NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Labor's Under-the-Radar Power Grab

February 24, 2012

If polls are to be believed, unionism in general is becoming increasingly unpopular with the American public.  This might explain why overt attempts to gain legal concessions, such as the Employee Free Choice Act, have not been met by the federal government with overwhelming approval.  Nevertheless, unions continue to gain concessions on the local level that perpetuate their damaging effects, says Michael M. Rosen of The American.

Specifically, unions across the country are increasingly taking advantage of the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) -- a contract with municipal and state governments that grants enormous allowances to unions in the construction of public buildings.

  • Non-union workers must pay union dues.
  • Non-union contractors have to contribute to union health and pension plans (even if they already offer their own).
  • Non-union workers must be approved by a union before being dispatched to a job.
  • Only union apprentices can work on PLA projects.

These strictures significantly limit bidding competition for the rights to public projects, thereby increasing costs to the taxpayers.

  • A 2009 report by the Beacon Hill Institute found that, had President Obama's pro-PLA executive order been in effect in 2008 with all federal construction projects in that year being performed under PLAs, the cost to taxpayers would have increased by $1.6 billion to a total of $2.6 billion.
  • A 2001 Ernst & Young analysis of construction projects in an upstate New York county supported the contention that PLAs reduce bidding competition, thus undercutting cost-effective construction.
  • Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, cited a peer-reviewed study that found that the use of PLAs typically increased the price tag of a given project by 13 to 15 percent.

Source: Michael M. Rosen, "Labor's Under-the-Radar Power Grab," The American, February 21, 2012.

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