Vermont Governor Jim Douglas Says NO to PLA on Lake Champlain Bridge Project

0 April 18, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Obama Administration’s release of the final rule to implement Executive Order 13502 was not the only significant PLA development last week.

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas publicly stated his opposition to New York Gov. David Paterson Administration’s, and specifically the Department of Transportation’s (NYSDOT), request that a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) be required on the $100 million Lake Champlain bridge reconstruction project.

General contractor bids for the project were opened April 15, which means it is likely that Vermont leaders succeeded in protected their state’s construction firms and residents from the negative impact of this proposed PLA.

Here’s an excerpt from the Associated Press’ April 14 story (“Vermont Governor Against Labor Agreement for Bridge,” 4/14) via the Glens Falls Post-Star:

Vermont’s governor wants lawmakers to drop the idea of promoting a labor agreement to cover rebuilding the Lake Champlain bridge.

The state Agency of Transportation recently decided not to sign a proposed “project labor agreement,” which would have required all companies bidding on the bridge project to meet union standards for pay and benefits.

Vermont construction companies, which are mostly nonunion, had argued the agreement would cut them out of the work and in the process hurt Vermont residents’ chances to get work on the new bridge linking Crown Point, N.Y., and Addison, Vermont.

The Washington Examiner also picked up Gov. Douglas’ rejection of the NYSDOT’s PLA proposal (“Lake Champlain Bridge Linking Vermont and New York Caught Up in Labor Fight,” 4/18).  Here’s an excerpt:

Douglas said a draft project labor agreement would have required that 84 percent of the hundreds of engineers, iron workers, carpenters, teamsters, masons and laborers expected to find work on the bridge be union members at least for the duration of the project.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” the governor said. “It puts Vermont contractors at a disadvantage,” because most are nonunion, he added.

The day after Gov. Douglas’ announcement, the Burlington Free Press published an editorial (“My Turn: Politics Will Cost Vt. Bridge Jobs,” 4/15) by Mark Holden, ABC New Hampshire/Vermont chapter president, urging Vermont leaders to keep government-by-special interest handout out of their state.

Here are the highlights:

The bottom line is PLAs are special-interest handouts that deny taxpayers the accountability they deserve on public construction projects. At a time when the state is grappling with a significant budget deficit and crippling unemployment, wasting tax dollars and limiting opportunities for Vermont workers is simply too high a price just to reward New York union bosses for their connections.

To suggest that a nonunion contractor’s ability to compete is not impacted by this PLA is ridiculous. To present this PLA as an effort to create harmony and to establish a resolution to any potential disputes is misleading and promotes a procurement process that supports favoritism. At a time when a challenging economy is dependent on real solutions for job creation and accountability for every taxpayer dollar, the New York Department of Transportation should stop its consideration of this harmful PLA.

Get ready, citizens of Vermont. You may be about to get a taste of dysfunctional government — New York State style.

Now that general contractor bids are open and the project is clearly moving forward, it is less likely that the Paterson Administration will be able to secure this project for its Big Labor allies. Nevertheless, it is vital that Vermont residents – and its construction workers in particular – remain on the lookout for any final attempts to institute on PLA requirement for this project.

Vermont workers deserve the opportunity to work and taxpayers deserve the best project for the best price. A PLA requirement on the new Lake Champlain bridge would undermine both these goals.

We commend Gov. Douglas and his administration for standing up for the people of Vermont.

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