Pittsburgh Area School District Approves Wasteful and Discriminatory PLA Requirement

0 September 1, 2010  School Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Pittsburgh-area Penn Hills School Board this week approved a policy requiring contractors to sign a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) as a condition of working on $150 million worth of upcoming school construction.

Here is an excerpt from Associated Builders and Contractors Western Pennsylvania Chapter’s August 31 press release:


Pittsburgh, PA – At a special meeting last night, the Penn Hills School Board members voted 8-1 in favor of placing a project labor agreement (PLA) on their upcoming $130 million construction project, which goes to bid in a few weeks. The only member to vote against using a PLA and protecting taxpayer money and student education was Margie Krogh. The Board voted without having the final version of the agreement present, neglecting any source of fact-finding. This follows Chief Executive Dan Onorato’s statement earlier in the month that it was “probably wrong” to place PLAs on school projects.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Western Pennsylvania expressed their grave concern over the Board’s decision to place a PLA on this project, and also for abandoning the information process. “This is what we’re fighting for – ensuring everyone is included in the process, which means minority and woman-owned small businesses,” said Eileen Watt, President of ABC. “Penn Hills has made it clear they want to push special interests behind closed doors, and this could result in a potential lawsuit if not rectified,” continued Watt. ABC confirmed they did not know about a PLA being discussed within Penn Hills School District.

“We have to trust school districts to use due diligence before signing agreements,” said Bob Glancy, Chairman of ABC and President of R.A. Glancy & Sons. “It’s unfortunate that Penn Hills is not serving their students and taxpaying citizens as positively as other districts, for example, McKeesport,” continued Glancy. Glancy is referring to a decision in July where the McKeesport Area School District rejected a PLA, 7-2, saving the taxpayers money and offering many opportunities to their diverse group of students, many of whom enter the construction industry and participate in ABC’s school-to-work program.

Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we are starting to sound like a broken record.  At a time where local officials are struggling with declining revenue and historic budget deficits, now is the worst possible time to waste taxpayer dollars on special interest handouts – like PLAs.

One other important point is that the press release above and accounts from the meeting indicate that Penn Hill School Board members didn’t get an opportunity to review the actual PLA their policy requires contractors to sign before working on the $150 million worth of projects.  In other words, the school board approved a requirement that contractors must sign a legally binding contract with Big Labor, but didn’t specify its terms.

This essentially gives Big Labor free reign to stack the PLA with any terms they want.  The contractors – both union and nonunion – have no recourse because the school board has required them to sign a PLA as a condition of working on the project.  If they aren’t willing to acquiesce to Big Labor’s demands, then union bosses refuse to sign the PLA and the contractors involved can’t work.  Situations like this are the primary reason many union contractors oppose PLAs.

Public construction projects should be about giving taxpayers the highest quality products at the best price.  Always.  PLA requirements make this objective nearly impossible to achieve.  Numerous studies show that PLAs increase construction costs by as much as 18 percent and discriminate against the 85 percent of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union.

If you live in the Penn Hill School District, contact your school board members and tell them NO to wasteful and discriminatory PLAs.

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