The Truth About PLAs Exposed During DC Council Hearing

0 July 1, 2010  State & Local Construction

The D.C. Council committees on Housing and Workforce Development and Government Operations held a joint hearing on June 30 to consider the District Resident Employment and Trade Stimulus Amendment Act of 2010 (Bill 18-650).

DC Government

This bill would require the use of wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) on all projects costing more than $200,000 that receive some form of support from the District.

Coupled with President Obama’s pro-PLA Executive Order 13502, which encourages federal agencies to funnel federal construction contracts exceeding $25 million to Big Labor, this D.C. legislation, if passed, will ensure that union contractors and union members have a monopoly on almost all public construction in the District of Columbia.

One of the most important moments of this nearly nine hour marathon hearing came at 2:12:40 in this hearing video (here is a link to the hearing witness list), when Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) questions PLA proponents and spokespeople from construction trade unions how local DC residents get jobs through union hiring halls.

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The line of questioning prompted PLA proponent and construction trade union attorney Gerard Waites to expose the discriminatory nature of PLAs on local construction workers seeking employment through union hiring halls.

Gerard M. Waites, Construction Trades Union Attorney

Waites testifies:

Minutes later, Cheh’s questioning forces Waites to admit that once an employee joins a union, they are prohibited from working for nonunion contractors unless they give up their union card and forfeit pension contributions earned on the life of a PLA project that are sent to the union-managed pension plans.

Testimony like this exposes the true purpose of wasteful and anti-competitive government-mandated PLA schemes: Big Labor needs the government to create a false choice for local and qualified nonunion employees. Victimized workers are forced to choose between being reqired to join and pay dues and pension contributions to a construction trade union or not work at all.  With just 12 percent of the District of Columbia’s private construction workforce belonging to a labor union, it is easy to see how this false choice would harm the employment opportunities for DC residents.

This supports the conclusion of a March 31 report on government-mandated PLAs, “The Problem with PLAs in the District of Columbia,” which finds that, “In the context of the current construction economy, government PLA mandates appear likely to have a destabilizing impact on an already depressed industry in the District of Columbia, leading to reduced employment of local residents and considerable harm to small and disadvantaged businesses.”

“The Problem with PLAs in the District of Columbia,” Anirban Basu (April, 2010)

Obviously, will continue to watch this anti-competitive and harmful measure with close interest.  We hope that D.C. Council members heard enough yesterday to know that this bill is just an attempt to bolster Big Labor’s pocketbook at the expense of D.C. taxpayers and residents seeking good paying jobs.

Also, check out the following media stories for more information:

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