No Union Advantage, Gov. Patrick?

0 July 8, 2010  School Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

h/t Red Mass Group

The Boston Herald editorial board summarized this doublespeak nicely (“A Labored Response,” 7/8):

Gov. Deval Patrick yesterday seemed baffled by the notion that unions have any advantage in the competition for certain public construction jobs. He should read his own public comments more closely.

During his monthly radio appearance on WTKK yesterday a caller asked why unions get preference on public building projects, seemingly a reference to a recent decision by the UMass Building Authority to authorize a “project labor agreement” on the overhaul of the UMass-Boston campus.

“What advantage is being given to union contractors on public jobs?” Patrick fired back at the caller.

Well, let’s see.

UMass-Boston plans to launch $750 million worth of building projects over the next 10 years.

Bids will be restricted to those contractors who agree to abide by the terms of a PLA – those who agree to hire workers through union halls, pay union wages and abide by union work rules.

In effect, that means non-union plumbers, masons, painters, plasterers, electrical contractors, etc. need not apply.

Advantage: unions.

Patrick knows all this, of course. In a March speech to the Building Trades Conference he crowed about his administration’s efforts to put union labor back to work, the near-monopoly that unions had on a $300 million state hospital project in Worcester, and announced his order that, going forward, PLAs would be used when necessary.

Yesterday he seemed to downplay all of that, noting that there is “only one PLA in place right now.” But that one PLA is worth three-quarters of a billion dollars, which buys a whole lot of man hours for idle workers. And if Patrick has his way there will be many more PLAs to come.

To exclude a majority of Bay State building tradespeople from those jobs is bad policy. To deny anything’s amiss is just predictable politics.

Visit our earlier posts for more information on Gov. Patrick’s efforts to steer crony contracts to his political allies.

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