Chamber Supports Anti-Mandatory PLA Bill

Dulles Rail construction. Photo credit: Washington Post

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a bill that would prohibit state agencies from requiring labor union agreements as a condition for participating in a public works project.

The Fair and Open Competition Act in Government Contracting “ensures a level playing field” by preventing mandatory labor agreements, said the Chamber in a press release issued Wednesday. “These agreements typically discourage competition and exclude qualified Virginia businesses and their local construction workforce from working on taxpayer-funded construction projects.”

The bill would directly impact a proposal by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to make mandatory a Project Labor Agreement on Phase 2 of the Rail-to-Dulles project. Although MWAA is not a state agency, financing for Phase 2 requires the injection of $150 million in state funds, for which the McDonnell administration is seeking approval from the General Assembly. The bill filed by Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, and Barbara Comstock, R-McLean, would restrict the ability of the state to “issue grants” or “provide financial assistance” to MWAA as long as it made the PLA a condition of bidding on the project.

The bill would not prevent project bidders from voluntarily signing a PLA or working with labor unions. Some large public-works contractors prefer working with unions. But open-shop companies would be severely disadvantaged by a mandated PLA, which would force them to change their business model in order to bid on a project, thus reducing competition.

“Research indicates public construction projects subject to PLAs are 12 to 18 percent more expensive,” said Barry DuVal, president of the state Chamber. “HB 33 will reduce costs, increase competition and create jobs for qualified Virginia businesses and local craft workers. Everyone wins when Virginia’s construction projects are procured free from discrimination and are based on the free enterprise system.”

Heh. Heh. And people thought I was stuck on a bizarre tangent by agitating against MWAA’s mandatory PLA. I guess I’m not the only one who has a problem with it. Heh. Heh.


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6 responses to “Chamber Supports Anti-Mandatory PLA Bill”

  1. You were never on a bizarre tangent. You are just another devotee of The Party of No.

    Specifically, you have NO plan to address the growing wealth and income gaps in the United States.

    Nearly incoherent ramblings about charter schools and “competition in public education” are “happy talk” but no more. Even under optimistic scenarios, improvements in K-12 education will take 20 years to make an impact on the income and wealth gaps.

    Republicans could push hard against outsourcing but, of course, the Chamber of Commerce would never condone that.

    Republicans could push to have employers who employ illegal aliens subjected to stiff penalties and/or criminal prosecution but they won’t do that. The Republicans would rather try to round up the illegals than punish those who employ them.

    Republicans could push for high taxes on the wealthy so money could be transferred to the less wealthy. Obviously, that’s not a policy plank of the GOP.

    Republicans could allow people lower on the economic ladder increased opportunities to organize but that would violate the sanctity of the “right to work” dogma.

    So, the Republicans stand idly by with no real ideas as to how the wealth and/or income gaps can be closed.

    The only bizarre thing is the bizarre belief that these gaps can continue growing indefinitely without severe repercussions against those at the top of the economic ladder who the Republicans seem to want to support.

    I guess the Republicans will just keep whistling Dixie.

    Maybe they should be whistling the tune to a different song …

    ” I stuck around st. petersburg
    When I saw it was a time for a change
    Killed the czar and his ministers
    Anastasia screamed in vain ”

    You can only screw a big percentage of the population for so long, Jim.

    If not PLAs, then what?

  2. Bottom line, Groveton, you support the transfer of wealth from Dulles Toll Road commuters to union workers and their bosses. Do you really think that’s going to close the wealth gap?

  3. my view from afar is that the PLA deal is part and parcel of the larger culture war… and in the same church as those who are after public sector unions and against minimum wage laws…unemployment benefits, etc.

    I’m not yet convinced of the income gap issue but I’m pretty convinced that things have changed for the worse for people in the middle class and I’m pretty sure the culture warriors and Republicans don’t give a crap either.

    we’ve got a race to the bottom going on… where no job is going to provide you with health insurance nor enough pension benefits unless you work yourself to the bone and then some… and if you get sick … die quickly…and don’t expect help.

    I think Obama is on to something although I do not believe we should expect to tax the rich – it’s not only not going to work it’s going to put the amp up the culture war even more.

    In my mind. I identify with the basic conservative philosophy that people need to take responsibility for their own lives – and not expect the govt to be a safety net except for the most desperate and penniless – i.e. we don’t let people die in the streets.

    In my heart – I believe the country benefits from a strong and vibrant middle class and that it will be to everyone’s ultimate harm if it diminishes.

    If you look at the people part of PLA – you’re looking at workers who are expecting to get a decent wage and health and pension benefits.

    if you look at the folks who oppose the PLAs.. they don’t care about what the PLA workers are after.

  4. constructionandlaborguy Avatar

    The construction jobs, whether they are performed by union members or not, are subject to wage and benefit rates determined by the federal government under the Davis-Bacon Act. The project’s federal financing triggers this law. You can look up the wages for Fairfax County and Loudoun County at For example, a heavy construction electrician performing work in Fairfax County must be paid at least $39.75 and hour plus a benefit package of %3 of wages plus $13.10. The rates vary by trade, but they are typically similar to union wage and benefit rates. This law applies with or without a PLA.

    Despite rhetoric from the left, a PLA on this project has nothing to do with “FAIR” wages and benefits. It is about granting unions a monopoly as a result of cronyism, even when 96 percent of Virginia’s construction workforce does not belong to a union.

    If Bechtel’s CEO were on the MWAA board and passed a measure giving Bechtel a huge advantage, if not a no-bid contract, for Phase 2 would you be upset? I bet you would. So why are comfortable with giving the unions a pass? Is it because unions predominantly support Democrats? Is it because unions take wealth from others and redistribute it to others regardless of merit.

    And under a PLA, if a nonunion employee can EVEN work on the job, they forfeit their money paid into union benefit programs during the life of the project unless they join a union and become vested in the plans. Don’t they deserve benefits? Why should they be treated like second class citizens just because they don’t belong to the union club?

  5. constructionandlaborguy is probably right but here’s the problem. Most folks who are opposed to PLAs don’t know these facts They are mostly following the rhetoric and narrative from the right wing propaganda machine.

    and they BELIEVE – just as they do with pubic sector jobs that people with those jobs are getting health care and pension benefits that are “too rich” and that they should have to work like everyone else who does not have benefits – at lower wages.

    as I said.. it’s a race to the bottom. If someone does not have a job that pays benefits – they are won over to the propaganda by basically saying that people with better jobs should not have them.

    it’s the most odd of things when the right wing convinces the working people that they should vote for people that are not looking after their interests but hey.. in Va even back in the Civil War – who fought the plantation owners war? Many, many of the Confederate army were not wealthy and were not plantation owners so what were they fighting for economically?

    Ronald Reagan convinced the blue collar folks that the Republicans looked out for blue collar workers even as Republicans fight to kill health care, pension plans, and employee collective bargaining…

    if you want to see what is happening to the middle class..look no further than what is going on right now with the right wing propaganda machine.

    it constantly amazes me that many in the middle class, especially the blue-collar middle class “thinks’ that Republicans really care about the things that are important to the middle class.

    I live in an area where about 40% of the work force – works for the Federal Govt – and ….they vote Republican and oppose collective bargaining for State govt employees…. like teachers, FEMS and LE.

    go figure…

    I’m NOT advocating for unions or PLAs here.. I’m talking about the dynamics associated with them from a political narrative perspective.

  6. HardHatMommy Avatar

    The deal with the PLA has nothing to do with wages and benefits to the workers. The problem with the PLA is that there are qualified, skilled non-union workers in Virginia (96% of the workforce) who have no desire to leave their employer/team and join a union to be a number waiting in line for a job at a union hall.

    Construction is changing. It is a much more collaborative environment now that the design-build process has forced contractors and architects to work together. The trades professionals are seen as experts and their opinions count. In the non-union world you have a name, not a number; and a real chance at making a name for yourself. No other industry yields so many entrepreneurs. Most of the trades contractors were started by individuals who came up through the ranks as apprentices. We don’t have a lot of MBAs in our industry. You can still make it by being the best at what you do and working hard. But in a union, you’re a laborer; you’re an electrician; you’re a bricklayer. Nobody is going to tell you to go start your own firm and hire the best people you know to come work for you. Nobody is going to give you the training and education to make the move into management and run that jobsite or that company.

    Maybe other unions are different; I don’t know. But I can tell you that the construction unions are an old school good ol’ boys club run by wealthy union bosses who could care less about giving the actual workers a chance to pursue their dreams.

    Tell me again why it is a good idea to serve the unions Virginia jobs on a platter?

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