Pennsylvania Legislation Would Ensure Fair and Open Competition in Contracting

0 February 2, 2018  State & Local Construction

On Jan. 24, members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives State Government Committee listened to testimony on HB 1849, known as the Open Contracting Act, which would prohibit the use of government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) on taxpayer-funded construction projects. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Stephen Bloom.

PLAs are specifically written and designed to discourage and prohibit nonunion contractors from bidding on public construction projects. The Open Contracting Act would guarantee that all contractors in Pennsylvania, regardless of whether they use union or nonunion labor, would have a fair opportunity to bid, win and complete work on publicly funded construction projects. Excluding open shop contractors from bidding not only drives up the cost of a project, but also hurts workers by shutting them out of a public construction project. In Pennsylvania, nearly 80 percent of construction workers choose not to join a union, according to PLAs essentially exclude more than 240,000 qualified workers in the state from working on projects. This legislation ensures that workers who choose to not join a union are not discriminated against by provisions found in a PLA.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Pennsylvania, comprised of nearly 2,000 member companies across the state, is at the forefront supporting HB 1849 in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Testifying in support of HB 1849 were ABC members Mark Eckman of J.D. Eckman Inc., Ross Myers of Allan Myers LP and Keith Impink of Westmoreland Electric Services. All three discussed their experiences with PLAs and the negative consequences these agreements have had on their businesses, employees, taxpayers and local economies.

The time is now for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass legislation ensuring fair and open competition in contracting. Last year, for the first time in its history, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) advertised use of a PLA on Phase 2 of the reconstruction of Markley Street in Norristown, Pa. ABC of Pennsylvania quickly denounced PennDOT’s discriminatory decision to use a PLA and continues to lead that fight.

At the first hearing on HB 1849 in January, Mark Eckman, President of J.D. Eckman Inc., described his firsthand experience with the Markley Street project. His company completed Phase 1 of the Markley Street project one year ahead of schedule and on budget, without a PLA attached to it. Eckman’s bid, the most responsive and best price submitted to PennDOT, was $1.5 million less than the bid submitted by competitors signatory to highway trades unions.As Eckman stated in his testimony, “this is a million and a half dollars the Commonwealth would have spent on just one project had it insisted on a PLA union contractor. Multiply that by dozens of projects and you can see how costly this will become.”

If this legislation is signed into law in Pennsylvania, half the states in the country would have laws on the books restricting government-mandated PLAs.

Visit for more information supporting fair and open competition in contracting, including documentation showing PLAs gone bad, studies examining the inflated cost to taxpayers due to PLAs and arguments against PLAs.

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