As the 2013 legislative session of the ethically challenged New York State Legislature is about to come to a close, politicians in the Empire State are poised to approve a plan to authorize casino gambling – as long as the casinos are built with wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs).
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we spend most of our time discussing PLA mandates on taxpayer-funded construction. Things are tight for most Americans, and they deserve the best construction at the best price when they are picking up the tab. Plus, private owners should be free to make their own business decisions when it comes to whether a PLA will be required on their projects. You can learn more about why private owners choose to mandate PLAs on their construction projects in our earlier posts.
However, the New York Legislature is poised to take the choice away from private casino owners and make that decision for them. Drafts of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bill authorizing the construction and operation of four new casinos includes a requirement that these projects be subject to PLA requirements and New York’s prevailing wage requirement.
The business community is responding. The Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) issued this press release blasting this unnecessary mandate. Here are the highlights:
These provisions will limit competition and employment opportunities for upstate New Yorkers.
There is no public policy justification for these provisions being in the legislation. One can only conclude that these provisions are included to secure the support of organized labor for the casino bill.
Mandating prevailing wage and PLA use on private construction is unprecedented and is yet another example of why New York is consistently ranked as the worst state in the Union in which to conduct business.
The redefinition of public work projects to include privately funded construction, as this bill proposes, it would effectively open the door to mandating prevailing wages on virtually all private work where a state license is required to operate.
ABC suggests the bill be amended to remove prevailing wage mandates as well as to allow potential bidders to submit bids with or without a PLA. These changes would insure that projects are open to all qualified bidders, whether union or non-union and that labor costs are not unreasonably increased by use of inflated prevailing wage rates.
A coalition of business groups that not only includes the construction contracting community, but a diverse collection of associations and groups, sent legislators a memo of opposition that outlines why the PLA mandates that are rumored to be in this bill set a bad precedent and are bad for New Yorkers.
Here are the highlights:
Our principal objection to these mandates is that, if enacted, they would establish a devastating statutory precedent for expanding the use of wage and worker mandates to private projects. Prevailing wages, in particular, have not previously been required, through statute, for private projects. The casino facilities envisioned by the Act would be privately financed and constructed and would presumably be on private lands. While the State will issue a license to operate the casino, such authorization has never been determined to be the basis, either in case law or statute, to mandate the payment of prevailing wages. If New York State were to signal, in the context of what should be some of the largest private construction projects in Upstate NY in a generation, that prevailing wages are required on the basis of a State license, it would damage our State’s recent efforts to recast itself as an economically competitive place to do business.
Similarly, we are concerned with statutory mandates regarding the use of PLAs and Wicks law. Private projects, such as those envisioned by this Act, have never been and are not currently subject to the Wicks Law or the PLA provision in Labor Law §222, applicable to public work projects. This Act would inextricably mandate a PLA on private projects and remove the discretion of the private casino owners to enter into contracts with union and non-union contractors who live and work in the communities where these casinos may be built.
We are firmly in support of efforts to improve the State’s economy. However, the wage and employment mandates contained in the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act would diminish the full benefits of such projects to our state and local economies and would create troubling precedents for private projects. Accordingly, we strongly oppose the prevailing wage, PLA and Wicks Law provisions in the proposal and we urge the Governor and the Legislature to remove them from the final version of the legislation.
Josh Reap, director of government affairs for the ABC Empire State Chapter, also appeared on a popular talk radio podcast. (Audio)
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we believe this mandate sets a bad precedent. The state’s government should not get into the business of mandating the use of PLA requirements – on either public or private construction projects. Private firms should be able to make their own decisions about whether to use a PLA, and we hope those firms remember the negative impact PLAs have on the vast majority of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a union when they make the decision.