New Jersey Governor’s Veto of Union-Only PLA Scheme Is a Step in the Right Direction, But the Garden State Has a Long Way to Go

Just over two months ago, a post on this blog called on New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie to fight to stop Big Labor from cynically profiteering off Hurricane Sandy.

Last fall, Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, caused flooding, power outages, and tens of billions of dollars in property damage throughout the Northeast.  The storm was directly or indirectly responsible for nearly 300 fatalities.  In the U.S., residents of New Jersey and New York were hit especially hard.

One might hope that in the wake of such an enormous natural disaster even union officials would refrain from rent-seeking schemes.  But early this year Big Labor directed its puppet politicians in the New Jersey Legislature to furnish them with a “Sandy windfall” in the form of union-only “project labor agreement” (PLA) deals for hurricane reconstruction projects.

The Sandy PLA bill went to the governor’s desk in mid-February.  Early last week, he finally vetoed it.  As an April 16 Wall Street Journal editorial explained well, the veto is a step in the right direction for New  Jersey.  (The editorial itself is located behind an Internet firewall, but most of it was republished on The Truth About PLAs web site.  See the link below.)

As the Journal editorial noted, unions are “fond of PLAs”

because they usually force all contractors to hire workers at union hiring halls and pay into union benefit plans, discouraging non-union firms from bidding on jobs. New Jersey Democrats, including Senate President Stephen Sweeney, say mandating PLAs would have given more jobs to New Jerseyites. That’s curious math, when some 75% of the state’s private construction workforce isn’t unionized.

The real goal is to kick more business to unions and expand their market share. Projects run with PLAs take longer and cost more, but they also squeeze workers by forcing non-union workers to pay union dues to work on a taxpayer-funded project. Under current law, unions can still bid on Sandy reconstruction projects, but they’ll have to do so in open and competitive bidding.

While Christie should be credited for keeping his 2009 campaign promise to oppose union-only PLAs, he and other Garden State politicians need to do much more to liberate employees, small businesses and government agencies from the stifling grip of compulsory unionism.  Up to now, unfortunately, Christie has not shown any inclination to stand up for the individual right of each New Jersey employee to hold a job regardless of union affiliation or nonaffiliation.  In practice, PLAs almost always constitute a severe violation of that right, but they are far from the only one.

WSJ Editorial Applauds Gov. Christie for Veto of Pro-Project Labor