Delays and Increased Construction Costs Plague PA Prison

0 March 4, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Pennsylvania’s Graterford Prison project labor agreement (PLA) controversy is in the Philadelphia newspapers again. No progress has been made on the construction of this important project.

Looking for something to blame?
It’s the PLA, stupid!

Looking for someone to blame?

Blame Big Labor’s lobbyists for pushing costly, job-killing special interest PLAs and blame public officials for allowing these backroom kickback schemes to end open, fair and competitive bidding on public work projects.

PLA-Jeopardy-Image covered the controversy surrounding government-mandated PLAs on $865 million worth of prison construction commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of General Services (DGS).

From the Philadelphia Inquirer (“Lawsuit Over Labor Delays Montco Prison Project,” 3/1/10).

At a time when unemployment among construction workers stands at close to 25 percent, a $400 million Pennsylvania prison project that would have employed 1,400 carpenters, electricians, and others in the trades remains mired in bureaucracy and litigation.

Meanwhile, the state prison system is so crowded that it is shipping 2,000 inmates out of state at a daily cost of $62 per inmate.

Construction on the project, a new 4,100-bed prison next to Graterford Prison in Skippack Township, Montgomery County, was supposed to have started in September. …

….The Graterford project has been plagued by three problems – a disagreement over how it should be bid, the question of whether the workforce must be union, and the inability to find a bidder able to build the prison envisioned for the money available.

O’Reilly’s department had put the project out for bid in the spring. None of the bidders met the price.

The department was in negotiations in July with the lowest bidder, Keating Building Corp., a Philadelphia union contractor. Then nearly four dozen nonunion construction workers and contractors, along with trade associations that represent open shops, filed a lawsuit against the state to stop the project.

The plaintiffs made two requests: an injunction to stop the department from awarding the contract, and not to require a project labor agreement as a bid specification.

Project labor agreements typically require contractors to pay union wages and, in some cases, use union workers. The unions guarantee a trained labor supply and promise there will be no work stoppages.

On Dec. 1, Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini refused to grant the request for an injunction; his decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The Pennsylvania Independent explains the complaint behind the lawsuit in greater detail and connects the corrupt dots between the DGS, The Keystone Research Center, Gov. Rendell and Big Labor (“Project Labor Agreements Delay Prison Construction,” 3/2/10).

Remember the lack of competition, increased costs, legal wrangling and project delays experienced by this project the next time public officials and Big Labor lobbyists want to play JEOPARDY! with public works contracts in your community.

UPDATE: Matthew Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, notes in an op-ed (“Some Interests More Special Than Others,” 3/3/10) that when it comes to Gov. Rendell stopping the influence of special interest groups in Pennsylvania, some groups are more special than others.  As we have pointed out before, the governor has a particular love affairs with Big Labor and Mr. Brouillette mentions this in his op-ed:

Other special interests that apparently have the governor’s blessing include teachers’ unions, which lobby for hundreds of millions of dollars more every year, and construction unions, which lobby for such special privileges as “project labor agreements.”

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