Loudoun County Supervisors, Herndon Mayor Oppose Project Labor Agreement on Phase 2 of Dulles Metro Rail

0 May 20, 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.

In the past two weeks, Loudoun County Supervisors and Herndon Mayor Steve DeBenedittis publicly opposed the Phase 2 PLA mandate.

They have joined a number of local government bodies and stakeholders with concerns 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).

(To read how a Phase 2 PLA mandate will harm Virginia businesses and taxpayers, please review ABC Virginia’s April 21 letter (pdf) to MWAA chair Charles Snelling and previous blog posts about the MWAA PLA controversy here.)

The Loudon Times reported May 17th that the Loudon County Board of Supervisors (“Loudoun supervisors: Localities should have representation on airports board,” 5/17/11):

 “…agreed to draft a letter to the MWAA board officially objecting to a plan that would require a project labor agreement, or PLA, for Phase 2 of the Dulles Rail Project.

A PLA would add another $300 million in labor costs to the project, according to Louodoun Chairman Scott York (I-At Large).”

Herndon Mayor Steve DeBenedittis sent this May 4th letter to MWAA, which expressed concerns about the Phase 2 PLA mandate:

“In maintaining the cost control and potential cost impacts to toll road users, the Town of Herndon also requests that MWAA reconsider use of a mandatory Project Labor Agreement.  The Project Labor Agreement for Phase 2 may add additional costs to the project and therby costs to the users of the Toll Road.  Any positive benefits of the mandatory Phase 2 Project Labor Agreement can be achieved through other means.”

A must-read piece by Washington Examiner local opinion editor Barbara Hollingsworth places the blame for the MWAA board’s wild spending and poor decision-making on former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and addresses growing opposition to the Phase 2 PLA (“Dulles Rail: Call it Kaine’s Katastrophe,” 5/17/11): 

“Supervisors in Fairfax and Loudoun counties are balking at MWAA’s decision to increase construction costs by building an underground airport station, and increase labor costs with a project labor agreement that will steer most of the project’s construction jobs to non-Virginians. Kaine appointee Dennis Martire voted for the PLA despite his obvious conflict of interest as a labor union vice president.”

Read more about opposition to the Phase 2 PLA mandate from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Women Construction Owners and Executives, USA (WCOE) and Washington Examiner after the jump.

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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