Baltimore Community Partnership Agreement (PLA) Bill Gets a Hearing

0 July 30, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Baltimore City Council held a hearing Thursday, July 29 to examine local legislation (Bill 10-0455) that would require community partnership agreements – also known as wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) – on all construction projects costing more than $5 million and that have some form of city financial support.

Here is an excerpt from the Baltimore Sun’s coverage (“Pro-union Bill Goes Up for Debate,” 7/29) of the hearing:

Critics said the bill would encourage the city to hire union-friendly contractors from surrounding jurisdictions.

“There are not enough union members in this town,” said Mike Henderson, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors. He said the bill would “punish local business” and favor “a small but powerful interest group.”

Pless B. Jones Sr., owner of P&J Contracting and president of the Maryland Minority Contractor Association, agreed.

“The city can’t put a monopoly on work,” Jones said. He said the bill would “eliminate small business” and “increase the costs to do work” in an already difficult economy.

But Wyatt Watson Sr., owner of BMW Cleaning Solutions, said that “as a minority subcontractor, I believe this equalizes the playing field with me and large contractors,” who he said are more likely to win bids because they ship in outside employees.

Under the legislation, companies entering into contracts with the city worth more than $5 million would be required to seek workers first from local union halls, and only open the hiring pool to others after two business days, according to the bill.

Lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano warned that the bill would create “a union monopoly.”

“Let’s build a wall around Baltimore City,” he said, saying that it is unfair for the city to object to outside workers but ask residents from elsewhere in the state to spend money in the city.

“We are a free state. We should have mobility,” he said. “Unions should compete in the marketplace with everyone else.”

This hearing comes on the heels of the July 23 release of a Baltimore City Solicitor’s office opinion slamming the proposed legislation.

Assistant Solicitor Ashley H. Brown’s opinion shoots down the bill for the following reasons:

  1. The Local Hiring Preference language in the bill violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution.
  2. The bill interferes with the City’s Charter-mandated procurement process.
  3. The bill’s “blanket PLA requirement language” is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act.
  4. The bill’s mandate that contractors on covered projects use union hiring halls as their primary source of labor restricts a private employer’s right to select employees.

This proposed legislation is a bad deal for the local construction industry and taxpayers.  In addition to guaranteeing that construction costs on almost all significant city projects go up by about 20 percent, this bill will only create opportunities for union members – at the expense of Baltimore’s skilled workforce.

If you live in Baltimore City, contact your city council members and tell them to say NO to this wasteful and discriminatory legislation.

Visit our earlier posts to learn more about wasteful and discriminatory PLAs in Baltimore City.

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