There is an old adage that the best weapon against wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) is sunshine. This has once again proven true, this time in Ohio.
Officials from the Ohio Schools For the Blind and For the Deaf have agreed to drop a PLA requirement that had been imposed on the upcoming construction of a nearly $30 million dormitory. School officials are also reconsidering whether to require a PLA on the future construction of the schools’ academic buildings as well.
As we reported in August. the dormitory project was considered a test case for the impact of PLAs on bid costs. Unsurprisingly, bids came back nearly 41 percent over the $28 million budgeted for this project. This project will be re-bid without the PLA mandate, which will provide a great real world example of the impact of PLAs on bid prices.
This decision by the schools comes on the heels of the recent controversy surrounding Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) Executive Director Richard Murray. Regular readers remember that the Ohio Inspector General’s (IG) office released a scathing report on August 5 that brought OSFC E.D. and former Laborers official Richard Murray’s efforts to promote Big Labor’s agenda to light. The IG’s report outlines Murray’s advocacy for union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) and repeated displays of misfeasance in carrying out his duties.
This investigation and subsequent report was triggered by accusations from several local school officials that Murray not only used his position to pressure school districts into requiring PLAs on school projects, but also allowed union goons to berate local school officials until they agreed to Big Labor’s demands.
More information on the IG’s report and the numerous editorial boards that have called for Murray’s resignation are available in our earlier posts.
The Columbus NBC affiliate picked up the story of the Ohio Schools for the Deaf and Blind dropping the PLA mandate for the dorms (“Union Labor Requirement Dropped As Deaf, Blind Schools Project Moves Forward,” 9/16/10). Here are the highlights.
Administrators from both schools agreed to plan at a meeting at the Ohio School Facilities Commission on Thursday. The joint construction project carried an estimated price of $28.2 million before bidding this summer. The lowest bids came back at a combined cost of $39.6 million, 41 percent over the estimates. The project’s union labor requirement was blamed by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio, which represents non-union contractors.
The blind and deaf schools project is surrounded by a larger controversy inside the OSFC over the issue of labor union preference. In August, an Ohio Inspector General report chastised OSFC Executive Director Richard Murray for “abusing his authority” and favoring unions in school construction projects. Murray denied the charge.
Learn more about the OSFC controversy in our earlier posts.