PLA Scheme Adopted at UMass: Governor Patrick and Big Labor Continue Cozy Relationship

0 June 16, 2010  School Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

As reported in the Boston Globe here and here, this week the UMass Building Authority board of directors voted for a project labor agreement (PLA) on the Boston campus’ master plan, a 10-year blueprint with an estimated $750 million in future construction projects.  The UMass Building Authority’s vote comes after Mass. Governor Deval Patrick pledged to unions that construction at UMass-Boston would be union only.

The UMass Building Authority board includes two leaders of organized labor who are appointed by the governor. 

Anti-competitive PLAs, which typically mandate all construction labor on a project must be hired through union halls, discriminate against the 80 percent of the construction workforce in Massachusetts that is nonunion.  According to federal data available at (the only independent, reliable source for union density statistics), building and trades unions represent 20 percent of the state’s construction workforce.

Ronald Cogliano, President of the Merit Construction Alliance, a trade group that represents the interests of open shop employers and workers said this:

“Governor Patrick needs to explain to the working men and women of the open shop construction industry why they are being denied the opportunity to work on construction projects they are paying for with their tax dollars.  Governor Patrick needs to explain to the parents and students at UMass why they are paying higher fees while he imposes a policy that will increase the cost of construction in order to benefit his political allies in organized labor.  He would never consider banning union workers, so why is he banning non-union?”

According to the June 3, 2010, Boston Globe, “UMass tuition and fees have more than doubled over the past decade as state appropriations have plummeted by 22 percent.”

The PLA covers the UMass-Boston campus master plan that includes a $150 million science center, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute and various renovation projects that total $750 million. readers may recall that Patrick endorsed the discriminatory PLA in a March speech to organized labor in Plymouth.  According to the text of his speech, Patrick said:

 “I have directed that, going forward, Project Labor Agreements be used when necessary. As a start, we’re going to use a PLA on the new $150 million science facility and other capital improvements at the UMass Boston campus. We’re looking into other projects across the Commonwealth where a PLA is appropriate. Candidates include the Salem State College Library, the Lowell Courthouse project, and the UMass Amherst academic building.”

On Tuesday, Mass. Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker released the following statement critical of the  decision to use a PLA for $750 million in construction on the UMass-Boston campus that was picked up in the Boston Herald:

“The decision by the University of Massachusetts and Governor Patrick to use project labor agreements will cost taxpayers $100 million more for these construction projects. Governor Patrick continues to be reckless with spending taxpayer dollars and continues to prove that he is unwilling to push for the reforms necessary to save millions of dollars.”

Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Nassour said in a statement today:

 “Whether it’s labor unions, Marian Walsh or Ameriquest, Governor Patrick has consistently demonstrated a willingness to use his office to benefit his friends and political supporters. Project Labor Agreements are just another form of patronage and handing millions in taxpayer dollars to his supporters in organized labor is 10,000 times worse than the Marian Walsh fiasco. We know why this action benefits Governor Patrick, but the governor should tell us how this benefits the taxpayers.”

Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts President Greg Beeman said this about the PLA according to this press release:

 “UMass tuition and fees have doubled over the last decade. Only in an election year would anyone vote to increase costs even more by mandating union‐only construction. This is exactly the kind of election‐year politics people are fed up with.”

Here are some quick facts on PLAs in MA:

Studies have proven that PLAs increase the cost of construction by significantly decreasing competition. PLAs increase the cost of projects by at least 14 percent, as noted in reports on the subject by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University and the Worcester Municipal Research Bureau. Increased costs due to PLAs vary. For example, Fall River’s PLA increased costs by a range of anywhere from 15 percent to 100 percent over budget on a school building project.

– PLAs require the use of union labor, yet 80 percent of the construction workforce in Massachusetts is non-union, or open shop, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported at the independent website, [Note: Organized labor relies on its own, self-reported data, which is not independently verified by a government agency or an independent third party.]

– PLAs circumvent the intention of the public bidding law by restricting competition and increasing costs, and by steering work to political supporters instead of allowing a fair and open bidding process under which the lowest bidding, qualified firm wins the contract.

– PLAs and other union-only construction policies are opposed by minority-owned construction firms and create “an environment of economic apartheid,” in the words of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

In a recent Suffolk University/7News poll, 69% of likely Massachusetts voters opposed the use of requirements to hire only from union halls on state projects.

– Boston’s Big Dig multi-billion dollar cost overun boondoggle was built with a PLA.

This website is no longer functioning, but it’s sentiment and message are still relevant to UMass students and Mass. taxpayers today. Enough is enough.

Big Dig Car Wash


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