City officials in Allentown, Pa., are determined to do everything they can to ensure local construction projects are built exclusively by union labor, despite the fact that the vast majority of the construction workforce in the area chooses not to join a union.
After being forced in 2011 to repeal a blanket project labor agreement (PLA) mandate for all city projects in response to a lawsuit filed by the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Allentown is again attempting to mandate a wasteful and discriminatory PLA – this time on the construction of the new $1.8 million East Side Fire Station.
The city put contracts to build the East Side Fire Station project out for bids in fall 2012 with a requirement that the winning bidder must sign a project labor stabilization agreement, commonly known as a project labor agreement or PLA. The project was never awarded because bids came in significantly higher than the initial $1.8 million price tag, as project bid under a PLA mandate often do.
In response, city officials scaled down the project. Here is a highlight from Lehigh Valley’s Morning Call newspaper, with our emphasis added.
To reduce the budget, officials cut plans for an elevator and reduced the building’s footprint by about 600 square feet, Scheirer said. The contract calls for eight months of construction, but officials are hoping to get the work done in about 51/2. The station could be open before the end of the year, he said.
Let that sink in for a moment. Instead of rebidding the project without the costly, pro-union mandate, city leaders decided to scale back the size of the building and amenities for local first responders.
City leaders insist on defending the requirement, saying research by the Keystone Research Center (KRC) shows the city needs a project labor stabilization agreement mandate on the project. But readers of this blog know the KRC is nothing more than a pro-union propaganda machine. As both TheTruthAboutPLAs.com and the Lehigh Valley Business have pointed out, just about half of the members of KRC’s Board of Directors are paid union bosses. KRC has produced a number of feasibility studies on the impact of PLA mandates, and they all concluded that public entities procuring construction services should do so a PLA mandate. KRC is the go-to research organization for entities trying to justify their decision to mandate the use of a PLA.
The KRC feasibility study is available here.
This spring, after several months’ worth of delays, city leaders put out a second request for bids and included the PLA requirement again. On May 8, the mayor and members of the city council unveiled the new design of the project and performed a ceremonial groundbreaking. Construction soon will begin in earnest—primarily without any merit shop firms or their hardworking craftworkers—and is expected to be completed in the next 5-8 months.
TheTruthAboutPLAs.com will continue to watch this project for additional cost overruns and delays.