Mike Henderson, president of ABC Baltimore, today appeared on the Sean & Frank program on Baltimore’s WCBM-AM (680 AM) to discuss legislation that will be introduced before the Baltimore City Council March 22 that would require “community partnership agreements” on city projects with a total cost of $5 million or more.
A community partnership agreement, of course, is just Big Labor’s way of rebranding project labor agreements (PLAs). This effort is nothing more than a public relations gimmick designed to confuse the public about the true intent of this legislation, which is to leverage cronyism government relationships to pass legislation that favors Big Labor by cutting competition from qualified nonunion contractors and their local nonunion employees.
Big Labor’s rebranding effort is simply putting lipstick on the PLA pig.
TheTruthAboutPLAs.com has blogged about this legislation (“Baltimore to Review Project Labor Agreement Law,” 3/9/10) and strongly opposes this special interest agreement that denies taxpayers and residents the accountability they deserve from the government.
TheTruthAboutPLAs.com especially opposes the disingenuous arguments Big Labor is using to lobby elected officials that this legislation will create jobs for Baltimore residents.
Under the measure, labor groups would be required to “exert their best efforts” to recruit city residents into union apprenticeship programs and hiring halls. Best efforts don’t cut it, especially with construction unemployment hovering at 27 percent, as there is little chance that new recruits will benefit from jobs anytime in the near future because existing union members and apprentices have seniority and will be the first to work out of union hiring halls.
What about current union members that are Baltimore residents that would allegedly benefit from PLAs?
Baltimore-area construction labor unions have not turned over any data documenting the demographics of their existing membership. Just how many construction union members reside in Baltimore, how old are they, and what race and gender are they?
Big Labor attempted a similar “PLAs mean local hire” campaign when it secured a PLA on the Philadelphia Convention Center. A Philadelphia Inquirer investigative reporter poured through government data on city public works projects and found that most construction union members lived outside of Philadelphia and were male, pale and stale. (Learn more here). So arguments that a PLA creates local hiring proved to be nothing more than a ruse in Philadelphia.
The same is true for Baltimore.
With just 12.6 percent of the Maryland private construction workforce belonging to a union, according to www.unionstats.com, Baltimore-area construction labor unions don’t have the manpower to build all of Baltimore’s construction projects. Union members will be imported from Washington, D.C., Delaware and Pennsylvania ahead of local and skilled nonunion employees from Baltimore and Maryland.
If politicians are looking out for the best interests of their constituents, it’s important to remember that in the end, taxpayers foot the bill for the added costs associated with anti-competitive PLAs. For example, studies of school construction in three states with prevailing wage laws demonstrate that PLAs increase the cost of school construction between 12 percent and 18 percent, when compared to projects built free of PLAs that were subject to the same prevailing wage laws.
Can Baltimore really afford to build four schools for the price of five? Can it afford to create jobs for union members (some of whom will be non-local) ahead of skilled local nonunion employees? Can it afford to flirt with distorting the principles of free and open competition? Why not let a fair and competitive bidding process determine which businesses and employees can deliver the best possible product at the best possible price?
This legislation is nothing more than a sop to Big Labor and it should be rejected by the Baltimore City Council.