Examiner Editorial: Another favor for unions from the president 

Barely 15 percent of all construction-industry workers in the U.S. are union members, while the remaining 85 percent are nonunion, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. So why has President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13502 directing federal agencies taking bids for government construction projects to accept only those from contractors who agree in advance to a project labor agreement (PLA) that requires a union work force?

Obama’s new order applies to all federal construction projects with price tags of $25 million or more, and it means all such contracts will only be awarded to companies with unionized work forces.

By eliminating the vast majority of potential bidders on federal construction projects, Obama guarantees two things. First, the projects will cost taxpayers more because union labor is always more expensive. And with mandated PLAs, the cost premium for union contractors will be even greater because fewer bidders always means less competition and higher prices. Second, by guaranteeing unions a bigger stream of federal contracts, Obama is making sure Big Labor, already among Democrats’ biggest sources of campaign cash, will have even more money to hand out for the 2010 and 2012 elections.

You scratch our back with taxpayers dollars gleaned through PLA-based federal construction jobs, and we’ll scratch your back with campaign contributions. That’s the way it works in Obama’s business-as-usual Washington, D.C. It’s also known in some quarters as “the Chicago Way.”

“The Obama administration’s policy is a slap in the face to the vast majority of construction workers who have chosen not to unionize,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Qualified nonunion contractors whose workers have opted against unionization will be locked out from large-scale construction projects. The true purpose of so-called project labor agreements is simple: to impose unwanted union-boss control on workers from the top down.”

Another factor helps explain Obama’s willingness to sign an executive order that will put millions more tax dollars in union coffers.

Mix points out that unions under PLAs typically exact agreements that include requiring contractors to make payments to union pension funds. This is an increasingly urgent issue, as The Examiner’s Mark Hemingway recently detailed. According to Labor Department filings, the average union pension has only enough money on hand to cover 62 percent of the benefits it has promised to union members. Pension plans with 80 percent funding are considered “endangered” by federal auditors, while those with less than 65 percent funding are put on the “critical” list.

With this latest executive order, it’s clear that Obama intends give unions on the critical list a massive dose of federal tax dollars to cure what ails them.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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