Gov. Branstad Determined to Enforce Open Competition Executive Order on Cedar Rapids Convention Center Project

2 February 11, 2011  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s recent executive order to prohibit the use of wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements on construction projects funded by taxpayer dollars is facing its first real test.

The Cedar Rapids City Council voted 5-4 on Tuesday, Feb. 8 to move forward with a PLA requirement for the construction of the city’s new $75 million convention center.  This decision runs contrary to Gov. Branstad’s executive order banning PLAs on state funded work and puts $15 million in state I-JOBS funding for the project in jeopardy, as the governor has publicly stated his intention make sure that his open competition executive order is enforced on this project.

Here are the highlights from The Gazette’s coverage of the issue:

Gov. Terry Branstad this morning fired back at Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, with the governor saying that he intended to enforce his executive order that prohibits state funds to go to construction projects which come with project labor agreements.

“That is the law,” Branstad said in a comment at the Capitol on Wednesday morning. “That is the order I signed. We do intend to enforce it.

“… The fact of the matter is we have said we are not going to release state dollars if there is a project labor agreement because they are now prohibited.”

Here at, we encourage Gov. Branstad to stick to his guns on this issue.  We also do not believe that the construction process is too far along to remove the PLA requirements.

Additionally, we were also turned off by comments made by Council member and former Hawkeye Labor Council President Justin Shields, who was quoted as saying that the council shouldn’t give in to “fear and speculation.”

Gov. Branstad isn’t trying to scare anyone and there is little room for speculation.  The fact is that this project is not so far along that the PLA cannot be removed.  Additionally, it is highly likely that moving forward with a PLA mandate will result in significant delays, either because Cedar Rapids will be forced to make up the loss in state funding or endure litigation.  These are the facts, not threats or speculations.

None of these outcomes are good for the people of Iowa.  By removing this PLA mandate, the convention center project moves forward, taxpayers get the best product at the best price and the 85 percent of Iowa’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor organization will have the opportunity to build this project.

One other interesting note about this story is that this project is subject to federal Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage requirements.  In addition to guaranteeing that workers on this project will receive hyper-inflated wages, it shows that there is more than $2,000 of federal funding for this project.  As a result, this PLA requirement would also have been prohibited by Executive Order 13202, issued by President George W. Bush in 2001, which prohibited PLAs on federal and federally-assisted construction.

With so much attention going to the sections of President Obama’s Executive Order 13502 that encourage PLAs on federal projects costing more than $25 million, it is also important to remember that President Obama’s order also allows Big Labor to push for PLAs on federally-assisted projects at the state and local level, like the Cedar Rapids Convention Center.

Note: The Chicago Tribune also covered this story.

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2 Responses to Gov. Branstad Determined to Enforce Open Competition Executive Order on Cedar Rapids Convention Center Project

alex February 12, 2011 at 10:38 pm

wow, you guys really seem to hate the idea of working people making a decent living. considering the incomes of construction workers are smack dab in the middle, it makes one think that you guys just plain old hate the middle class

Ben Brubeck February 13, 2011 at 1:53 pm

On the contrary, we are trying to create middle class jobs for ALL construction trade professionals – not just construction union members. As you probably read on this website, unions use PLAs as a tool to create jobs exclusively for union members. The construction industry faces 22.5 percent unemployment. Shouldn’t ALL qualified construction tradespeople, regardless of whether they belong to a union, have a fair shot to compete for jobs created by their own tax dollars?

You can’t build a middle class by having the government pick winners and losers.

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