Bids for Maryland’s Cheltenham Juvenile Detention Center Tainted by Big Labor Favoritism

0 November 11, 2011  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Today the ABC Maryland Joint Legislative Committee issued this release in response to the Maryland Department of General Services’ (DGS) decision to include a provision in a Nov. 11, 2011, request for proposal (RFP) regarding a juvenile detention center in Cheltenham, Md. (Prince George’s County) that unfairly favors construction managers (CMs) promising to mandate a project labor agreement (PLA) on contractors building the estimated $48 million project (Follow solicitation online here).

Maryland’s merit shop employees and businesses will be locked out from a $48 million jail project because of the O’Malley administration’s favoritism towards Big Labor.

This is the first time Maryland DGS has included a pro-PLA provision in any RFP for a state-funded construction project. DGS included the use of a PLA in the technical evaluation portion of this RFP to reward firms that use a PLA and penalize firms that don’t. The PLA will be one of several factors evaluated to determine a CM at risk for a project using Maryland’s best value procurement process.

CMs agreeing to mandate a PLA on contractors and subcontractors will receive preferential treatment (i.e., extra credit) and are almost 100 percent guaranteed to win this contract against CMs unwilling to mandate a PLA. In short, it is a de facto PLA mandate.

The DGS’ “bonus for PLA” system is modeled off a policy adopted by the U.S. General Services Administration resulting from President Obama’s Feb. 6, 2009, pro-PLA Executive Order 13502, which encourages federal agencies to mandate PLAs on a case-by-case basis for federal construction projects exceeding $25 million in total cost.

The GSA’s PLA preference policy has resulted in increased costs, delays and other problems, such as those exposed in a U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing earlier this summer.

Union contractors and union construction workers benefiting from special interest PLAs continue to receive a considerable advantage when competing for federal contracts to build taxpayer-funded GSA construction projects. Numerous GSA projects have been awarded to contractors submitting PLA bids at the expense of qualified firms opposed to PLA mandates. Full and open competition has been curtailed in violation of federal law. Taxpayer dollars have been wasted, and skilled nonunion craft professionals have been denied jobs as a result of this needless policy.

Does Maryland really want to copy this failed policy from the federal government?

Maryland’s taxpayers, businesses and construction industry deserve better.


RFP discriminates against 90% of the construction workforce which has chosen not to join a union

November 11, 2011 – The O’Malley Administration’s decision to favor union labor on the construction of a new juvenile detention center in Prince George’s County will “have a negative impact on local hiring and inflates the cost of the project,” said Mike Burlas with Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

ABC represents more than 1,600 construction and construction-related firms in four different chapters in Maryland and is the largest such organization in the state.

The State is seeking Requests for Proposals from interested contractors to provide ‘Construction Management at Risk’ services for the construction of the $48 million center to be located in Cheltenham, Maryland. Contained within the RFP is a stipulation that the project will be built exclusively with union labor. According to the RFP, proposals that do not include such a promise could be disqualified.

“We are very disappointed in the Administration’s actions,” said Burlas. “There’s never a good time to shut out local businesses and workers, but with construction unemployment at near-record highs, the timing couldn’t be worse.”

Burlas, chairman of ABC’s Joint Legislative Committee, pointed out that since more than 90% of Maryland’s construction workforce has chosen not to belong to a union, a great number of the workers on this project are going to have to come from outside the state.

“That’s precisely what happened when the District of Columbia agreed to build the National’s baseball stadium with a union-only project labor agreement (PLA). Even though (the unions) promised the City that the majority of the workers would be from the District, most of the workers were, in fact, from outside the area, including many from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.”

Moreover, minority and women-owned contractors, the overwhelming majority of which are nonunion, are going to be particularly hurt by this action, Burlas said.

Burlas also pointed out that union-only construction also drives up the cost of the project. According to a number of independent studies, PLAs increase the cost of construction by 10-20%. “The unions will dispute this, but you don’t have to be an economist to figure out that when you eliminate 90% of the competition, the price is going to go up.”

For more information, contact Debbie Schoonmaker, President, ABC of Metro Washington, (301) 595-9711, Calverton, Md.


ABC of Metro Washington represents the interests of more than 500 contractors, specialty contractors, and suppliers throughout the Washington metropolitan area who support and believe in the principles of merit shop and open competition. Merit Shop is a way of doing business in which companies reward employees based on performance while encouraging them to reach their highest level of achievement, and in which contracts are awarded based on safety, quality and value—regardless of labor affiliation

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