Boston Herald: End Unpopular Pacts

0 August 1, 2011  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Boston Herald published another editorial opposed to government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) last week. It longed for the day Mass. officials enact legislation ensuring that all qualified contractors and their skilled employees have a fair opportunity to compete and win state-funded construction contracts (“End Unpopular Pacts,” 7/27/11):

The Wall Street Journal recently tallied up the growing number of state and local governments that are rejecting demands for project labor agreements on public construction projects.

No surprise, Massachusetts wasn’t on the list. readers can learn more here about recently enacted state legislation, such as Michigan’s S.B. 165, which curtails anti-competitive and costly government-mandated PLAs on state-funded projects in Michigan.  The red states in this map have enacted legislation or similar executive orders curtailing government-mandated PLAs.

More from the Boston Herald editorial:

Project labor agreements steer public construction work to union shops in exchange for a guarantee of labor “harmony.” Union leaders argue that they guarantee skilled workers and safe working conditions on taxpayer-funded projects.

But in practical terms, they box out non-union companies (whose tradespeople are of course licensed by the state and must comply with all workplace safety rules), drive up public construction project costs and allow union-friendly politicians to curry favor with organized labor.

Perhaps the most offensive example in Massachusetts of late is the decision to require a PLA on a 10-year, $750 million capital plan at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, a decision backed by the Patrick administration. No non-union shops need apply for any of that work over the next decade.

As the Journal noted, Louisiana has passed a law prohibiting state entities from mandating PLAs. Tennessee, Arizona and Idaho have passed similar legislation. Maine Gov. Paul LePage this month signed a bill guaranteeing open competition on state building projects through 2015, while Utah, Montana, Missouri and Arkansas already have similar laws.

These measures don’t prohibit the use of union labor, and isn’t necessary to prohibit PLAs altogether.

But by preventing local and state government agencies from making these agreements mandatory, they can level the playing field. We can dream, can’t we?

With PLA-friendly Democrats entrenched in Beacon Hill, the Herald’s editorial board might have to wait until after the results of the 2014 gubernatorial election is announced before they can start whistling Hall & Oates:

The editorial is correct, such a measure would benefit Mass. taxpayers, qualifed contractors and their experienced nonunion employees who compose 84.4 percent of the Bay State’s 2010 private construction workforce. It will encourage full and open competition from both union and nonunion firms and permit contractors to use PLAs on a voluntary basis.

Anti-government-mandated PLA legislation will ensure fairness and neutrality in government contracting and helps taxpayers get the best possible product at the best possible price.

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