Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Opposes Phase 2 Dulles Metro Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate

0 May 4, 2011  State & Local Construction, Transportation & Infrastructure, Uncategorized

Opposition continues to grow against the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority’s (MWAA) April 6 resolution mandating an anti-competitive and costly project labor agreement (PLA) on Phase 2 of the $3.5 billion Dulles Metro Rail project.

Numerous stakeholders are concerned that a Phase 2 PLA mandate will:

  • Increase Phase 2 construction costs between $300 million and $450 million
  • Reduce competition from qualified Virginia construction firms and further injure Virginia’s depressed construction industry
  • Deny Virginia’s skilled nonunion tradespeople a fair shot at new construction jobs (because the draft Phase 2 PLA forces the use of union labor on Phase 2, it will result in out-of-state union members filling new jobs, as 96 percent of Virginia’s private construction workforce does not belong to a union).

(Review ABC Virginia’s April 21 letter (pdf) to MWAA chair Charles Snelling and previous blog posts about the MWAA PLA controversy here.)

April 29th, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors sent this letter to MWAA, summarizing their concerns about escalating costs on Phase 2 of the Dulles Metro Rail project. It indicates the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors opposes a Phase 2 PLA mandate:

“The use of a mandatory Project Labor Agreement (PLA) will increase labor costs in the Preliminary Engineering Cost estimate. We encourage the Airports Authority to employ a voluntary PLA as was done in Phase 1 of the project to encourage competition among contractors.”

Likewise, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce sent an April 20 letter to MWAA opposing the Phase 2 PLA mandate:

“The decision to implement a mandatory PLA runs contrary to the underpinnings of our economically vibrant Right-to-Work state, which is consistently named as one of the top places to do business in the United States.

The Chamber feels strongly that a mandatory PLA dissuades merit-based employers from participating in the bidding process for Phase II.  By requiring all contractors to adopt the PLA, the proejct will also likely have higher costs and cost overruns.

Eliminating the mandatory PLA requirement would lessen the chance of cost overruns, and these funds can instead be used to fund education, transportation and other critical community services. Open competition, where all contractors submit their best offers, is the only way for a project of this magnitude to serve the public interest. Mandatory PLAs hinder competition in the marketplace.”

The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce sent a similar letter to MWAA April 29 opposed to the Phase 2 PLA mandate:

“The decision to require a mandatory PLA will decrease the opportunity for competitive bidding and may contribute to higher project costs. We believe an open, competitive bidding process will reduce the chance of cost overruns while serving the best interests of all stakeholders.”

In this April 30 column, Penny Pompei, National Executive Director of the Women Construction Owners and Executives, USA (WCOE), calls on the public to oppose the Phase 2 PLA mandate:

“The full MWAA Board meets on Wednesday, May 4th. If you believe in the value of Virginia’s right-to-work laws and heritage and if you believe MWAA is overstepping its designated role, you might want to stand in opposition to the PLA mandate. Once more states’ rights are being put to the test.”

An April 18 Washington Examiner editorial blasted MWAA’s PLA mandate and raised ethical concerns about the behavior of MWAA board member Dennis Martire’s involvement in the board’s controversial decision:

“In addition to freezing out Virginia workers, MWAA’s cavalier disregard of Virginia taxpayers is yet another slap in the face. Worse, MWAA board member Dennis Martire, vice president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, violated MWAA’s own code of ethics by failing to recuse himself from a vote that will likely produce a financial windfall for his employer.”

A 2007 appointee of former governor and current Democratic Senate hopeful Tim Kaine, Martire has been MWAA’s leading advocate for a government-mandated PLA on Phase 2 of the project.

Martire authored this pro-PLA paper, voted for the PLA resolution, spoke in favor of PLAs at MWAA’s full board meetings and the Dulles Corridor committee meetings, and publicly endorsed MWAA member Michael Curto’s(a 2011 Maryland Gov. O’Malley appointee and Patton Boggs attorney chairing the firm’s ERISA and Employee Benefits practice, whose clients include union and government pension and benefit plans identical to plans contractors would be forced to contribute to via the Phase 2 PLA mandate) resolution mandating a Phase 2 PLA.

At the very least, Martire should have excused himself from engaging in this decision, as this self-dealing undermines the public trust given to MWAA; is a common-sense disregard for integrity; and is a direct violation of the code of ethical responsibilities MWAA board members must follow and Virginia conflict of interest laws.

It is time for MWAA board members to reconsider the unethical, costly and anti-competitive Phase 2 PLA mandate and look out for the best interest of Virginia stakeholders and taxpayers.

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