Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO President Argues McDonalds Employees Only Earn $50 an Hour

0 March 5, 2010  State & Local Construction

A quote in a recent Washington Business Journal article indicates that Joslyn Williams, president of the AFL-CIO Metropolitan Washington Council, believes McDonald’s employees earn $50 an hour (“Bill heats up battle over required use of union labor,” 2/28/10).

“The city has to decide whether it wants people working on its construction projects to earn only ‘McDonald’s wages,'” said Joslyn Williams, president of the AFL-CIO Washington, D.C. Metro Council. “That’s a social decision that the government must make.”

Well, that would be an accurate dilemma for DC government to deliberate – if only Joslyn Williams were right and understood the legislation he is lobbying in favor of  (something lobbyists generally master before weighing in on an issue in front of elected officials, the media and interested constituents).

Williams’ statement was made in support of D.C. Councilman Michael Brown’s bill, the District Resident Employment and Trade Stimulus Act of 2010 (Bill 18-650), co-introduced with Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), which would mandate that contractors building District construction projects that receive at least $200,000 in city support sign a project labor agreement (PLA).

The article continues:

The bill would require builders to sign project labor agreements — deals to use union workers — and to hire D.C. residents for a higher percentage of construction work on many city-supported projects under First Source agreements.

Brown, an independent at-large councilman, said workers living outside the District are getting jobs on city-funded projects despite existing laws that require builders to hire a certain number of D.C. residents…

…The bill would require contractors to use D.C. residents for 25 percent of journey-worker hours, 50 percent of apprenticeship hours, 60 percent of skilled laborer hours and 70 percent of unskilled laborer hours.

Williams should know that D.C. is expressly included within the federal Davis-Bacon Act, and therefore all D.C.-funded construction projects are subject to federal government-determined wage and benefit rates that must be paid to construction employees. Afterall, defending the practice of mandating government-determined wages that are consistently similar to union-scale wages is a cornerstone of the AFL-CIO lobby portfolio.

Wage and benefit rates are posted online at via the “Selecting DBA WDs” link.  For example, electricians working on a “Building” type of construction in D.C. must be paid a minimum of $37.60 in wages and the cash or benefit equivalent of $12.28 per hour ($49.88 total per hour). Plumbers must earn $37.67 plus $14.69 in benefits per hour ($52.36 total).  This is the minimum amount contractors must pay employees in this trade and on this type of project. As you can see, wage and benefit rates are already quite high for construction industry employees under existing law.

Either Williams doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about, or he is intentionally misleading the public. Or, maybe he knows of McDonald’s employees earning a total compensation package of around $50 per hour.

Unfortunately, PLA proponents frequently mislead the public when advocating for PLAs. Big Labor’s lobbyists are quick to argue that PLAs guarantee fair wages and benefits, but they don’t tell the public and elected officials that existing law governing most publicly funded construction projects already requires family sustaining wages and benefits.

PLA proponents incorrectly assert these anti-competitive schemes are the only way to guarantee local hire – another fib. Local workforce goals or mandates can be implemented without the discriminatory and costly provisions typical in most PLAs that we have dissected for the public here.

What about the claim that PLAs prevent labor strikes? Good contracting language can also provide severe penalties that discourage strikes and other labor unrest for which Big Labor is solely responsible. And what about all of those PLA projects that have suffered from strikes? That’s some guarantee.

What PLA proponents won’t tell you is that PLAs deny nearly 88 percent of the District’s construction workforce (those who do not belong to a labor union) the ability to be employed on public work projects, reducing competition and significantly driving up costs to taxpayers.  With government budgets stretched to the breaking point and essential services being cut, it is critical that taxpayers get the best quality work at the best price. Always. PLAs put special interests ahead of the public interest by essentially restricting the bidding process to contractors backed by big labor unions — denying others the opportunity to do a better job at a better price.

DC School PLA Chalkboard

And while Big Labor lobbyists don’t let the facts get in the way of their arguments, they use the power of political contributions to advance their crony capitalism agenda.From The Washington City Paper (Friends Like These, 2/12/10)”:

Rick Powell, political director for the Metro Washington Labor Council AFL-CIO, says 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 says. “We’re judging everybody based on where they come down on this bill.”

DC officials need to kill this legislation because PLAs are not in the public interest.  A sop to Big Labor’s special interests, PLAs deny taxpayers the accountability they deserve from government while encouraging waste and discrimination in contracting.

DC Residents will be asking this question if Bill 18-650, The PLA Bill, passes.

DC Residents will be asking this question if Bill 18-650, The PLA Bill, passes.

Read District Resident Employment and Trade Stimulus Act of 2010 (Bill 18-650) here.

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