Preserve Open Competition in Nebraska
Union bosses have opened a new front in their continuing effort to deny taxpayers value and accountability on public construction projects. Big Labor’s latest target is the Haymarket Arena project in Lincoln, Nebraska.
As we reported last week, University of Nebraska Regent Tim Clare urged the board that will oversee the construction of this $344 million arena not to require contractors to sign a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) as a condition of working on this project.
The Nebraska Journal Star covered this developing situation in greater detail in their June 18 article, “Union battle brewing over Haymarket arena contracts.”
Here are some highlights (Our emphasis added):
On one side: the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Independent Business Association and nonunion construction groups.
On the other: labor unions.
And in the middle: Mayor Chris Beutler and City Councilwoman Jayne Snyder, two of three people who serve on a board overseeing financing and construction of the $344 million project.
Beutler and Snyder were elected with strong support from unions: Beutler received more than $40,000 in campaign contributions from construction unions and Snyder, $8,000.
Already, this looks like it could be a case of a PLA as political payback to Big Labor.
Here is more from the Lincoln Journal Star‘s article:
One of the leaders of the national movement against the agreements is Associated Builders & Contractors Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based group of contractors that employ nonunion workers. Dick Johnson, president of the Nebraska ABC chapter, is pushing Lincoln not to use the agreements for the arena project.
The issue ignited in Lincoln a few weeks ago, when a union asked the mayor’s office to consider using a project labor agreement for the arena and ABC got wind of it.
Johnson said his group and individual members were ardent supporters of the arena, approved in May by voters, but “if we’d have had an inkling up front” there was any possibility a labor agreement might be used, “there’d have been a lot of questions asked.”
Johnson said a private company such as Toyota can use a labor agreement if it wants, “but when there’s tax dollars involved, everyone should have equal opportunity to do a project.”
If a labor agreement is used, he said, most arena workers would come from out of town because there is no unionized general contractor based in Lincoln and few union construction shops in Lincoln.
The full Journal Star article covers all sides of this issue well and is worth reading.
One important point to remember is that just over 12 percent of Nebraska’s private construction workforce is unionized. In addition to restricting the ability of nearly 90 percent of the state’s workers to compete for this project, a PLA on the Haymarket Arena project means that taxpayers will be forced to pay up to an additional 18 percent premium that result from eliminating the majority of the competition for this project.
Construction work should be awarded to contractors based on their ability to provide the best product, at the best price. Period. Union handouts have no place on projects funded by taxpayers. We strongly urge the University of Nebraska, Lincoln city officials and state leaders to say NO to these costly special interest handouts.
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we will report on this situation as it develops.