‘Mandatory Union Membership’ Is PLA’s Purpose

Committee President Mark Mix: The Right to Work movement and its allies are challenging President Obama’s 2009 executive order promoting union-only "project labor agreements" on federal taxpayer-funded public works.
(Source: June 2010 NRTWC Newsletter)

Ohio Town Council Cuts Through Big Labor/White House Fog 

Marietta, which has only about 15,000 residents, but enjoys a place of honor as the oldest city of any size in Ohio, is located more than 230 miles outside the Washington, D.C., Beltway. 

And from the vantage point of Marietta’s community building at Lookout Park, where the town council considered adoption of a so-called “project labor agreement” (PLA) on May 13, it appears to be far easier to see and state the obvious than it is at the White House or on Capitol Hill. 

This spring, building trades union bosses lobbied furiously to convince the council’s seven members to impose a Big Labor PLA on employees and firms seeking to participate in the renovation of the town’s former Ohio Bureau of Employment Services building into a new municipal court facility. 

Parkersburg Marietta Construction and Building Trades Council union President Bill Hutchinson claimed, time and again, that the reason he and his cohorts were twisting arms to get a PLA was to ensure that “local” workers got the jobs. 

Finally, at the council’s May 13 meeting, Councilman Jon Grimm decided to test building trades union bosses’ sincerity. 

Mr. Grimm called attention to the provision in the PLA mandating that 50% of any contractor’s employees be registered with the union and pay union dues, even if they weren’t union members, and didn’t want to join. 

Would union officials accept a PLA retaining all the other provisions, but excluding “mandatory union membership”? Mr Grimm asked. 

Vast Majority of ‘Local’ Construction Workers in Marietta Aren’t Unionized 

Marietta law director Roland Riggs, who had hammered out the PLA deal with union officials, bluntly responded: “I don’t believe the folks from the building trades council would be interested in signing an agreement if that were removed.” 

A crowd of union militants, including several union officials, was in the room. No one from the crowd contradicted Mr. Riggs. 

“The plain fact is, the vast majority of ‘local’ construction workers in Marietta, Ohio, are union-free, and show no signs of wanting to be unionized,” observed National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix. 

“According to labor scholars Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson, just one in four construction workers across the state of Ohio is currently under union monopoly bargaining. And southern Ohio, where Marietta is located, is much less unionized than northern Ohio. 

“Forcing independent local hardhats to pay dues to an unwanted union in order to work on taxpayer-funded projects is no way to ‘help’ them — and a Marietta council majority had no trouble seeing the truth and voting down the PLA. 

“Unfortunately, all too many Inside-the-D.C. Beltway politicians from President Obama on down seem to have a much harder time deconstructing the phony claims of Big Labor bosses demanding union-only PLAs on taxpayer-funded public works. 

“For example, in issuing Executive Order 13502, promoting union-only PLAs for federal taxpayer-funded public works in February 2009, the President mechanically repeated Big Labor propagandists’ contention that PLAs promote ‘economy.’ 

“The truth is exactly the opposite. By discriminating against the union-free majority of construction employees, PLAs jack up taxpayer construction costs by a minimum of 10–20%, according to nonpartisan researchers. 

“Even a recent study commissioned by Obama appointees at the Department of Veterans Affairs predicted that PLAs would raise taxpayer costs in markets like Denver, New Orleans and Orlando. 

“But rather than cancel the PLA executive order after Veterans Affairs found it would fail to accomplish its purported objective, the Obama Administration proceeded to implement it this April!” 

Right to Work Movement Is Fighting Back 

“Fortunately, there’s still hope that the Obama Administration’s anti-taxpayer E.O.13502 can be stopped,” Mr. Mix continued. The legal system is one possible means. 

In April, attorneys for the Committee’s sister organization, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, filed a federal court brief charging that a California PLA illegally discriminates against independent construction workers. (Mr. Mix is president of the Foundation as well as of the Committee.)If the Foundation’s argument in this case (known as Rancho Santiago) prevails, that will raise serious questions about the legal viability of E.O.13502.