ABC Virginia President’s Letter Blasts Labor Boss’ Deceptive Pro-Project Labor Agreement Op-Ed

0 May 30, 2016  Featured, State & Local Construction, Transportation & Infrastructure

On May 28, 2016, The Virginia Pilot published a strong #NoPLAs letter to the editor by ABC Virginia President Patrick J. Dean in response to a pro-project labor agreement (PLA) op-ed submitted by Dennis Martire, vice president and Mid-Atlantic regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA):

Letter: Benefits agreements hurt business, taxpayers
May 28, 2016

RE “BUILDING THE MIDDLE CLASS” (Dennis Martire column, May 22): The public deserves to know the truth about this piece from Martire, the vice president of the Laborers International Union of North America. Martire promotes so-called community benefits agreements.

Union bosses such as Martire used to call CBAs “project labor agreements.” Now they are trying to fool the public with a new name because Virginians know that controversial PLA schemes, when mandated by governments, serve union interests at the expense of everyone else.

Government-mandated PLAs discourage competition among quality Virginia builders. They force contractors to use union labor or require their existing local nonunion employees to pay union fees. Worse, these employees forfeit benefits earned during the life of a project to union coffers unless they join a union and become vested in union benefits plans.

More than 96 percent of Virginia’s private construction workforce does not belong to a union, and research says PLA mandates needlessly increase public construction costs between 12 percent and 18 percent. It’s clear that the construction industry in Virginia – and taxpayers in the state – lose under these special-interest handouts.

Martire and others are upset that Associated Builders and Contractors fights for taxpayers and free enterprise by exposing back-room deals between union lobbyists and union-friendly public officials who steer contracts to union contractors using government-mandated PLAs.

Fair and open competition is the only way taxpayers can receive the best possible construction product at the best possible price while creating opportunity for all local businesses.

In 2012, Virginia became one of 22 states to pass a measure, which was supported by Associated Builders and Contractors, restricting government-mandated PLAs while allowing companies to voluntarily use PLAs without government coercion.

Virginia taxpayers can’t be hoodwinked. Martire’s attempt to make over this scam won’t work.

Patrick J. Dean
Virginia Chapter
Associated Builders and Contractors
Dulles readers may remember Martire from his misleading October 2015 pro-PLA op-ed in the Pittsburgh Tribune (which also drew a stern rebuttal from ABC), or his exploits pushing a PLA mandate (foiled) and then a PLA preference (foiled again!) on an estimated $2.8 billion construction package to build Phase 2 of the $5.8 billion Silver Line metro rail project in Northern Virginia before he was ousted from the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) board of directors for improper ethical behavior.

It is worth noting Martire’s Pittsburgh Tribune op-ed bends the truth with respect to the use of PLAs on both phases of the Silver Line project, which is highly suspect considering he served on the MWAA committee responsible for overseeing Phase 1 construction and procuring contracts to build Phase 2 of the Silver Line. Martire falsely claims this:

The stories of how PLAs reward workers and help contractors can be found every day in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. The first phase of the metro Silver Line extension linking Washington, D.C., to Dulles airport was completed with a PLA. There were no serious injuries and the project was finished on budget and on time. After a political squabble, the second phase is underway without a PLA and is delayed and severely over budget.

Contrary to Martire’s claim, Phase 1 of the Silver Line project was not subject to a government-mandated PLA. It was subject to a voluntary PLA adopted by Dulles Transit Partners (DTP) (see point 8 under Subcontracting), the joint venture that constructed Phase 1 of the Silver Line, which ensured union labor was used for work self-performed by DTP. The voluntary Phase 1 PLA did not apply to subcontractors and MWAA could not identify any subcontractors that voluntarily signed the PLA. Note: DTP was the name of the joint venture between Bechtel Infrastructure Inc. and Washington Group International (now URS) that served as the Phase 1 prime contractor.

Phase 1 of the Silver Line certainly did not finish on time or on budget. With a project of this size and complexity, it is difficult to blame the PLA for the project’s delays and cost overruns (even if it had been mandated). It is even more difficult, if not impossible, to attribute any of the project’s success to the voluntary PLA, because it’s limited scope did not impact many of the Phase 1 construction workers. In short, conclusions about the pros and cons of a government-mandated PLA cannot be made based on the results of Phase 1.

It has been well-documented that Phase 2 bids benefited from robust competition free from PLA mandates. The $1.178 billion design/build Package A contract was awarded May 14, 2013, to Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture consisting of Clark Construction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., at a price $222 million to $422 million less than expected.

“We are very encouraged by the price submitted by Capital Rail Constructors and the potential savings it includes,” said Pat Nowakowski, executive director of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. “This has been a very successful competitive procurement process. The winning proposal is well below our original estimates of $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion for this portion of the project, which hopefully will allow us to pass on additional savings to users of the Dulles Toll Road.”

Just think how much Phase 2 would have cost taxpayers with a shady PLA mandate or preference, if not for stakeholders smoking out the backroom corruption?

Martire’s claims about Phase 2 suffering from delays and overruns due to a lack of a PLA also don’t pass the sniff test. The Washington Post reported the prime contractor voluntarily negotiated a PLA with unions for work self-performed by the prime contractor and did not require subcontractors to execute the PLA. So does this voluntary PLA deserve blame for Phase 2 issues? Government-mandated PLA advocates like Martire can’t have it both ways.

Simply put, the Silver Line facts undermine Martire’s pro-PLA arguments. It is why Martire and other PLA advocates have been trying to rebrand PLAs into a new term called Community Benefits Agreements or Community Workforce Agreements. Despite his best efforts to confuse the public, Martire’s take on government-mandated PLAs and the Silver Line have no credibility.


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