Understanding the Politics of PLAs

1 May 19, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

TheTruthAboutPLAs.com has repeatedly documented that anti-competitive and costly project labor agreement (PLA) schemes are payoffs to Big Labor bosses from politicians in public offices at all levels of government.

Big Labor relies on union-friendly public officials to steer public works contracts to unionized contractors through government-mandated PLAs. (Click here and here for great examples).

Politicians participating in this cronyism results in the creation of union jobs and guarantees they will receive Big Labor’s support through endorsements, votes from rank and file union members and campaign cash that will help the candidate win re-election and ascend to higher office in future campaigns.

The politics of PLAs can be perplexing to some, but a Sacramento Bee article about the political power of California’s Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447 explains how the political might of one local labor union can translate into government-mandated PLAs and other gifts to Big Labor (“Plumbers union flexes muscle in local campaigns,” 5/18):

From prison guards to teachers, organized labor wields influence over California politics like an iron pipe. In the Sacramento region, one group’s clout rises above the others.

The Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 447 has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into local campaigns over the years. They’ve groomed young candidates on utility boards, attacked mayoral hopefuls and given heavily to local Democratic organizations.

In the past three years, Local 447 has pumped $758,803 into area candidates, political committees and measure campaigns, records compiled by the secretary of state’s office show. That’s more than the region’s two largest law enforcement unions, the firefighters union and the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – combined.

Another $470,000 in plumber money has gone to groups and individuals outside the Sacramento region, from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party to candidates for the Half Moon Bay City Council.

Click here to see Local 447’s political expenditures.  Here is why Big Labor invests union member dues into politics:

There are multiple reasons the union is so active with its checkbook. First, local government and boards are responsible for millions of dollars in public works projects, and unions clamor to get a piece of that action.

Second, the elected leaders who control those projects often move up the ranks, from local school boards to city councils and, eventually, the Capitol – where they take part in decisions on such issues as prevailing wage and construction standards.

That may help to explain why Local 447 seems to target candidates early in their political careers. Campaign records show the union has contributed $130,000 to local school board candidates since 2007 and another $192,950 to area city councils and county boards of supervisors.

“With term limits and the turnover you have at the state level, when you look at the city councils and boards of supervisors, the local level is the farm system,” said Scott Wetch, state lobbyist for the California State Pipe Trades Council. “They’re going to be the state leaders in very short order.”

In 2005, Sacramento City Unified School District’s (SCUSD) board approved a measure requiring contractors on projects over $1 million to use PLAs. Trustees re-approved the labor agreement policy for an additional four years in September 2009.  Local 447 lobbied the SCUSD for PLAs in both instances.

Dues deducted from construction employees working on SCUSD PLA projects will go back to union political coffers and will be used to fuel the cycle of corruption.

Corruption: This is how Big Labor Leverages Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements

Corruption: This is How Big Labor Leverages Politics to Secure Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements

So readers, you are invited to give some creative and constructive solutions that would help break this cycle of corruption.

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One Response to Understanding the Politics of PLAs

BenBrubeck June 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

Here is another example of how Big Labor gets PLA favors from government.

Ohio’s union-sponsored governor appointed a former construciton union advocate to direct the Ohio School Facilities Commission where he is leaning on school districts to use PLAs if they want OSFC funding.

School Facilities Commission director probed for pushing union use


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