ABC New Hampshire & Vermont News
Manchester Job Corps Center Project
The only businesses our government runs are the post office and the railroads, and both of them are “bankrupt”. But that will not stop them from thinking they know what is best for business success. As ABC members know, now they want to influence how we run construction projects funded with taxpayer dollars. This should be frightening news to all taxpayers. On November 5, 2009, the US Department of Labor (DOL) cancelled its solicitation for bids to construct a new Job Corps Center in Manchester, NH under a government mandated Project Labor Agreement (PLA), which would require all contractors on the project to execute an agreement with the building trades unions. The cancellation came in response to a protest filed at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on behalf of non union contractors who represent over 90% of the construction workforce in NH. DOL cancelled the solicitation the day before the agency was required to submit justification to the GAO for the union only requirement.
Not to be deterred, the DOL retained the services of a consultant, Hill International, to prepare a report justifying and defending a PLA requirement. The report has cost taxpayers $130,000. DOL has also retained Hill international, at additional taxpayer expense, to represent them in anticipation of litigation when the project solicitation is reissued with a PLA requirement. The DOL has issued a pre solicitation which includes reference to a final solicitation on or about January 9th The report includes a historical perspective on the use of PLA’s, including reference to such projects as the Hoover Dam, nuclear facilities, NASA facilities, Disney World, General Motors, the Alaskan pipeline and petro chemical plants. Interesting history but not quite sure what relevance they have to NH construction activity. As a matter of fact, the most notable construction project with a PLA in our region that was referenced was the “Big Dig” in Boston. We all know how well that worked out, billions over budget and years over schedule. The report attempts to justify a PLA on the Job Corps Center by making a dramatic jump from providing a history lesson on PLA’s to virtually insulting the vast majority of NH construction workers and companies by stating that “in the area of open shop contracting there appears to be rampant misclassification of employees and workers compensation noncompliance”. The report includes reference to testimony in legislative hearings and claims made by union building trade representatives and other pro labor representatives as evidence of the “rampant” violations. Although leaders of the NH Building and Construction Trade Councils were interviewed to obtain information for the report, only one non union contactor is known to have been contacted to offer comments. No statistical information is provided in the report, because there is none available that substantiates the claims of “rampant” violations. However, the report suggests that a PLA is needed to enforce local, state and federal regulations, regulations that are already being enforced by the local, state and federal regulators.
The Hill International report recommends language for the Job Corps Center project that requires all employees who are not members of the union to become and remain members and that all contractors agree that all wages shall be subject to deduction for collection of union dues, regardless of whether an employee is a member of a union. Further, all contractors shall be required to pay contributions to union employee benefit funds. With over 90% of construction workers and companies in NH choosing to not be union, it is offensive for the DOL to be promoting their pro union agenda by further delaying the Job Corps Center project. NH citizens can be proud of the construction professionals working hard every day to build our schools, office buildings, hospitals and other facilities. Projects that were awarded through a process open to all interested and qualified bidders, union and non union.
ABC is prepared to again, fight this union only initiative. It is important for all taxpayers to understand the impact this decision will have on them. At a time when a challenging economy is dependent on real solutions for job creation and accountability for every taxpayer dollar, this forced union initiative by the DOL needs to be stopped.