Allegheny County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato (D) criticized the Community College of Allegheny County’s (CCAC) requirement that all bidders for the upcoming construction of a $21 million science building agree to sign a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) with Big Labor as a condition of performing work on this project.
Here’s an excerpt from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Reviews coverage of Onorato’s announcement (“Onorato: CCAC bid limits ‘probably wrong,” 8/15/10) :
“Union, nonunion — everybody has a right to bid,” Onorato told reporters gathered for a news conference on the roof of the County Office Building. “To put a specific percentage on it was probably wrong, and that’s why they were pulled back.”
That means nonunion business owners, in some cases, would have to lay off employees to hire from union halls to qualify for the work.
When asked whether it was the college’s decision to require high union participation or the college was following policies of his office, Onorato speculated that CCAC officials may have looked at “old language” from county guidelines.
The Western Pennsylvania Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors has some thoughts on Mr. Onorato’s recognition that PLA requirements are outdated and “probably wrong.”
Here are the highlights from the chapter’s Aug. 16 press release:
ABC Points Out Additional Projects Where Onorato was “probably wrong”
Pittsburgh, PA – Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Western Pennsylvania are challenging Chief Executive Dan Onorato on more than just the CCAC project and ABC is demanding answers on past practices. In a recent press conference, Chief Executive Dan Onorato stated, “to put a specific percentage on it [project labor agreements] was probably wrong, and that’s why they were pulled back.” Onorato has switched gears since ABC challenged Allegheny County to stop the usage of PLAs on publicly funded projects. Onorato then placed blame on the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) by saying they probably looked at “old language” when writing the bidding proposal. The “old language” used in past practices called for Stabilization Agreements, which did not contain PLAs, contrary to the Chief Executive’s words.
“It’s interesting how the Chief Executive is now against PLAs since receiving pressure from voters,” said Eileen Watt, President of ABC. “Dan Onorato has a history of using unfair bidding practices, cutting out 85% of the construction work-force, and favoring special interests on construction projects. If Onorato is willing to cut out competition, which drives up project costs in Allegheny county, he will do the same for the Commonwealth as Governor,” continued Watt. Allegheny County currently has a $30 million dollar deficit, for which the Chief Executive manages. At a time when the County is seeing a deficit in revenue streams like Three Rivers Casino, additional costs from project labor agreements are wasteful towards taxpayer money.
A sampling of projects which have cut out small businesses by using a PLA include: Kane Hospital last year, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) two months ago, and Hartwood Acres a few weeks ago – all under Onorato’s leadership. ABC calls on Onorato to admit all projects were “probably wrong” and stop PLAs on all future construction projects.
There is no question that Mr. Onorato’s comments are an important development for those defending free enterprise and open competition on taxpayer funded construction in Pennsylvania. It appears that these comments show that Mr. Onorato recognizes the discriminatory nature of PLAs and believes that everyone should have an opportunity to compete for public projects.
We call on Mr. Onorato to clarify his remarks. If he legitimately believes that taxpayer funded construction should be about more than providing handouts to Big Labor and that everyone in the construction industry should have an equal opportunity to compete (not just bid) for public projects, then he should make a strong statement against PLAs and pledge to prohibit government-mandate PLAs on Commonwealth funded projects should he be elected governor.
This is a true test of leadership for Mr. Onorato. This is an opportunity for him to show that he is not beholden to special interest groups, but truly believes that taxpayers should get the best construction for the best price. We encourage him to stand up for Pennsylvania taxpayers and say no to PLAs.