezgodski doesn’t believe that PLAs increase construction costs either.

The PLA issue has come to the forefront in Indianapolis recently in response to a PLA on the $750 million Wishard Memorial Hospital project.  Indianapolis News Channel 6 reports on December 29 that hospital officials believe the PLA will help them complete the project on time and on budget.

But PLAs don’t exactly have the best track record in Indiana.

Here’s another except from News Channel 6’s December 29 coverage:

But contractors fired back on Tuesday, pointing to a number of major city projects that suffered notorious cost and time overruns, even with a PLA in place.

Conseco Fieldhouse came in $8 million over budget, while construction on the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library was more than two years behind schedule and ran $50 million over budget.

“It’s mostly a political deal. The taxpayers are really not protected,” said JR Gaylor, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, an organization that represents many non-union shops. “The facts don’t seem to support his (Matt Gutwein, CEO of Health and Hospital Corp., which operates Wishard) contention that this is good for the taxpayer.”

This PLA is a terrible deal for everyone except for Big Labor and their political allies.  Catch a full media overview on Wishard Memorial Hospital project here.

Additionally, please contact Chairman Niezgodski and tell him that Indiana’s taxpayers deserve the best construction product for the best price.  H.B. 1010 deserves a open hearing in the Indiana House Labor and Employment Committee.

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2 Responses to The PLA Fight Moves to Indiana

Rohn February 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm

As a former member of the carpents union, the opposition to PLA’s is 1 thing and 1 thing only. Union busting. The FACTS are the Union tradesman are better trained, (4-5 year apprenticeships AND they also go through associates degree level college courses as well) They also submit to random drug testing. Is it any wonder they perform their work better, more efficient and safer? The people that are doing the most complaining about PLA’s are of course the ABC and the wanna be Rush Limbaughs that have no clue about the industry or how a larger constructon project actually runs. Tobe blunt, the non union contractors just DO NOT have the qualified, skilled pool of tradesman to draw from to be able to complete the jobs at a high level of craftsmanship. Anybody that says otherwise is either flat-out lying or just doesn’t know what they are talking about. Period. Point.

Ben Brubeck February 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Rohn, thanks for sharing your thoughts. But I have to ask, where are YOUR facts? I’m only hearing unsubstantiated opinion.

Do you have any data to support your claims that union labor is safer, efficient and of a higher quality?

If unionized contractors have such a great product, why do they need special interest handouts (via PLAs) from their chums in government to get work? Shouldn’t the quality of their union employees add value and convince a construction owner they are worth the premium cost?

How come just 13.1 percent of the construction workforce chooses to belong to a union and the rest are employed by open shop contractors? Are you saying that 86.9 percent of the construction workforce is unsafe and unskilled?

Why do construction unions try to unionize companies and get nonunion journeymen to join unions if they aren’t as qualified and haven’t gone through a 4-5 year union apprenticeship program? When nonunion journeymen join a union, do they magically become more efficient and safe once they start paying dues to a union and hold a union card?

What about nonunion tradespeople go through state and federal certified apprenticeship programs that follow the same guidelines as union programs. Is there skill level inferior?

At the very least, can’t you concede that there are a number of talented merit shop journeymen and contractors out there that do outstanding work and are discriminated against because of PLAs?

This is not union busting. All we are trying to do is create a level playing field where quality contractors and their skilled employees have the opportunity to deliver to taxpayers the best possible product at the best possible price. Many ABC members hire union subcontractors and employ union tradespeople to supplement their existing workforce. ABC objects to the government inserting themselves in the middle of complicated labor and management relationships for no valid reason besides steering lucrative public construction contracts to their political benefactors. This is crony capitalism and it has no place in our free enterprise system.

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