White House loses battle over union paybacks 

Bridges Construction of Pittsburgh recently filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office after the federal government tried to impose a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) as part of the federal contract in the construction of a $50 mllion Veterans Affairs building. PLAs are construction contracts negotiated in advance that basically mandate union labor -- a study from the Beacon Hill institute found that PLAs make construction projects 12 percent to 18 percent more expensive on average.

Last month, I wrote about how the Obama White House signed an executive effectively imposing on all big Federal construction projects as way to pay back unions for their political support. After my column ran, a number of Republican Congressmen wrote a letter to the White House questioning the White House's PLA policy.

According to today's press release from Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors and Bridges Construction successfully thwarted the PLA on the VA building in Pittsburgh:

The protest challenged the VA’s PLA mandate that appeared in a September bid solicitation for the Research Office Building. The PLA requirement discriminated against qualified open shop contractors and their employees by imposing union dues requirements and inefficient and costly union work rules as a condition of performing work on the project.

During the course of the GAO protest, the VA revealed that its own PLA impact study found imposing a PLA on the project would increase costs by millions of dollars, would reduce the number of bidders and subcontractors, and would decrease the pool of skilled labor. In spite of this evidence, the VA claimed a PLA was supported by President Obama’s Executive Order 13502, which “encourages” federal agencies to impose PLAs on large construction projects if “consistent with law.”

After reviewing the facts of the case, the GAO strongly indicated it would sustain the protest of ABC’s member contractor under the federal Competition in Contracting Act (CICA), absent corrective action by the VA. In direct response to GAO’s action, on Dec. 21, 2010, the VA announced its withdrawal of the PLA mandate from the Pittsburgh solicitation. On January 5, 2011, the VA confirmed that adoption of a PLA would be completely “optional” for submitting offers. According to the VA, “No additional points or weight will be assigned to proposals submitted with a PLA.”

Emphasis mine. The government's own study found the PLA was a waste of tax dollars, and yet they still tried to impose one anyway. Remember unions are Democrats biggest campaign donor. PLAs are not about efficient use of your hard earned tax dollars -- they're political payback.

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Mark Hemingway

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