Updated: ABC Hawaii Chapter Blasts Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s PLA Directive

0 May 29, 2012  School Construction, State & Local Construction


This afternoon, TheTruthAboutPLAs.com received a copy of Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s Administrative Directive 12-05, which encourages state agencies to require the use of a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement on projects costing more than $25 million and specifies the criteria for doing so.

The directive looks very similar to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Executive Order 13502 and executive orders issued in 2010 by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (text) and former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (text), all of which encourage public agencies under their respective jurisdictions to require the use of PLAs on large-scale construction projects.

During the press event where the Abercrombie directive was unveiled to the public, five projects were identified as earmarked for PLA mandates. This list of five includes a small-scale school construction project at Ewa Elementary that is projected to cost approximately $11 million –less than half of the $25 million threshold identified in Abercrombie’s directive.

Given the facts, smart reporters and citizens should be asking the governor’s office the following questions:

  • What criteria did the Abercrombie administration use to identify the five projects earmarked for PLA mandates?
  • The directive states that “executive agencies may, on a project-by-project basis, require the use of a project labor agreement by a contractor where use of such an agreement will advance the state government’s interest in achieving economy and efficiency in state procurement, producing labor-management stability, and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations governing safety and health, equal employment opportunity, labor and employment standards, and other matters.” How did the administration determine that PLA mandates on these projects meet the appropriate criteria? Was a feasibility study or other research conducted?
  • Did the administration contact nonunion state contractors to determine how this directive would impact their ability to continue performing work on public projects in Hawaii?
  • Why is the Ewa Elementary School project, which clearly falls well below the $25 million cost threshold identified in the directive, subject to a PLA mandate?



Original Post:

On Tuesday, May 22, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) continued putting bread on Big Labor’s table by issuing an administrative directive requiring the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) on five upcoming construction projects with a total estimated cost of $520 million.

As of today, the administration has not released the directive itself, or the rationale for selecting these projects, to the public for review.

Despite the lack of transparency on the specifics surrounding this directive, Gov. Abercrombie has not been shy about promoting it. On Tuesday, he held a press conference with union leaders during which he touted the directive as a job creator.

But Honolulu’s KHON2 got to the crux of Gov. Abercrombie’s directive with the headline of its story covering the press conference: “State Ensures Union Jobs.” This order is designed to funnel these projects to contractors willing to cave into Big Labor’s demands, at the expense of taxpayers and the 67 percent of Hawaii’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union.

Associated Builders and Contractors’ Hawaii Chapter blasted Gov. Abercrombie’s blatant Big Labor handout in a May 23 press release:

ABC Hawaii Chapter Blasts Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s Effort to Funnel State

Construction Projects to Big Labor

Honolulu – Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Hawaii Chapter today strongly criticized Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his decision to issue an administrative directive that mandates the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) on state construction projects.

“This directive is a clear handout to construction union bosses,” said ABC Hawaii Chapter President Jonathan Young. “Gov. Abercrombie says he is concerned about jobs, but this directive shows he only cares about workers if they come with a union card.”

PLAs are a Big Labor scheme used to discourage competition from nonunion contractors and their workers by requiring that construction projects be awarded only to contractors and subcontractors that agree to recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job; use the union hall to obtain workers; obey the union’s restrictive apprenticeship and work rules; and contribute to union pension plans and other funds in which their nonunion employees will never benefit unless they join a union.

When a government entity requires a PLA on a construction project, it tilts the playing field in favor of contractors that agree to Big Labor’s demands. This directive will mean that the 67 percent of Hawaii’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union cannot compete on an equal basis for projects funded by their own tax dollars.

Additionally, PLA mandates deprive taxpayers of the opportunity to get the best construction at the best price. Numerous studies show that PLA mandates can increase construction costs by nearly 20 percent.

“By requiring PLAs on taxpayer-funded projects in order to repay a political ally, Gov. Abercrombie’s mandate will effectively force taxpayers to buy four buildings for the price of five and deprive quality local craftspeople of the opportunity to work on projects funded by their own tax dollars,” said Young. “This is a terrible policy for the people of Hawaii. ABC and its members urge Gov. Abercrombie to repeal this policy immediately, so both policymakers and the general public can learn more about what PLA mandates mean for Hawaii’s taxpayers and its construction workforce.”

Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we look forward to reading the actual directive and learning more about how the five projects listed in the directive were selected.

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