Op-Ed: State’s Union-Friendly Deals Unfair, Too Costly
In an op-ed published in the June 19 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette titled, “State’s Union-Friendly Deals Unfair, too Costly,” Stephen R. Campbell and Vicki Craft Kearns present a well-written overview of the project labor agreement (PLA) issue in Pennsylvania and nationwide. The op-ed also does an excellent job laying out how Big Labor’s support of political officials and liberal think tanks leads them to ultimately promote PLAs.
Here are the highlights (Our emphasis and links added):
There is good reason to be concerned about the viability of Pennsylvania’s merit shop construction contractors and employees in this tough economic climate, where one in four construction workers is unemployed.
A few years ago, Gov. Ed Rendell promised his political supporters in the Pennsylvania construction unions that the Department of General Services would require contractors to sign project labor agreements (PLAs) that require the use of union labor in order to participate in more than $800 million of upcoming state correctional institution construction work.
This promise was a condition of a deal between DGS and the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trade Council, in which the council promised to support the prison construction appropriation through the state Legislature in exchange for government-mandated PLAs on the prison work.
This “deal” contained a provision that for individual prisons over $15 million if the Keystone Research Center recommended that a project labor agreement be used, the Department of General Services would require one on the project.
A review of public records reveals the majority of the Keystone Research Center’s 20 board members work for labor unions and that the center received more than $350,000 from organized labor between 2005 and 2008. Of particular note is the fact Frank Sirriani, the Building Construction Trade Council president who signed the letter to the Department of General Services requiring PLAs was a board member of the center.
Even though initial bids on one of the first PLA prison projects were over budget by millions of dollars, Gov. Rendell’s administration keeps fighting to have the project labor agreements attached to these projects.
PLAs hurt quality merit contractors and their loyal employees because they require jobs to be awarded only to contractors who agree to recognize unions as representatives of their employees — without a vote from their existing employees.
These schemes require contractors to hire all or most of their labor from union hiring halls, and the few nonunion employees who may be permitted to work on a PLA project would have to pay union dues.
In addition, contractors would have to pay health and pension benefits twice — once to existing benefit plans and once to the union-managed plans — because nonunion employees wouldn’t benefit from employer contributions to union plans unless they joined a union and became vested in its plan.
Other costs loom as well. Nonunion contractors and employees must follow inefficient union work rules, and nonunion contractors must hire unfamiliar union labor from union hiring halls rather than use their current employees.
Simply put, PLAs stifle competition and increase costs, not just for nonunion contractors and employees, but also for taxpayers. In fact, studies demonstrate that project labor agreements increase costs by up to 18 percent when compared with non-PLA projects, even when both types of projects are subject to prevailing wage laws.
Pennsylvania workers and businesses should demand that these special interest handouts on state construction be stopped. The Open Contracting Act (H.B. 2010), by state Rep. John Bear, R-Lancaster, would prohibit these union-favoring agreements on state and state-funded construction projects.
At the federal level, there is growing support for The Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (S.90/H.R. 983), which would ensure that union and nonunion firms have a level playing field, free from PLAs, to compete for federal and federally assisted construction contracts.
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we couldn’t agree more.
Visit here for more information about costly and discriminatory PLAs in Pennsylvania.