One is the loneliest number for Michigan Congressman Thad McCotter (R), who last week gained the distinction of being the only Republican in the U.S. House or the Michigan Senate to vote in favor of wasteful and discriminatory government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) on public construction.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy covered this issue in Michigan Capital Confidential on June 23. Here are the highlights:
Big Labor bosses seeking protection from non-union competition on government construction jobs had a two-front fight going on last week in both Washington, D.C., and Lansing. Votes to determine the fate of project labor agreements occurred in both the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and the GOP-dominated Michigan Senate. When it was all over, a total of 34 Republican lawmakers from Michigan had cast votes on these legislative battlefields, and just one voted on the side of the labor unions to protect PLAs: Congressman Thad McCotter, R-Livonia.
“A PLA is little more than a mechanism to put non-union construction companies at an unfair disadvantage, and steer government work to unions,” said Paul Kersey, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “If a company wants to bid on a contract, it has to have an agreement with the local unions. Obviously that puts non-union companies in a difficult position.”
On Thursday, June 16, the Michigan Senate voted 26-12 in favor of Senate Bill 165. According to a news release from the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. John Moolenaar of Midland, the proposal would prohibit PLAs in “all public construction contracts using tax dollars.”
The vote was strictly along party lines, with all 26 members of the GOP Senate supermajority voting for the bill and all 12 Senate Democrats voting against.
“Members of the Senate are sending a clear message that they realize that it’s wrong to pick winners and losers based on status instead of merit,” said ABC of Michigan President Chris Fisher in a news release after the vote. “Anti-competitive, government-mandated PLAs are special interest kickback schemes that prevent open, fair and competitive bidding on construction projects.”
ABC expects that the bill will win quick approval in the Michigan House and move to the governor for his signature. But for federal construction projects, it was a different story last week in the GOP-controlled U.S. House.
While 202 Republicans did not vote for LaTourette’s amendment, 26 other Republicans did vote with him to reinstate the President’s policy requiring PLAs. With all but one of the Democrats in the chamber voting with Big Labor to support the LaTourette amendment, it succeeded by just a single vote: 204-203. If any of the 27 Republicans voting for the bill had changed their vote or not voted, the amendment would have failed and the president’s PLA requirement would not have applied to this budget bill.
One of the 27 was Congressman McCotter. He did not respond to an email seeking comment regarding his vote.
This is the second time this year that Rep. McCotter has been on the deciding edge of a vote that promoted PLAs on government projects. In February, another amendment to a different budget would have banned the use of PLAs on federal construction projects. That proposal failed on a 210-210 tie vote. Once again, there were 26 Republicans — including McCotter — standing with Democrats to defend the president’s policy of keeping the PLA requirement in place.
In addition to McCotter, fellow Michigan Republican Candice Miller of Harrison Township also voted with Democrats to protect PLAs during the February amendment. However, on this most recent vote in June, Rep. Miller sided with the majority of Republicans and in opposition to PLAs.
Our friends at the Mackinac Center do an outstanding job of dissecting complex public policy issues. The Labor policy section of Michigan Capital Confidential is available here and is worth a read.
There is one other note from The Mitten. Brett McMahon of ABC member firm Miller & Long Concrete Construction, and frequent spokesperson on behalf of the Halt the Assault campaign discussed the PLA issue on the Live with Renk program on WBCK in Battle Creek. Brett did several outstanding segments on the negative impact of these Big Labor handouts on taxpayers. The clips are available below.