Will Congress Halt Union-Only Public Works?

So-called “project labor agreements,” or PLAs, effectively force nonunion companies wishing to participate in public works to impose union monopoly bargaining on their current employees and hire new workers through union boss-controlled hiring halls. (CREDIT: WWW.LABORISSUESSOLUTIONS.COM)

Obama Edict Still Stacking the Deck Against Independent Hardhats

The National Right to Work Committee and its members are now mobilizing public support for the Fair and Open Competition Act (H.R.1552).

This legislation was approved by a U.S. House panel on March 28.  It would bar federal agencies and recipients of federal funding from foisting so-called “project labor agreements” (PLAs) that discriminate against union-free hardhats and their employers on federal taxpayer-funded construction work.

Introduced on March 15 by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), H.R.1552 and its Senate companion, S.622, would protect contractors and subcontractors from being required to impose a PLA on their employees in order to submit bids on taxpayer-funded construction.

“The Fair and Open Competition Act would automatically overturn Executive Order 13502, a pro-union monopoly edict issued by Barack Obama in February 2009,” explained National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.

“For more than eight years, E.O.13502 has aggressively promoted the use of discriminatory PLAs on large federal and federally funded projects.”

Independent Workers Forced To Contribute to Big Labor-Manipulated Pension Funds

In practice, E.O.13502 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 union boss-controlled hiring halls.

“To even submit a bid for a taxpayer-funded PLA contract,” said Mr. Mix, “a union-free firm has to agree to use the union hiring hall to obtain workers at the expense of current qualified employees.

“Apprentices must be obtained through Big Labor-operated apprenticeship programs.

“Instead of following their normal guidelines for working safely and speedily, hardhats must submit to inefficient union work rules.

“Moreover, independent employees are routinely forced to contribute to union boss-controlled ‘multiemployer’ pension plans that are in many cases grossly underfunded.

“Even if the plans are sound, independent employees who contribute to them will never receive any benefits except in the extremely unlikely event they work long enough on unionized contracts to meet vesting requirements.

“And in states without Right to Work laws in effect, PLAs even force union nonmembers to join or pay union fees as a condition of employment!”

Since 2009, Grass-Roots Activists Have Pushed Back Against Abusive PLAs

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.

Fortunately, over the past eight 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 by the time this Newsletter reaches its readers, at least 23 states will have banned or sharply curtailed PLAs on state and local tax-funded public works.

“Along with other citizens’ groups, National Right to Work successfully lobbied this year for the adoption of a PLA ban in Wisconsin,” said Mr. Mix.  “Iowa and Missouri may also curtail PLAs.”

“These state laws are doing a lot of good.

“They are preventing Big Labor and its allied public officials from stacking the deck against union-free workers for contracts for state and local tax-funded buildings, from schools to sports stadiums.

“Taxpayers are also benefiting.

“Research by the nonpartisan, Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute shows that PLAs inflate construction costs by 12% to 18%.”

Ongoing Seattle Tunnel PLA Fiasco Underscores Need For Federal Legislative Action

Unfortunately, although the rapid spread of state legislation rolling back monopolistic PLAs has mitigated the damage wrought by E.O.13502, this edict continues to do substantial harm to independent-minded hardhats and federal taxpayers.

Illustrative of the delays, cost overruns, poor safety records and featherbedding that routinely come with PLAs encouraged by E.O.13502 and acquiesced to by union-label state politicians is the ongoing Highway 99 tunnel mega-project underneath Seattle’s downtown waterfront.

The union-impaired contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) won the bid to design and build the downtown tunnel. But work has proceeded only in fits and starts since drilling began in July 2013.

According to a March 2016 Associated Press report, the double-decker traffic tunnel “didn’t move an inch” in 2015 until the year’s “final days.” In January 2016, the project was shut down again after “a sinkhole appeared in the tunnel.”

Even as minimal progress was made on construction in 2015, workers continued to suffer severe injuries, resulting in an amputated foot, a fractured hand, and a fingertip “crushed so badly it had to be surgically removed . . . .”

“Unless and until elected officials in Washington, D.C., take action to halt PLA abuses, many federal construction contracts will continue to be awarded to firms because they have kowtowed to Big Labor, rather than because they have offered the best value for taxpayers,” said Mr. Mix.

The Fair and Open Competition Act, introduced in the U.S. House by Dennis Ross (Fla.), would protect contractors and subcontractors from being required to impose a PLA on their employees in order to submit bids on taxpayer-funded construction. (credit: RICK SHOPES/TAMPA BAY (FLA.) TIMES)

Rescission of E.O.13502 a Good First Step, But No Substitute For Legislation

President Donald Trump, who promised to Right to Work members during last year’s campaign to oppose union-only PLAs, could even without Congress’s help take a good first step by rescinding E.O.13502.

“Before Barack Obama issued this anti-free competition edict,” recalled Mr. Mix, “nearly $150 billion worth of federal construction contracts were forged between 2001 and 2009 without PLA restrictions.

“This occurred thanks to two pro-independent hardhat executive orders issued at Right to Work advocates’ behest by President George W. Bush.

“Construction union kingpins and their lawyers tried to reassert control over federal public works by getting them judicially overturned.

“But Executive Orders 13202 and 13208 were successfully defended in court by the Bush Administration and a host of allies, including National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys.

“Of course, this victory was only temporary. With the arrival of forced-unionism promoter Barack Obama at the White House in early 2009, these executive orders were almost immediately scrubbed and replaced with the pro-PLA E.O.13502.

“To furnish union-free construction workers and their employers with federal public-works protections that can’t be eviscerated in the future with the stroke of a presidential pen, adoption of the Fair and Open Competition Act is absolutely necessary.”

Mr. Mix promised that, over the coming months, the National Right to Work Committee would mobilize freedom-loving citizens across the country to contact their U.S. representatives and senators regarding H.R.1552/S.622 and ask them to cosponsor and seek recorded votes on this pro-employee, pro-taxpayer reform.

(Source: May 2017 National Right to Work Committee Newsletter)