Last week, Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) strongly came out against a project labor agreement (PLA) mandate proposed by Summit Natural Gas on the Kennebec Valley natural gas project, which is slated to cost more than $100 million.
Gov. LePage’s office released a statement on March 21. Here are the highlights:
Governor Expresses Disappointment at Summit Natural Gas Project Labor Agreement
For Immediate Release: Thursday, Mar. 21
AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage expressed his disappointment today that Summit Natural Gas has entered into a project labor agreement (PLA) for its Kennebec Valley natural gas project, which is set to begin this spring. The project is proposed to span from Augusta to Madison.
“While I appreciate Summit’s commitment and investment in Maine to help reduce our cost of energy, I am extremely disappointed that they have chosen to implement a PLA on this project,” said Governor LePage. “This action not only increases the cost of the project, but more importantly, it shuts out Maine’s construction workers and their families from good job opportunities.”
The PLA requires Maine contractors and subcontractors, regardless of their labor affiliation, to sign union agreements in order to work on an 88-mile stretch of steel pipeline expected to cost $100 million. Because 98.6% of Maine’s construction workforce chooses not to belong to a union, the PLA would discriminate against almost all of Maine’s construction workers and would most certainly require out-of-state workers to do the work.
Gov. LePage is absolutely right. The PLA requirement on this project means that the vast majority of workers on this project will come from out of state, depriving Mainers of the opportunity to work on a major construction project in their own backyard.
The definitive story about this situation was written by S.E. Robinson, a reporter with The Maine Wire. This is required reading for anyone who wants to learn more about this project. In the story, Robinson quotes representatives from Summit Natural Gas who claim that contractors will not be required to sign a PLA as a condition of performing work on this project, but instead will be required to sign the National Pipe Line Agreement (NPLA), as administered by the Pipe Line Contractors Association.
Robinson goes to great lengths to unpack the NPLA and finds that it contains many of the same discriminatory provisions commonly found within PLAs. These provisions include requirements that all contractors on the project recognize the signatory unions as the sole representatives of all workers on the project; all workers must be members of or join a union for the life of the project; all workers must pay union dues for the life of the project; and contractors must hire a percentage of their workers from union hiring halls.
In other words, the NPLA is just a PLA by another name.
The story also cites as an example Maine Natural Gas (MNG), which decided to build another pipeline project in Maine without a PLA.
Daniel J. Hucko, director of communications for Iberdrola USA, said MNG does not use PLAs on any of its projects.
“MNG doesn’t use PLAs because they don’t fit in with our philosophy,” said Hucko. “We wouldn’t want to exclude qualified people from getting a chance to bid,” he said. “The more bidders, the better the value.”
The Maine construction community also responded to Summit Natural Gas’ decision to require contractors to agree to Big Labor’s demands as a condition of performing work on this project. The Maine chapters of Associated Builders and Contractors and Associated General Contractors recently wrote to members of the state legislature to express their concern with Summit’s decision to institute this requirement. In addition, the groups launched newspaper ads, a Facebook page and a Twitter account to educate the public on the negative impact of Summit’s decision.
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, our primary focus is government-mandated PLAs because we believe taxpayers deserve the best construction at the best price on publicly funded construction projects. We understand private companies must weigh a number of factors in addition to price when considering whether to institute a PLA mandate. For example, some companies must determine whether the potential negative publicity resulting from union street theater outside a jobsite justifies a PLA requirement. In other situations, some private companies are forced to take local political considerations into account and these determines whether they require a PLA on a project.
Nevertheless, we believe the entire construction workforce should have the opportunity to compete for projects in their own backyard and are disappointed when private companies choose to leave so many local workers on the sidelines.
We hope Summit Natural Gas will reconsider its decision to require contractors to abide by this mandate as a condition of working on this project. The people of Maine have spoken through their governor and the legislature’s 2011 action to ban government-mandated PLAs on taxpayer funded construction in the state. Mainers have said no to PLAs. We hope Summit Natural Gas will listen.