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Monday, September 19, 2011

Affton Board of Education's Union Project Labor Agreement is Unjust, Unfair and UnAmerican

The Affton School District is about to hand its $2.6 million update of the Early Childhood Education Center COMPLETELY into the hands of the politically connected construction unions. No non-union contractors need apply. The taxpayers will most likely be gouged by an extra 10% in higher construction costs ($260,000) to achieve this blatant giveaway to the Affton Board of Education's union cronies.

According to the Wall Street Journal: "PLAs are a form of political bid-rigging that robs taxpayers even in good economic times. Amid today's limited fiscal resources, PLAs steal money from the likes of education and law enforcement to reward politically-connected companies and their unions. They deserve to be outlawed". (see the full article below)

The taxpayers of Affton should be very concerned about this transfer of wealth to the unions and the unfair rejection of ANY non-union contractors to work on this huge taxpayer funded project. Any school board that agrees to much higher costs that fleece the taxpayers just to reward a small group union insiders should be removed from office for malfeasance and corruption. 

We DARE the unions to attempt a PLA in the Mehlville School District for any new building projects. We would LOVE to fight this battle here. Below is the full text of the Affton Board of Education's intent letter to initiate a Union Project Labor Agreement. Affton taxpayers BEWARE!


By this “Intent to Enter into a Union Project Labor Agreement,” the Affton School District Board of Education notifies the public of its intent to enter into a union Project Labor Agreement on a public works project described and defined as the early childhood education center construction project. 

A hearing will be conducted on September 20, 2011, at 7:00 p.m. in the library at Rogers Middle School from which a determination will be rendered as to whether a Project Labor Agreement will apply to the project. The purpose of the hearing and investigation shall be to determine whether there is a favorable impact on the school district from having a Project Labor Agreement. It has been preliminarily concluded that a union-only Project Labor Agreement should apply to this project because: 

a) A union-only Project Labor Agreement advances the interests of the public entity in that it will provide a reliable, stable supply of trained and skilled construction craft labor that will promote timely, cost-effective project delivery that will help the project reach completion on time and within budget. A Project Labor Agreement will also minimize the potential for labor disruptions such as strikes, slow-downs, work stoppages, and jurisdictional disputes. 

b) A union-only Project Labor Agreement is appropriate considering the complexity, size, cost impact, and need for efficiency on the project in that the early childhood education center construction project is estimated to cost approximately $2,600,000, and the use of a Project Labor Agreement will not adversely impact costs since prevailing wages are required to be paid on the project. Additionally, since craft labor is a major, critical component of any construction project, the quality, productivity and reliability of the craft labor workforce on the project will have a direct and substantial impact on the success of the project. Skilled, trained workers are better able to build a project in accordance with plans and specifications, generally produce quality workmanship, work safely and productively and more cost-effective and cost-efficient than works that lack formal training. Finally, a Project Labor Agreement will eliminate the potential for a two gate construction entry system on this project. 

c) A union-only Project Labor Agreement impacts the availability of a qualified work force in that securing a supply of local craft labor that is less susceptible to disruptions is a reliable approach to staffing the construction project and delivering the project on time. A Project Labor Agreement will allow the Affton School District to substantially limit risks of schedule delays, deficient workmanship, incidents resulting from unsafe actions and related problems caused by an insufficient number of skilled and qualified workers. 

d) The scope of the union-only Project Labor Agreement has a business justification for the project as bid in that the use of a Project Labor Agreement secures access to a highly skilled workforce; promotes safe, timely, cost-effective completion of construction projects; avoids prevailing wage violations, and results in economic benefits to project owners and other parties responsible for or dependent upon such projects. 

Within thirty (30) days of the public hearing, a determination by the Affton School District Board of Education shall be published as to whether to require a union-only Project Labor Agreement. (end)

Project Labor Revolt

The states ban union political bid-rigging. Obama demurs.

One benefit of the squeeze on state and local budgets is that politicians are finally having to confront their sweetheart deals with labor unions. The latest reform movement is moving against project labor agreements, or PLAs, that limit bids on construction projects to contractors that agree to union representation.

Only about 13% of construction workers belong to unions, and PLAs are a union invention to use their political muscle to organize more companies. Proponents argue that PLAs ensure the speed and quality of construction plans. But PLAs are one of the reasons that Boston's Big Dig was estimated at $2.8 billion but eventually cost $22 billion. Studies show that projects under PLA contracts on average cost 12% to 18% more than projects awarded by open, competitive bidding. Taxpayers pick up much of this tab.

The case of New York City is instructive. In 2009, the city's construction union and the association of builders agreed to an Economic Recovery Project Labor Agreement in the name of lowering costs and unfreezing construction halted during the recession. Some projects such as Frank Gehry's 76-story Beekman Tower did start, only to see costs skyrocket. 

According to the New York State Comptroller, wages have risen 12% city-wide, more than three times inflation. Contractors say strict union job classifications mean they have to employ superfluous workers. Many projects have frozen again, as PLA contracts expire and builders balk at new ones.

In response to this evidence, states have been pulling away from PLAs. Louisiana passed a law this month that prohibits state entities from mandating the use of PLAs. Tennessee, Arizona and Idaho passed similar legislation earlier this year, and Iowa's Governor Terry Branstad, in one of his first acts after inauguration, signed an executive order ending a state PLA requirement. Legislatures in Maine and Michigan recently passed bills along these lines that governors are expected to sign. These states are joining Utah, Montana, Missouri and Arkansas, which enacted bans in recent years.

The new wave of Republican state officials is leading this reform, but the public seems to support the effort even in Democratic-leaning areas. Seven localities in California have passed ballot initiatives to end mandated PLAs in the last decade, including five since 2009. This includes places like Chula Vista, where President Obama received 61% of the vote. As Andy Conlin of Associated Business and Contractors notes, wherever PLAs are subject to popular referendum, they're rejected.

You may not be surprised to learn that the Obama Administration is not part of this reform trend. In February 2009 Mr. Obama issued Executive Order 13502, which lifted President Bush's ban on PLAs and explicitly "encourages" them in federal construction projects worth more than $25 million. As the 2012 election nears, the Administration will be tempted to extend the order to include projects that receive any federal funds.

That would raise construction costs across the country, and at all levels of government, because so many public works projects are jointly funded by states and the feds. It would also mean fewer construction jobs overall, though higher pay for those unionized workers lucky enough to get one.

PLAs are a form of political bid-rigging that robs taxpayers even in good economic times. Amid today's limited fiscal resources, PLAs steal money from the likes of education and law enforcement to reward politically-connected companies and their unions. They deserve to be outlawed.

Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. The Affton school board is acting like a bunch of jack-booted socialists. I think if local residents knew what a ripoff this PLA is to their pocketbooks, they would be storming this meeting.

    I'm in the construction business and the unions have destroyed us. As an Affton taxpayer I certainly don't want to subsidize the waste that PLAs encourage.


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