WSJ Recognizes ABC Efforts To Fight Crony Contracting

0 June 23, 2010  Federal Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore wrote in yesterday’s Political Diary, via FlashReport (“Unions on the Run in the Golden State,” 6/22):

It’s rare these days for unions to suffer a political setback, but the California election results in early June were a big defeat. Now a business group that played a key role in the battle is ready to expand its efforts.

The Associated Builders and Contractors spearheaded a successful effort in two California cities to rein in rules that require union labor on state construction projects. Now the group is aiming to repeat its success statewide. “We want to see if we can stop these project labor agreements for the entire state of California,” ABC spokesman Brett McMahon, who also runs a construction firm, tells me. “What we learned from the ballot initiatives in Chula Vista and Oceanside is that people get it. They understand the costs to these forced union agreements.”

Those two cities, both of which voted heavily for President Obama in 2008, enacted “right to work” measures with 56% and 54% of the vote correspondingly. Under existing rules, workers who are hired for government construction contracts give up their right to choose whether they want to join the union. ABC says that its studies estimate that such union-subsidizing provisions raise construction costs by “18 to 20%,” which means higher taxes. Workers also have to pay union dues and make contributions to pension programs that almost none will draw upon because of the short-term nature of most projects.

A handful of states have repealed such “project labor agreements.” PLAs have been banned by gubernatorial executive order in Minnesota and Arkansas. Legislatures in Utah, Missouri and Montana have also acted to ban or partially ban these pro-union agreements.

But California is ground zero in the fight. Business groups have successfully placed an initiative on the November ballot in San Diego to outlaw PLAs. The strategy for the state as a whole is to help elect pro-business Republican Meg Whitman to the governorship in November. “We hope Whitman might sign an order to overturn project labor agreements,” says Mr. McMahon.

The purported purpose of PLAs is to prevent work stoppages and labor strife on high-priority public construction projects. ABC says that issue is a red herring because work stoppages on government construction projects are “very rare, only once in the last decade that we could find.” The real purpose is to expand the power and purse of organized labor. This is why President Obama signed an executive order last spring requiring PLAs on federal contracts of more than $25 million. “It’s a backdoor way to get to union ‘card check’ and forced union workforces,” maintains Mr. McMahon.

That’s why the fight over PLAs is likely to move from the states to the national stage before long.

ABC will continue to fight against discriminatory and costly government-mandated project labor agreements(PLAs).

Join the fight and help educate lawmakers, the media, taxpayers and the construction industry about the benefits of free and open competition and the perils of crony PLA contracting.

Learn more about the Chula Vista, Calif. Prop G here.

Learn more about the Oceanside, Calif. Prop K here.

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