Data Shows Project Labor Agreement on Phase 2 of Silver Line Could Hurt Virginia’s Construction Industry

0 May 18, 2012  Federal Construction, State & Local Construction, Transportation & Infrastructure

New evidence suggests a union-favoring project labor agreement (PLA) on Phase 1 of the Silver Line Metrorail project may be responsible for the creation of fewer jobs for Virginia’s construction workforce.

Dulles Transit Partners (DTP), the prime contractor building Phase 1 of the Silver Line, recently shared data with the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA), the board overseeing the rail project, that indicates the PLA DTP voluntarily entered into has negatively affected the number of Virginia construction tradespeople employed on Phase 1 of the $2.8 billion project.

Lawmakers and representatives of Virginia’s construction industry have good reason to be concerned about the impact of MWAA’s controversial PLA preference and PLA mandate policy on job creation in the state, where 97.4 percent of the construction workforce does not belong to a union.

A report presented at the May 16 MWAA board meeting stated approximately 52 percent of the Phase 1 craft workers employed in March 2012 were DTP employees. These tradespeople were hired through union hiring halls designated in the PLA DTP voluntarily executed for Phase 1. Of those employees, data revealed the majority were non-local craft workers from Maryland and other states (351 out of 601 DTP craftworkers, or 58.4 percent), despite the fact the project is located in Virginia.

Our analysis comes from this DTP data.

In contrast, Phase 1 subcontractors were not required to sign a PLA, and MWAA and DTP have not provided evidence that any Phase 1 subcontractors voluntarily signed a PLA.  DTP’s report shows Phase 1 subcontractors employed fewer out-of state craft workers (244 out of 547, or 44.6 percent) compared to DTP’s PLA craft workforce in March 2012.

That means Virginia’s construction workforce is more likely to be hired without a PLA.

A DTP report presented to MWAA in February 2012 on the residency of Phase 1 craft workers from December 2011 reached similar conclusions.

Construction labor unions and PLA proponents often claim PLAs guarantee local jobs, but the latest evidence suggests that is not true for Phase 1.  A voluntary Phase 1 PLA has not resulted in an onslaught of Virginia hiring.

Given this evidence, Virginia public officials should be concerned about similar anemic Virginia job creation if Phase 2 is subject to any of these three possible options on the table for Phase 2: a PLA mandated by MWAA; a bid-rigged PLA preference mandated by MWAA; or a voluntary PLA entered into by the winning prime contractor.

Is it fair for other states to derive job growth from this project considering it is funded by Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Dulles Toll Road users (predominantly Virginia drivers)?

Update: The Washington Examiner reported on this angle (“Virginia, Maryland workers split Dulles Rail jobs,” 05/21/12).

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