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March 2015

The Front Line: Politics & Jobs
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This Just In: PLAs Work

A special Massachusetts state commission recently confirmed what the IBEW has been saying for decades: project labor agreements work.

In its report, the special commission on the use of project labor agreements in road, bridge, and rail projects found PLAs promote quality, prevent labor disputes and help projects finish on time and under budget.

"The commission recommends the use of a PLA for any public infrastructure project," said the report. [We] found PLAs to be particularly beneficial on [large] public infrastructure projects."

Project labor agreements are pre-hire, project specific agreements that govern wages and working standards on construction projects.

The commission was established in 2012. The five-member body was appointed by top state officials.

The commission took testimony from industry experts, studying more than 20 years of PLA case studies.

Among the report's key findings:

PLAs keep projects on time, streamlining the construction process and resolving disputes quickly, helping project completion.

PLAs save money by keeping projects on schedule, preventing unnecessary overruns.

PLAs prevent labor strife by giving employers and employees the tools to bargain collectively.

The commission also found that PLAs aren't just appropriate for large-scale projects — smaller jobs can also benefit, citing a recent PLA-governed construction project for the Braintree school system that cost less than $25 million.

"The commission's findings confirm what the evidence has always shown," said Massachusetts Building Trades Council President Frank Callahan. "PLAs are a time-tested business tool that has been used successfully in both the private and public sectors to deliver quality construction, on-time and on-budget."


'PLAs are a time-tested business tool that have been used successfully to deliver quality construction, on-time and on-budget.'

– Massachusetts Building Trades Council President Frank Callahan

Ky. Lawmakers Push Right-to-Work, County by County

Kentucky Democrats successfully maintained control of the state house last November, effectively dashing Republican lawmakers' goal of passing right-to-work-for-less legislation.

But that hasn't stopped right-to-work advocates from trying to push the legislation on the Bluegrass State by other means.

So far, three counties have approved local right-to-work ordinances.

Leading these efforts is the American City County Exchange, a municipal offshoot of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an ultraconservative think tank that churns out model anti-worker legislation for state lawmakers across the country.

The idea of pushing local right-to-work bills was hatched last summer at meetings of anti-union groups in Washington, D.C.

"'The possibilities of rolling out a local RTW [campaign] in a non-RTW state deserves a full-court press by those of us who care about free market economics and allowing communities to make the best decisions for their people,' declared [ACCE director] Jon Russell, a baby-faced partisan of the right who was sandwiched between Andrew Kloster of the Heritage Foundation and Patrick Gleason of Americans for Tax Reform," Moshe Marvit at the Nation reported late last year.

Right-to-work laws weaken workers' ability to collectively bargain by making it harder for unions to collect dues, driving down wages and benefits. The average worker in a right-to-work state makes $1,500 less a year than their counterparts in union-friendly states according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Employees in pro-worker states are also more likely to have job-based health benefits.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers has shown interest in passing local right-to-work laws, sending a letter to the state attorney general earlier this fall inquiring about the legality of county lawmakers passing their own labor laws.

Critics say the move is patently illegal. As Marvit reports:

"When asked by The Nation whether [former National Labor Relations Board chair Wilma Liebman] believes that the National Labor Relations Act permits this reading, she replied, 'No. And it's not even a close question.' She read aloud the relevant provision of the act to me, paused, and then explained, 'Section 14(b) is clear. It says 'state or territory.' That means no local or municipal ordinances."

Section 14(b) amended the original NLRA by allowing states or territories to go right-to-work under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

Former Bowling Green Mayor Eldon Renaud told the Bowling Green Daily News that Warren County's ordinance (the first one passed in the state) is against state law and that right-to-work legislation would require a vote from the legislature.

"It's pretty absurd what they're trying to do," said Renaud, who is a UAW leader.