Pennsylvania Worker Fights Union-Only PLAs

On September 17, John Falk and a few companions set off on foot for Washington, D.C. At the end of the journey, they pled with Congress to stop PLA discrimination against union-free workers and firms. Image Credit: Daily Record/Sunday News—Jason Plotkin

Obama Executive Order Denies Union-Free Workers a ‘Fair Shake’

(Source: October 2010 NRTWC Newsletter)

John Falk, a genial 59-year-old glass worker from Red Lion, Pa., made a five-day trek on foot last month from his home state to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Falk and the three people who accompanied him — a friend, a fellow worker, and his employer, Debra Zarfoss — walked 89 miles to help mobilize public opposition to federal and state policies that discriminate against union-free employees and businesses.

As Mr. Falk puts it, “We’re not looking for a handout, bailout, or any other special favor. We just want a fair shake.”

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and most current U.S. congressmen and senators are opposed to letting union-free workers like John Falk compete on a level playing field.

Back in February 2009, one of the first major actions the President took after settling in at the White House was to issue Executive Order 13502, which promotes union-only “project labor agreements” (PLAs) on federally funded public works.

This April, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council published a “final rule” implementing E.O.13502.

‘Job Discrimination Because . . . of a Worker’s Union Membership Is Flat Wrong’

“E.O.13502 pressures federal agencies to acquiesce to PLAs on all large public works,” noted Matthew Leen, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.

“That means, until further notice, to participate in public works using $25 million or more in federal funds, nonunion companies will have to consent to impose union monopoly bargaining on their employees and hire new workers through discriminatory union hiring halls.

“Independent workers who already have their own retirement funds will nevertheless be forced to contribute to Big Labor-manipulated pension funds.

“Rather than compromise the freedom of their employees and the efficiency of their operations, most independent construction firms will, in most cases, simply refuse to submit bids on federal projects.”

As Mr. Falk points out, the small firm for which he works, Debra’s Glass, is a case in point. Recently, the company had to back off from bidding on a project at a U.S. Army Reserve Center in New Jersey because submission to a PLA was a precondition.

“Eighty-five percent of the workforce in [Pennsylvania] is not in a union,” said Mr. Falk. ” . . . I just want every American worker to have the equal right to bid for a project.”

For him, the problem with PLAs is very simple: “Job discrimination because of a worker’s color, religious affiliation, or union membership is flat wrong, and it’s got to stop.”

Of course, when a PLA sharply reduces the number of bidders on a project, taxpayers’ bills are invariably jacked up.

Mr. Leen specified: “The nonpartisan, Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute estimates that construction costs will be inflated by at least 12% to 18% on every project that uses a PLA as a result of E.O.13502.”

Battle Likely to Heat up In the 2011-2012 Congress

John Falk and his companions arrived, sore-footed but in high spirits, on Capitol Hill September 21.

They immediately delivered thousands of petitions from freedom-loving citizens around the country who are eager for Congress to pass legislation overturning E.0.13502 and barring discriminatory PLAs on federal taxpayer-funded public works.

“Ever since E.O.13502 was first issued more than a year-and-a-half ago, the Committee has assisted efforts by pro-Right to Work members of Congress to craft and advance legislation revoking this pro-PLA presidential edict,” recalled Mr. Leen.

“In the current Big Labor-controlled Congress, this has been a steeply uphill fight.

“However, if, as recent polls indicate is very possible, Right to Work makes major gains in both chambers of Congress in the November elections, the battle to pass legislation promoting equal competition in federal contracts will intensify in the next Congress.

“Public opposition to union-only PLAs is already intense, and growing more so. Ultimately, even quite a few normally pro-forced unionism members of Congress may decide they don’t want to risk losing their seats by continuing to defend these special-interest schemes.”