Replicating Failure In D.C.

0 February 19, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

It looks like Big Labor’s grip on the federal government isn’t enough to satisfy the construction union bosses.  They also want to control all locally funded construction in D.C. as well.

Clearly on behalf of Big Labor, District Council member Michael Brown recently introduced legislation that would require wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) on District construction projects valued at more than $200,000 that receive government assistance.

PLAs have history of failure in D.C., which Mr. Brown seems interested in replicating.

The most recent high profile PLA failure involved the over $600 million, taxpayer funded Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium project in Southwest D.C.

With D.C. providing the funding for the project, many council members wanted to be sure the baseball team didn’t get a free pass (or a walk, if you will) on providing jobs for D.C. residents.  Big Labor promised that if a PLA was required on the project, it would guarantee a local workforce.  D.C. leaders swallowed the hook.

Regular readers of know that Big Labor’s claim that PLAs ensure local workforces for construction projects is completely bogus.  And sure enough, union promises failed to come true on this project as well.

Broken Promises, Big Losses,” a 2007 study commissioned by the District Economic Empowerment Coalition, (DEEC) outlines how the Nationals’ stadium PLA failed to achieve any of its four stated objectives: (1) 50 percent of journeyperson hours be performed by D.C. workers; (2) 100 percent of apprenticeships go to city residents; (3) at least 25 percent of total work hours be performed by apprentices; and (4) 51 percent of all new hires be D.C. residents.

According to the report, non-D.C. residents worked 506,926 journeyperson hours (71.1 percent of total journeyperson hours), while D.C. resident worked just 206,444 journeyperson hours (28.9 percent), far below the PLA requirement that D.C. residents work 50 percent of total journeyperson hours.

The study also found that half of the contractors involved in the project hired no new apprentices, and of those companies that did hire new trainees, only 17 (of 56) met the PLA requirement that 100 percent of new apprenticeships go to D.C. residents.

Needless to say, the Nationals’ stadium PLA wasn’t exactly a home run.

The Washington City Paper covered the introduction of this bill in their Feb 12 article, “Friends Like These.” Here are some excerpts.

From Big Labor (Our emphasis added):

The political stakes are sky-high-especially in an election year. Labor will be whipping their votes hard, Powell says. “This is the No. 1 priority for labor in 2010,” he [Rick Powell, political director for the Metro Washington Labor Council AFL-CIO] says. “We’re judging everybody based on where they come down on this bill.”

From opponents of this bill:

Eric J. Jones, the ABC’s [Associated Builders and Contractors, Metro Washington Chapter] chief D.C. lobbyist, estimates that the bill would cover “90 to 95 percent of all projects in the city,” and with less than 20 percent of the city construction workforce by his count belonging to a union, any union-only stricture could be devastating to local jobs.

“There’s no way the local construction industry could survive,” Jones says. “Companies just could not work in the city.”

Sam Brooks, the former D.C. Council candidate turned green-building entrepreneur, calls the bill’s effects “potentially devastating” to job creation. “I do understand and respect that organized labor is trying to represent their members’ interest,” he says. “I just hope that everyone realizes this is moronic.”

And from the D.C. Chamber of Commerce:

Barbara Lang, the CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, says Brown’s support of a PLA requirement leaves her “concerned.” She says of Brown, “I appreciate that he has a constituency that he needs to support.”

It is clear from all of these quotes that this legislation is about politics and preserving union jobs at the expense of the D.C. taxpayers.  Evidential, Mr. Brown is more interested in replicating the failure of the Nationals’ stadium PLA than ensuring value on D.C. funded work.

PLAs are nothing more than special interest handouts to a politically-connected interest group, Big Labor.  If you live in the District of Columbia, contact your councilmember and tell them to say no to Bill 18-650 and wasteful and discriminatory PLAs.

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