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House and Senate Committees Rubber-Stamp ALEC Bill at the Expense of Taxpayers
Richmond - House and Senate conservatives voted this week to advance bills to limit tools for taxpayer accountability on construction projects that use state funds. Despite the numerous benefits of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), House and Senate committees approved HB33 and companion bill SB242, which seek to prohibit the use of PLAs. Project labor agreements are a market-based tool that sets rules and expectations for management and workers and as a result, projects with PLAs come in on-time and on-budget.
"We're disappointed members of the General Assembly have disregarded an important tool to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on construction projects," said Doris Crouse-Mays, President of the Virginia AFL-CIO. "Project Labor Agreements serve as a taxpayer protection and create accountability on megaprojects where millions of dollars are at stake. PLAs prevent companies from making money off of mistakes and delays and thus help avoid megaproject disasters."
Contrary to some reports, PLAs neither require a unionized workforce nor do they require any worker to join a union. PLAs are good for local economies because they guarantee local workers are chosen for local projects, keeping construction dollars in our communities. They also set standards for training and safety protections, ensuring a skilled workforce that is less prone to accident and injury.
"Virginia's experiences with project labor agreements illustrate the facts," said Anna Scholl, Executive Director of ProgressVA. "Phase 1 of the Dulles Rail project has utilized a Project Labor Agreement. The project is on time, under budget, and boasts the best safety record of any project in the Commonwealth. The Springfield 95 Interchange was done without the benefit of a PLA. The project experienced significant delays and costs overruns. Five workers were killed on the project. "
Studies have shown that legislators' claims that eliminating PLAs on state projects with reduce costs are inaccurate. PLAs do even the playing field for responsible contractors. They prevent contractors from simply low-balling the competition by putting together the lowest cost (and often least experienced and most exploitable) workforce.
We encourage Virginia's representatives to protect taxpayer interests when these bills proceed to the floor and vote no on HB 33 and SB 242.
- 2009 study from Cornell University found that PLAs do not drive up project costs.
- August 2010 Report: Building Better - A Look at Best Practices for the Design of Project Labor Agreements by Dr. Dale Belman of Michigan State University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Matthew Bodah of the University of Rhode Island's Schmidt Labor Research Center.
- December 2011 study on San Diego Unified School District Project Stabilization Agreements
Virginia AFL-CIO represents 150,000 union members in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia AFL-CIO speaks for labor collectively in Virginia and advances labor's political and public positions. It represents a consensus of labor's priorities, policy and opinions. www.va.aflcio.org
ProgressVA is a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that engages citizens from across the Commonwealth around issues of immediate state or local concern. www.progressva.org