In a win for the taxpayers of Ohio, the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) has officially decided not to require contractors to enter into a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) in order to work on the construction of two new dormitories for the Ohio Schools for the Blind and Deaf.
While this development is not wholly unexpected, it is still a huge win for Ohio taxpayers, who deserve value for their public construction dollars, and the 76 percent of the Ohio construction workforce that choose not to join a labor union.
This decision by the schools comes on the heels of the recent controversy surrounding 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 PLAs and repeated displays of misfeasance in carrying out his duties.
Here are the highlights from Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Ohio’s Oct. 1 press release announcing the OSFC decision:
ABC FORCES STATE TO DROP PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENT
Columbus, OH – The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), following intense pressure from ABC, dropped the project labor agreement (PLA) on the Ohio School for the Deaf and School for the Blind (OSDB) dormitory construction package. Bid packages will be issued in the next week and bids will be opened four weeks later. The academic buildings construction phase will be postponed until the cost savings from the dormitory construction can be evaluated.
In April OSFC Director Richard Murray announced he would impose a PLA for the $28 million project which included academic buildings and residential dormitories. That decision touched off a firestorm of opposition from ABC of Ohio.
Director Murray claimed bidding would be brisk and the PLA would not adversely affect the cost of the project. He was wrong on both accounts. After two bid extensions to drum up more bidders, the few bids received were 41% over budget (or $11 million).
The state hired construction manager interviewed the many companies who purchased plans with the intent to bid but did not. Their response was loud and clear. The last minute addition of the PLA kept them from bidding.
ABC chapters in Ohio have also been using a radio ad campaign to educate the public about the wasteful impact of Murray’s effort to pressure school districts into requiring PLAs. Learn more about this radio campaign in our earlier post.
The Columbus Dispatch covered the OSFC decision on Saturday, Oct. 2 (“New Bids Sought for Construction of Deaf, Blind Schools,” 12/2/10). Here is an excerpt:
Reversing course on using a controversial project-labor agreement, the panel decided Thursday to seek new bids on the costlier-than-expected undertaking.
Commission Director Richard Murray was harshly criticized in an August report by Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles. The probe said that Murray, a former union official hired about a year ago, should not have negotiated and signed a project-labor agreement to use union labor to build the deaf and blind school buildings, which were initially expected to cost $34 million.
The labor agreement would have resulted in payments possibly topping $145,000 to a union local of which Murray is a member and to the Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, which Murray directed for 12 years. The report criticized Murray for creating the appearance of impropriety.
At the time, Gov. Ted Strickland’s spokeswoman, Amanda Wurst, said there was no wrongdoing because Murray would not have benefited personally.
Critics said the commission’s original requirement for union labor caused construction bids to exceed cost estimates by 41 percent.
The OSFC made the right decision. The PLA requirement included in the first set of bid requirements was nothing more than an $11 million handout to Big Labor, a politically connected special interest group. This is a huge win for Ohio taxpayers.
Visit our earlier posts for more information on this controversy.