Contracting Community Convinces Federal Agency to Halt the Assault on Florida Small Business

ABC member contractors, their employees and concerned taxpayers helped defeat a costly and discriminatory provision within the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) solicitation for construction services that mandated a project labor agreement (PLA) on a $100 million to $250 million technical applications center at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Fla.

Numerous times HaltTheAssault.com has covered how anti-competitive PLA schemes harm small business and are a form of government waste and corruption.

Below is a news release (pdf) from ABC National about this victory for the merit shop community. It was also the lead ABC Newsline story this week.

New Release

ABC Applauds U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for Removing Costly and Discriminatory Construction Contract Provision

Washington, D.C.Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today applauded the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for removing a proposed, mandatory project labor agreement (PLA) for the construction of a $100 million to $250 million technical applications center at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Fla.

A project labor agreement is a special interest scheme that discourages competition from nonunion contractors and their nonunion employees by requiring a construction project to be awarded only to contractors and subcontractors that agree to recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job; use the union hall to obtain workers; obey the union’s restrictive apprenticeship and work rules; and contribute to union pension plans and other funds in which their nonunion employees will never benefit unless they join a union.

“Less than 2 percent of the construction workforce in Florida is affiliated with a labor organization, yet the federal government was willing to increase costs for all taxpayers and discriminate against 98 percent of the industry just to reward special interests,” said ABC President and CEO Kirk Pickerel. “We hope that other federal agencies will heed this example and recognize that project labor agreements ultimately harm taxpayers by reducing competition from the qualified contractors and their skilled employees that have successfully built similar federal projects in Florida and across the U.S.”

Hundreds of ABC member firms in Florida and around the country contacted the USACE to voice their opposition to the proposed PLA on the Patrick Air Force Base project. The USACE deleted the clause that mandated the PLA and substituted new language that makes a PLA submission optional, but specifically states PLAs will not be an evaluation factor.

“ABC will continue to fight any attempt to impose PLAs on federal construction projects, as these special interest schemes violate competitive bidding laws, reduce competition, increase construction costs and needlessly inject political favoritism into the federal procurement process,” said Pickerel.

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Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national association with 77 chapters representing 25,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms with two million employees. Visit us at www.abc.org. For more PLA-related information, visit www.TheTruthAboutPLAs.com or www.abc.org/pla

Media Inquiries: Gail Raiman, (703) 812-2073 or Gerry Fritz, (703) 812-2062

TheTruthAboutPLAs.com had this to say about this development with the USACE:

“By removing the project labor agreement, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took the correct step to achieve the goal of delivering to taxpayers the best possible construction project at the best possible price,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC National’s director of labor and federal procurement. “I tip my hat to them because they refused to let politically motivated paybacks to powerful special interests get in the way of ensuring a fair, open and competitive procurement process.”

On Feb. 6, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13502, which repealed a 2001-2008 prohibition on federal PLAs. The Obama order also encourages federal agencies to require PLAs on federal construction projects whose total costs exceed $25 million. This April, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council issued a controversial final rule, effective May 13, that implements Executive Order 13502 into federal regulations.

Newspaper editorial boards across the country and the construction community widely viewed the pro-PLA Executive Order 13502 as payback to the construction industry’s Big Labor bosses for their past and continued political support of President Obama and congressional Democrats, as PLAs steer lucrative federal construction contracts to unionized contractors and their union employees.

Big Labor bosses deduct union dues from rank-and-file union members to fund PAC contributions and soft money donations to political campaigns of candidates who support PLAs and other pro-Big Labor policies.

This cycle of corruption costs taxpayers dearly, as studies demonstrate PLAs increase the cost of construction between 12 percent and 20 percent while delivering no additional benefits to construction owners or taxpayers.

The PLA racket also stifles job creation for nonunion contractors and their employees. This is particularly offensive because 85 percent of the U.S. construction workforce does not belong to a union and the industry is suffering from 17 percent unemployment as of July 2010.

ABC and TheTruthAboutPLAs.com have led the fight against similar crony contracting mandates by federal agencies (See U.S. DOL Job Corps Center in Manchester, N.H. and the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Lafayette Building in Washington, D.C.) but this is the first government-mandated PLA issued after the FAR Council’s final rule took effect May 13.

“The USACE came to its senses and removed the PLA mandate once it realized a PLA would not meet the FAR Council’s directive to implement a PLA only when it promotes the ‘economy and efficiency’ in federal procurement,” said Brubeck.

“The PLA would have reduced competition from a large pool of qualified bidders and likely would have limited the supply of skilled labor needed to build such a large project,” said Brubeck. “With less than 2 percent of Florida’s private construction workforce belonging to a union, the PLA would have forced contractors to employ out-of-state union labor instead of Florida’s skilled nonunion construction employees. The removal of the PLA is a win for Florida’s economy and it will ultimately benefit U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

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