Victory For West Virginia Hardhats, Taxpayers

Citizens Push Back Against Abusive ‘PLAs’ in State After State

(Source: May 2015 National Right to Work Newsletter)

Back in February 2009, one of the first actions President Barack Obama 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.

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

“In practice, it is designed to force nonunion companies wishing to participate in public works using $25 million or more in federal funds to impose union monopoly bargaining on their employees and hire new workers through discriminatory union hiring halls.

“Under union-only PLAs, independent workers who already have their own retirement funds are nevertheless 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 simply refuse to submit bids on PLA projects.”

Grassroots Activists Push Back Against Abusive PLAs In the Mountain State

Fortunately, over the past six years taxpayers and other freedom-loving citizens have mounted a strong counterattack against the E.O.13502 power grab.

As of February 2009, just four states had prohibited union-only PLAs for any kind of taxpayer-funded construction projects.

But in late March, West Virginia became the 22nd state to ban government-mandated PLAs on public works.

The Mountain State measure prohibiting union-only PLAs (S.B.409) was signed into law by Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Mr. Tomblin is the first governor of his party affiliation to sign legislation or issue an executive order prohibiting PLA mandates on public-works projects.

Along with other citizens’ groups, the National Right to Work Committee successfully lobbied for adoption of the PLA ban in West Virginia.

Mr. Mourad said several important factors are behind the backlash against E.O.13502:

“Since just 15% of construction workers nationwide are unionized, PLAs sharply reduce the number of potential bidders for public works and, inevitably, also jack up taxpayer costs.

“The nonpartisan, Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute has estimated that construction costs will be inflated by 12% to 18% on every federal project that uses a PLA as a result of the Obama edict.”

Is John Kasich as Willing To Stand up to Big Labor As Earl Ray Tomblin?

The Committee and its allies are now pushing for additional PLA bans in states such as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Ohio.

Gov2“An especially telling example of why such laws are desperately needed occurred in the Buckeye State a few years ago, when the Ohio School Facilities Commission solicited bids to build new dormitories at the state schools for the blind and deaf in Columbus,” said Mr. Mourad.

“When contractors were originally invited to submit bids for the school construction in July 2010, they were required to acquiesce to a PLA. Even the lowest bid came in millions of dollars over budget.

“Just a few months later, the Commission dropped the PLA mandate and solicited new bids. Six times as many firms bid on dormitory construction, and the apparent winner came in roughly 20% under the previous low bidder.”

In order to protect taxpayers as well as union-free hardhats and companies in the future, on April 22 the Ohio House of Representatives adopted an FY 2016-2017 budget (H.B.64) that includes a provision barring mandatory PLAs on taxpayer-funded construction.

Unfortunately, as this Newsletter edition goes to press it is unclear whether Ohio chief executive John Kasich (R) will support this modest, but significant rollback of Big Labor’s special privileges, or lobby behind the scenes to kill it in the state Senate before it reaches his desk.

“Over the past couple of years, Mr. Kasich has sadly emerged as one of the most prominent Big Labor appeasers in his party,” noted Mr. Mourad. “An August 2013 Wall Street Journal front-page story actually reported that he had ‘promised’ union officials that he would ‘oppose efforts to turn Ohio into a “Right to Work” state.’

“But the adoption of H.B.64 by the Ohio House gives Mr. Kasich a chance to turn over a new leaf. By publicly prodding the Senate to retain this bill’s crackdown on PLAs and by signing it into law, he can demonstrate he’s at least as willing as West Virginia’s Democrat governor to stand up to Big Labor.”