‘Voters Don’t Know Anything About These Issues’

Big Labor Official Lashes Out at Opponents of Union-Only PLAs

(Source: March 2010 NRTWC Newsletter)

Big Labor and its pliant politicians from President Barack Obama on down are facing passionate opposition from ordinary citizens and mounting legal concerns as they strive to foist union-only “project labor agreements,” or PLAs, on taxpayer-funded construction work across the country.

Even in union-boss stronghold states like New York and California, independent construction employees and employers and concerned taxpayers are fighting back against government PLAs that rig the public-works bidding process in favor of union boss-controlled contractors and inflate construction costs.

In the Empire State and in neighboring Vermont, citizens are already mobilizing against a nascent deal between the New York Department of Transportation and political appointees at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to impose a PLA on the $75 million project to replace the Champlain Bridge.

Until 2009, this nearly 2200-footlong structure was the only bridge that connected New York and Vermont by crossing Lake Champlain. But the Champlain Bridge was closed last October due to safety concerns, then destroyed in December after it was determined to be beyond repair.

At this writing, the project to replace the economically important bridge is scheduled to go to bid in April, with work to begin just weeks later.

Employees of recession-wracked New York and Vermont construction firms have been awaiting the commencement of the Champlain Bridge replacement project with bated breath.

Workers Would Be Forced To Contribute to Big Labor-Manipulated Pension Funds

That’s why many were deeply distressed to learn last month that the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) had secretly commissioned a draft report by an obscure White Plains-based consulting firm that endorses a so-called “PLA” for the project.

Moreover, the draft report had already been sent to the FHWA, now headed by Obama appointee Victor Mendez.

Most observers believe it is inevitable that the FHWA will give a quick nod to the NYSDOT’s PLA plan. After all, President Obama on February 6, 2009, just a couple of weeks after he took office, issued Executive Order 13502, promoting union-only PLAs for federal taxpayer-funded public works.

“Fortunately, the regulations to implement E.O.13502 are not yet in place,” noted National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.

“But once they are, 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 all probability, simply refuse to submit bids on large federal projects.

“And sharply reducing the number of bidders will surely jack up taxpayers’ bills. The nonpartisan, Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute estimates that construction costs will be inflated by 12% to 18% on every project that uses a PLA as a result of E.O.13502.

“Of course, a union-only PLA on the Champlain Bridge project would have exactly the same unhappy consequences.”

Powerful Backlash Seems to Have Surprised Union Bigwigs

Last July, attorneys for the Committee’s sister organization, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, joined in a federal court case challenging the power of public agencies to systematically impose PLAs on taxpayer-funded construction.

And in New York, many union-free contractors who don’t want their employees corralled into an unwanted union say they will support a legal effort to block a Champlain Bridge PLA should the NYSDOT proceed with its plan to impose one.

Meanwhile, all the way across the country in California, strapped taxpaying individuals and businesses are helping drive efforts to prohibit PLAs on public works in county after county.

These efforts have so unnerved southern California AFL-CIO official Evan McLaughlin that late last month he snarled at the San Diego County Board of Supervisors: “Voters don’t know anything about these issues.”

“Such outbursts tell me that Right to Work supporters and our allies are making real progress in our efforts to stop discriminatory PLAs. We must keep turning up the pressure,” concluded Mr. Mix.