Building Pennsylvania: PLA Forum and Lt. Governor Debate

0 May 11, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Keystone Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors is holding a forum to discuss wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) as part of their May 11 Lt. Governors debate.

This event is part of their Save the Endangered Species campaign to educate the public on the true impact of PLAs.’s Ben Brubeck is on the scene to tell the truth about PLAs and I am here to liveblog the event.

Read the minute by minute after the jump:

10:05am: Churchill Strategies’ Jeff Coleman introduces the ABC Keystone chapter as the sponsor of the event and complements them for their commitment to putting Pennsylvanians back to work.

10:06 Coleman reminds attendants about the Endangered Species campaign to protect Pennsylvania’s construction workforce.  Remember the great video?

10:10 Coleman introduces David Tuerck from the Beacon Hill Institute.  His research repeatedly found that PLAs increase bid prices and final costs throughout the northeast.

10:13 Tuerck makes a great point.  The highest profile project to be built in America with a PLA may be the Big Dig in Boston.  This is not exactly the model for successful and cost efficient construction.

10:15 Another great point.  Tuerck points out that there were zero cost overruns or construction delays during the previous administration to justify the Obama executive order encouraging PLAs.  This strikes at the heart of President Obama’s argument for the order and shows that PLAs are unnecessary on large-scale construction work.

10:18 Coleman introduced Ben Brubeck from ABC National and to lay out the political history of presidential executive orders encouraging and prohibiting PLAs.  Brubeck points out that the PLA E.O. was one of the first actions taken by President Obama.  Two wars and an economic crisis, but he found time to do that?

10:20 Brubeck explains that Democrat leaders support anti-taxpayer PLAs because “they know what side their bread is buttered on.”

10:23 Brubeck: “It’s true that nonunion contractors can bid on PLA jobs, but they are put at such a disadvantage…it just doesn’t make sense to bid.   Sure, everyone can apply to Harvard, but that doesn’t mean they can get it.”

10:24 Brubeck tells crowd that some communities – especially in southern California – are standing up and rallying together against special interests.

10:25 Coleman shows Big Labor’s ad in Chula Vista. Very misleading.  Presents their argument in 30 seconds.  This ad will be available as part of the video of the PLA forum.

10:27 Brubeck: “There are nonunion employees that rely on a fair shot at building public projects, same as the union workers.  Nonunion workers just don’t want to be shut out.”

10:28 Coleman Skypes-in Sam Foley from the National Association of Minority Contractors in Philadelphia.

10:29: Foley: “This issue is front and center as a civil rights issue.”

10:30 Foley states that there are two different types of unions.  One has supported upward mobility for minorities.  That is not the building and construction trade unions.  The Building Trades have systematically discriminated against women and minorities in the construction industry.

10:32 Foley: “The trade union movement discriminates against women and people of color.”

10:33 Foley to Lt. Gov candidates: “Put the interests of the majority above the interests of the few.”

10:34: Foley essentially tells the audience to get into politics or get out of business.

10:36: Coleman introduced Jeff Lawrence of Forefront Construction, the face of the Save the Endangered Species billboards.  Awesome story.  Started his business so he could make his own decisions, spend time with his son and help the industry through being a true minority contractor.

10: 40: Lawrence “I don’t need a ‘Jeff’ labor agreement'”.  He goes onto say that he is fine with contractor prequalification, but is not sure where the other side gets the idea that nonunion firms cannot do the job.  “I am safe and get the job done.  It’s ludicrous to say you need a PLA to get safe, on time, on budget projects.”

10:42 Lawrence: “Exclusion for any reason is discrimination.  How do I look at my employees and say that I’ve got a great job, but you can’t work because the PLA says I need to hire from the unions.  We’re fortunate to get opportunities from people that believe in free enterprise.  We’re very happy about that.”  Really great points.

10:44 Coleman introduces strong supporters of Pennsylvania taxpayers against Big Labor and their demands for government-mandated PLAs.  State Rep. John Bear points out that they’re still in the educational phase.  “To a person, when people learn about PLAs, they ask what the heck is going on.  It is Big Labor’s dirty little secret.”

10:46 Coleman introduces State Sen. and former contractor Lloyd Smucker.  Sen. Smucker points out that they’re talking about equal opportunity.  He also mentions that “if competition goes down, then price goes up.”  It’s econ 101.

10:48 Coleman introduces local contractor John Kinsley.  His company was started by his father in the early 60s and has expanded to general construction.  Kinsley tells the crowd that PLAs hurt nonunion employees, many of whom are loyal, no matter the size of your company.

10:50 Kinsley: “PLAs force you to lay workers off to hire union workers.  It’s terrible to employees that may have been loyal for years.  And to say that nonunion workers are less qualified to do the work is ridiculous.”

10:51 Kinsley: “We’ve got 50 years of history completing jobs on time, on budget with a good safety record.  We wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t.  Penn DOT prequalifies contractors already, even without PLAs, then why do we need them?”

10:54 Kinsley: “How unions do things is outdated.  It is not the same modern benefits that nonunion workers get through their employers.”

10:58 Coleman closes the forum.

The PLA forum is over.  We’re about to move onto the Lt. Governor debate.

We will post video of this event as soon as it is available.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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