At yesterday’s United States House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials field hearing in Madera, California, on the federally assisted California High Speed Rail project, ABC California submitted a statement for the record and issued a press release in opposition to the union-favoring project labor agreement (PLA) required by the California High Speed Rail Authority after intense lobbying from construction trade unions.
Here are key passages from the statement:
The merit shop contracting community is troubled by a project labor agreement (PLA) the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) has mandated on the California High-Speed Rail project. The HSRA calls this agreement a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), but it contains the same anti-competitive and costly terms as most PLAs and it will not benefit the majority of California’s construction industry. [snip]
ABC is opposed to government-mandated PLAs because these agreements typically restrict competition, increase costs, cause delays, discriminate against nonunion employees and place merit shop contractors at a significant competitive disadvantage. Typical government-mandated PLAs are nothing more than anti-competitive schemes that end open and fair bidding on taxpayer-funded projects. PLAs should never be mandated; instead, a contractor may voluntarily adopt a PLA if the firm believes it would help promote the economy and efficiency in which a construction project is delivered to a government agency.
The HSRA has imposed a PLA on the five prime contractors prequalified to submit a technical proposal and price proposal as part of the second phase of the project’s two-phase best value procurement process. A number of qualified and experienced firms would be interested in working as subcontractors for these short-listed prime contractors, if not for the PLA they are required to sign by the HSRA. [snip]
ABC California is concerned the terms and conditions of this PLA will discourage competition from qualified contractors and their existing skilled workforces. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) most recent report indicates 86 percent of the U.S. private construction industry workforce does not belong to a union. In California, just 15.9 percent of the private construction workforce belongs to a union. However, many ABC members in California and across the country employ union tradespeople, utilize unionized subcontractors and work harmoniously with union tradespeople on jobsites without the need for a PLA mandate.
For Immediate Release
May 28, 2013 Contact:
During Hearing, ABC Critical Of High Speed Rail Authority For Shutting Out California Workers
Associated Builders and Contractors California submits statement for May 28 Field Hearing on status of the California High Speed Rail project
Today, Associated Builders and Contractors of California (ABC California) submitted a statement for inclusion into the Congressional Record in conjunction with Congressman Denham’s Congressional May 28 Field Hearing concerning the status of the California High Speed Rail project. Congressman Denham is Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.
ABC California believes in increasing opportunities for all workers in the construction industry regardless of labor affiliation and looked to the High Speed Rail Project as one of those premier opportunities. ABC California is troubled by a project labor agreement (PLA) the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) has mandated on the California High-Speed Rail project. The HSRA calls this agreement a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), but it contains the same anti-competitive and costly terms as most PLAs and it will not benefit the majority of California’s construction industry.
Jodi Nagel, ABC California President, said, “The Community Benefits Agreement effectively eliminates qualified and skilled workers from working on the project who do not belong to the union because they will now be required to sign on to restrictive union workforce rules in order to have an opportunity to work on the project.”
Over the past year, ABC California and merit shop trade associations have repeatedly asked the California High Speed Rail Authority for a Fair and Open Competition policy on the construction of the $68 billion to $100 billion rail system to ensure opportunities for all workers.
According to www.unionstats.com, 84.1 percent of California construction workers do not belong to a union and local workers could be shut out from job opportunities to work on the high speed rail to out of state workers due to the PLA/CBA. ________
The Problem with Project Labor Agreements: Under this Agreement, all construction work done under these contracts must be performed by union-only signatory contractors and construction workers.
Among other things, the PLA will force nonunion contractors and their workers to pay union dues, pay into union benefit programs, require all employees to be hired through a union-hiring hall to get work, and would allow for union-only apprentices on the project. By unnecessarily limiting bidders and following outdated and inefficient union work rules, union-only PLAs consistently drive up costs to the taxpayers. Several academic studies indicate PLAs increase the cost of construction between 10 percent and 20 percent when compared to similar projects not subject to union-only PLAs.
Nicole Goehring, submitting on behalf of ABC California, is the Government Affairs Director of Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California Chapter. Visit www.thetruthaboutplas.com for the latest news, facts, studies and current information about PLAs before you make any decisions to limit competition for public contracts.
 See Section “10.1 Key Prerequisites to Award: The Authority will not make a recommendation for award of the Contract unless the successful selected Proposer has submitted the following:…A letter of assent executed by the Proposer agreeing to be bound by the Community Benefits Agreement.” http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/443/549/551/84634b9d-e593-4a66-bb25-01ba79f9f3ac.pdf
 The project’s 12/26/12 Community Benefit Agreement/Project Labor Agreement is available here: http://www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov/assets/0/443/545/546/1f1c2054-a2a1-4308-928f-71d44c504612.pdf
 See More Evidence Shows Project Labor Agreements Injure Competition. TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, 1/20/11.
 See Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California (Vince Vasquez, Dr. Dale Glaser and W. Erik Bruvold; 2011) and Tuerck, Bachmann and Glassman, Union-Only Project Labor Agreements On Federal Construction Projects: A Costly Solution in Search of a Problem, (Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University) August, 2009, at 36, available at www.abc.org/plastudies and www.thetruthaboutplas.com/tag/anti-pla-mandate-study.
See Report Documents Construction Delays on PLA Projects. TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, 4/11/11.
 PLAs are authorized under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169. Sections 8(e) and (f) of the NLRA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 158(e) and (f) make special exceptions from other requirements of the NLRA in order to permit employers and unions in the construction industry to enter into PLAs. The NLRA permits firms to voluntarily enter into PLAs at any time.