No Surprise: Big Labor Fails to Meet Meriden PLA Hiring Goals

0 May 19, 2014  School Construction, State & Local Construction

Construction unions in Meriden, Conn. are failing to meet local, minority and veteran hiring goals on two high profile school projects – a key promise made by union leaders during their effort to secure wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) requirements on approximately $220 million worth of contracts to renovate two local high schools.

Here is an excerpt from the Meriden Record-Journal’s coverage of this new development, with our emphasis added:

The City Council approved a project labor agreement two years ago for the renovation projects at Maloney and Platt high schools. The agreement set goals that 30 percent of the total hours on each project would be worked by city residents, 10 percent by minorities, 5 percent by women, and 5 percent by veterans. Also included in the agreement is a provision stipulating that hiring be done through union referrals, which some argued it discouraged participation by non-union contractors.

Less than 18 percent of the total hours worked on the $107.5 million Maloney project have involved city residents. Since the Maloney project began in June 2013, officials have struggled to meet hiring goals other than the goal set for minority hiring. Minorities have worked slightly more than 15 percent of the hours on the Maloney project, exceeding the goal of 10 percent. But women have only worked 1.92 percent of the total hours and hours worked by veterans represent 1.33 percent of the total. The data, the most recent available, covers the period between last June through March 22. The 17.71 percent of hours worked by local laborers does represent an increase of about 1.1 percent over last month, although School Building Committee members have been skeptical as to whether or not the goal can be reached.

At Platt, the numbers are slightly more encouraging with 22 percent of the hours worked by local residents, 18 percent by minorities, 1 percent by women and 3 percent by veterans. The data tracks the project from its start date in October through April. The 22 percent is a decrease of about 1 percent from last month’s report.

Another broken promise to Meriden taxpayers.

It is no surprise the unions are struggling to find workers to meet the hiring goals. Union membership and hiring hall rules cannot guarantee a local (or diverse) workforce . It is also important to note that approximately 84 percent of Connecticut’s construction workforce chooses not to join a labor organization. By making it more difficult for the majority of Meriden’s skilled craft professionals to compete fairly for these local projects, the city made it almost impossible to meet the hiring goals.

(Visit here to learn more about Big Labor’s history of failing to meet local hiring goals on projects subject to PLA mandates)

This is not the first time Big Labor’s chickens have come home to roost on these two high school projects. In April 2013, the first round of bids for the Maloney project came in approximately $11 million higher than the project’s expected $75 million budget. The city rebid the project after it was “value engineered” to scale back the project in order to bring it within the budget parameters.

Meriden PLA Chickens Home to Roost

Meriden Record-Journal reports indicate many merit shop contractors simply refused to bid on these projects because of the PLA mandate. Additionally, numerous stakeholders – including the city manager and purchasing office – told city leaders the PLA mandate would likely lead to higher construction costs. Meriden city officials ignored these warnings and in May 2012, Mayor Michael Rohde broke a rare 6-6 city council tie and approved a resolution mandating a PLA on both school renovation contracts.

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