Recently, Governor Martin O’Malley proposed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the Detention Center in Cheltenham, Prince George’s County. Such labor agreements discriminate against merit shop contractors and disadvantaged businesses, making it hard for them to submit bids and potentially win construction contracts. Union-only PLAs are also incredibly unfair to women-owned and minority-owned business, both of which are traditionally underrepresented by unions, mainly due to artificial and societal barriers in union membership and union apprenticeship and training programs.
PLAs include the following provisions that typically discourage merit shop contractors and other non-union companies from working on PLA projects:
•PLAs require non-union companies with their own benefit plans to pay their employees’ health and welfare benefits to union trust funds. Thus, companies have to pay benefits twice: once to the union and once to the company. Workers never see any of the benefits sent to the unions unless they decide to leave their non-union employer and remain with the union until vested.
•PLAs require non-union companies to obtain apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs. Participants in federal and state-approved non-union apprenticeship programs cannot work on a job covered by a PLA. This means craft professional enrolled in a non-union apprenticeship programs are excluded from work in their hometowns.
•PLAs require non-union companies to obtain their workers from union hiring halls. This means a non-union company has to send its own employees to the union hiring hall and hope the union sends the same workers back.
•Non-union workers may have to pay union dues and fees or join a union in order to work on a PLA project.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data, unionized private construction workers currently make up just 15.6 percent of all of America’s private construction workforce. This means union-only PLAs would prevent more than 8 out of 10 construction workers from being employed for said projects who would otherwise gain work from construction projects.
Furthermore, union-only PLAs drive up the cost of construction projects by unnecessarily limiting bidders and following inefficient union work rules. Several academic studies indicate PLAs increase the cost of construction between 10 and 20 percent when compared to similar projects not subject to union-only PLAs.
So why is Governor O’Malley proposing a PLA for the Detention Center?
If you have any questions or remarks or if you wish to discuss this matter further, please comment. We at Reliable Contracting want to know what you think. You can also contact Reliable Contracting by calling 410-987-0313 or visit our website.
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