Ohio City Council Looks to Dump Wasteful Union-Only Project Labor Agreements

plaLorain, Ohio is finding that union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) do not live up to union bosses’ promises.  PLAs costs taxpayers both in taxes and time, estimates range from 31% to 60% increased costs on construction projects.  Richard Payerchin from the Morning Journal reports:

City leaders will meet again tonight at 7 p.m. to discuss scrapping Lorain’s project labor agreements for the public construction jobs.

Despite the good intentions, Lorain’s PLAs have discouraged non-union contractors from bidding on public jobs, said John Falbo Jr., estimator for Terminal Ready-Mix Inc. of Lorain

“Straight up, that’s what this is all about,” Falbo said. “It’s forced unionism.”

The plan would be replaced with a new Workforce Participation Plan to encourage local contractors to bid and hire residents for city projects.

Council in November 2011 approved the PLAs, which require the city administration to work with the North Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council to draft an agreement governing work conditions on public jobs.

Area union officials argued the agreements would help ensure local workers get jobs when contractors work on Lorain’s public projects.

Mayor Chase Ritenauer has said the agreements have discouraged contractors from bidding on Lorain’s public jobs, which in turn drives up costs of those projects, such as road and waterline repairs.

Contractors including leading national builders of water tanks have told city officials they will not bid on a job to build a water tower on Lorain’s west side due to PLAs, said Safety-Service Director Robert Fowler.

Kokosing Construction Co. Inc. officials also have said the company will not bid on Lorain jobs, Fowler said. Westerville-based Kokosing Construction is Ohio’s largest contractor, according to its website.

So far three contractors have requested specifications to replace waterlines under Fowler said. Consultants working with the city claimed a similar project east of Cleveland drew 15 bidders, he said.

The loss of interest from potential bidders leaves Lorain at a competitive disadvantage because it is not in the best interest of the community to pay more tax dollars or utility fees for projects, Fowler said.