Politicians receiving campaign cash and favors from Big Labor continue to pressure federal agencies to mandate anti-competitive and costly project labor agreements (PLAs) on large-scale construction federal construction projects even though they are not in the public interest and have a public record of poor performance.
U.S. Representative Maurice Hinchey, a retiring ten term Democrat from upstate New York and U.S. House Appropriations Committee member, recently urgedthe United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to mandate a PLA on the construction of a $100 million to $250 million cadet barracks project at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
In June 2012, the USACE issued a PLA survey for the project, which ABC National responded to and urged the USACE to refrain from using a discriminatory PLA preference or PLA mandate. Just 23 percent of New York’s construction workforce belongs to a labor union and would exclusively benefit from a virtual monopoly supplying labor to this project.
In 2010, Rep. Hinchey unsuccessfully pushed for a PLA on three different large-scale construction projects at West Point after the USACE issued a similar PLA survey. Following a robust response from the merit shop contracting community, the USACE opted not to mandate PLAs on the projects because PLA schemes would not deliver economy or efficiency to these projects.
In late September 2010, TheTruthAboutPLAs.com exposed an unfortunate political motivation behind Rep. Hinchey’s push for PLA mandates. Hinchey received $57,510 in campaign contributions from building trades unions benefiting directly from a PLA mandate in the most recent election cycle, helping Hinchey narrowly defeat a GOP challenger in NY-22.
Check out Rep. Hinchey’s press release and letter to the USACE pushing a PLA mandate at West Point here.
This isn’t the first time a branch of the military was subjected to arm-twisting by a Democrat House Appropriations Committee member determined to steer lucrative federal construction contracts and jobs to unionized contractors and Big Labor via a PLA mandate.
In late 2011, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest mandated a PLA on the construction of a $450 million to $550 million explosives handling wharf #2 (Solicitation No. N4425511R9004) at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor in Washington after receiving a letter signed by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and three other members of the Washington congressional delegation.
Rep. Dicks, the ranking member on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, a powerful position that controls the budgets for federal agencies such as NAVFAC, and the letter’s other Democrats received campaign contributions totaling $814,375 from construction trade unions benefiting from PLA mandates according to information obtained from opensecrets.com.
This type of crony contracting is not uncommon, thanks to President Obama’s pro-PLA Executive Order 13502, which encourages, but does not require, federal agencies to mandate PLAs on federal construction projects exceeding $25 million in value and opens the door to needless waste, discrimination and favoritism in federal contracting.
The Kitsap Naval base PLA is the first agreement mandated and successfully implemented by NAVFAC during the Obama administration. It was opposed by the local contracting community but cannot be stopped or reversed.
TheTruthAboutPLAs.com will be watching the Kitsap base closely and will continue to expose examples of federal agencies being pressured to mandate PLAs and impose discriminatory PLA preferences on federal projects as a result of lobbying from special interests, political appointees and politicians.