An editorial in today’s Lancaster Intelligencer Journal supports Wednesday’s passage of legislation by Lancaster County Commissioners that will help taxpayers get the best possible construction product at the best possible price. The measure prohibits Lancaster County from mandating anti-competitive and costly government-mandated project labor agreement (PLA) schemes that have been harming Pennsylvania’s construction industry and Keystone taxpayers thanks to backroom deals cut between Big Labor and their cronies in public office (“A preemptory action on PLAs,” 1/28/11):
At a time when people want a return to civility and pleasant political discourse, “preemptive strike,” a military term, may not be the appropriate one to describe the county commissioners’ move this week on Project Labor Agreements. But that’s exactly what it was.
The commissioners voted 2-1 on Wednesday to outlaw PLAs, onerous agreements that require contractors whether they are unionized or not to subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order to work on government-funded construction projects.
Commissioners Scott Martin and Dennis Stuckey, who make up the Republican majority, voted as they did, even though they can’t recall county government ever participating is such mandatory unionism.
Still, Martin, the commissioners’ chairman, said PLAs are making inroads in other areas of the state, and it’s only a matter of time before they reach us.
So, what do Martin and Stuckey have against PLAs?
They say PLAs discourage participation by non-union construction companies, which employ the vast majority of construction workers in Pennsylvania.
The projects, themselves, end up costing more, and that means more money is taken out of taxpayers’ wallets, the officials contend.
“I believe it is important that this action (ordinance) be taken to preserve fair and competitive costs for taxpayers and to offer a process that doesn’t exclude 85 percent of the work force from competing for government projects,” says Martin.
The new law not only covers county projects, but municipal projects that receive county grants.
Labor unions defend PLAs as a way to ensure a skilled labor force that does high-quality work, but the point is debatable. The fact is, the PLAs are more about protecting union jobs and those of high-paid union bosses.
Commissioner Craig Lehman, a Democrat, sided with those union bosses, calling the new law political pandering.
“We have plenty of important issues here in Lancaster County that we need to work on. This (majority commissioners’ action) is a public relations maneuver to create press on how to deal with PLAs at the state and federal level, and I just find it inappropriate,” says Lehman.
Lehman may be on to something: PLAs were embraced by the previous administration (Democratic) in Harrisburg. Now that we have a Republican governor and Republican-controlled House and Senate, PLAs’ days may be numbered.
The union bosses apparently won’t take the county’s action lying down. They talking about a possible court challenge, believing the new law “discriminates” against contractors that employ union workers.
It is unions and their legislative toadies who seek to discriminate by forbidding non-union workers from government jobs.
The new county ordinance does just the opposite. It assures that construction contracts remain open to all companies.
That’s something all companies non-union and union can embrace. That’s something Lancaster County taxpayers should support.
However you wish to describe it; “pre-emptive strike” or, in Martin’s words, “proactive action,” the new law is on target.
We agree and applaud Lancaster County residents for electing officials who stand up to costly special interests and put taxpayers and fair competition first.
In 2011, taxpayers and the construction industry can expect and should encourage leaders across the country to stand up for what is right and advance similar legislation and initiatives.