Do PLAs Reward Special Interests?

0 March 9, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized has long maintained that government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) are one of the purest forms of payback to special interests. Sometimes it is hard to believe that PLAs are even legal. And as this example will demonstrate, elected officials go to great lengths to justify their paybacks to special interests.

Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, wrote an excellent Op-Ed in The Philadelphia Inquirerthat attacks the political doublespeak coming out of Governor Rendell’s administration when it comes to capping the influence of special interests (“Some Interests More Special Than the Rest,” 03/03/10).

In his eighth and final budget address last month, Gov. Rendell repeatedly criticized “special interests” for stymieing his legislative proposals. He said, ” … the time has come to put stricter controls not simply on what they report, but on what they do.” And he called for a cap on special-interest groups’ campaign contributions, implying that such limits would lower the hurdles for his policy proposals.

…Of course, Rendell hadn’t declared war on all special interests – only those that oppose his tax-borrow-and-spend agenda…

..So while job creators who are trying to keep the government from taking more of their money are labeled evil special interests by the governor, those that lobby for more of other people’s money are somehow considered virtuous.

Brouillette goes on to document examples of Gov. Rendell supporting special interests, including Big Labor’s effort to secure PLAs on public works projects. 

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.”

And according to a recent article in The Pennsylvania Independent, the Rendell Administration has even been caught red-handed in their feeble attempt to cover their corruption with a study that justifies the use of an anti-competitive PLA on several PA prison projects (“Department Commits to PLAs Prior to Studies,” 3/5/10).

Nearly a year before opening bids on several planned prison sites, Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services (DGS) signed a letter of commitment with the Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC) which required DGS to award the bid to a member of the council, that is, a union contractor.

The letter states in the first paragraph, “DGS will retain the Keystone Research Center to conduct the necessary studies and investigations required for the development of a Project Labor Stabilization Agreement (PLSA) for each project meeting this criteria. IF such studies justify a PLSA, DGS will negotiate and enter into a PLSA with the regional building trades council affiliated with the Building Trades in each region of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where the project will be constructed” (emphasis added).

The DGS letter is dated April of 2008 and bears the signatures of James Creedon, Secretary of the DGS and Frank Sirianni, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents construction unions across Pennsylvania….

…Frank Sirianni also sits on the board of the Keystone Research Center (KRC), the organization which produced a report in 2009 recommending the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) for the construction of the prisons, specifically in Benner Township. Their report came after a study conducted by Kevin Moore for the same township. Mr. Moore’s report states “in this Region, at this time, there does not appear to be any data that would support the necessity for the PLA. The Regional construction market is incredibly slow, resulting in an overabundance of skilled labor throughout the Region, the Commonwealth and beyond. There is no competitor for DGS for skilled labor now, or on the 24-29 month horizon…under the present circumstances and wholly limited to the facts presented, a PLA is not necessary for DGS to complete this project as planned.”

…So before bidding even began on the prison sites, DGS had already committed to use a union-affiliated contractor through a PLA.

And after the first report failed to justify a PLA – the result the administration wanted – DGS took the corruption to a new level and used a study written by a Big Labor think tank to justify this PLA. independently exposed this corruption on July 9, 2009 and brought it to the attention of the media, PA lawmakers, interested stakeholders (“PA Government Cronyism Continues with Rockview Jail PLA“).

Where is the accountability in government? This PLA corruption has to end.

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