The 2.8 million members and supporters of the National Right to Work Committee and many other like-minded Americans oppose union-only “project labor agreements” (or PLAs) on taxpayer-funded projects primarily because they force nonunion companies to impose union monopoly bargaining on their employees and hire new workers through discriminatory union hiring halls.
Roughly 86% of front-line building trades workers nowadays are union-free. In practice, PLAs make it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for them to participate in public works construction.
And as Greg Beeman, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, pointed out yesterday in an op-ed for the Boston Herald (see the link below for the entire commentary), union-only PLAs are also a raw deal for taxpayers. Beeman illustrates the point by explaining what’s behind a current scuffle between union-label Bay State Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and legislative leaders over transportation spending:
Gov. Deval Patrick wants to amend a transportation financing bill because he says its tax and toll hikes don’t raise enough money. But the governor wouldn’t need so much revenue if he weren’t needlessly spending tens of millions of dollars by imposing union-only project labor agreements.
PLAs exclude nonunion workers by requiring unions to be the “sole and exclusive” source of all job-site labor. Early in 2012, state Transportation Secretary Richard Davey told a construction industry group that no PLAs were planned on large bridge projects then in the pipeline. Based on his remarks, companies formed the joint ventures commonly used for these large, complex projects.
But the administration abruptly changed course just before a key bid submission was due, and announced there would be a PLA on the $215 million reconstruction of the Whittier Bridge on Interstate 95, which spans the Merrimack River where Amesbury, Newburyport and Salisbury come together.
With open shop firms that represent more than 80 percent of Massachusetts construction workers barred from participating, the project drew just three bids. The winning bid was $292 million.
So before work even began, the Whittier Bridge was $77 million over budget.
Last year, the administration decided the second phase of reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge would also be rebuilt using a PLA. Patrick told the Boston Business Journal that the move would reduce costs. But when the bids came in, that project was also well over budget before a shovel ever went into the ground.