Saturday, November 22, 2008

Project Labor Agreement

In an article that appeared in the Standard Speaker today "Elaine(Maddon)Curry said she wants to end the ongoing debate about construction labor agreements as much as anyone on the Hazleton Area School Board." There were numerous full page ads place in the SubStandard Speaker over the last couple of weeks urging passage of the PLA.

So I ask Elaine exactly what is a Project Labor Agreement? The Pennylvania Association of Builders and Contractors offers the following definition. A project labor agreement (PLA) is a signed commitment between the owner of the project (business or government)and area construction unions. These agreements generally require that a percentage of the workforce be hired from the specified labor union halls thereby prohibiting non-union employers (and employers whose employees are members of unions not signatory to the PLA) from utilizing its own employees on the project.


Yes, Project Labor Agreements, which significantly limit (and in some instances prohibit) the majority of the construction workforce which has chosen not to belong to labor unions from working on a construction project (sometimes a government funded taxpayer project), is clearly a blatant form of discrimination.

What amazes me about this proposal centers on the cost of healthcare? How can a government entity seek out the cheapest options in purchasing healthcare but neglect their fiduciary duty on construction projects? This proposal would force a ratio of eight union members to one non-union member.

There are ways for a government entity to determine the qualifications of employees hired by a contractor. Let's look at plumbing for example. A person desiring to become a master plumber must work for a certain period under the supervision of a master plumber before seeking the position of journeyman plumber. A journeyman plumber must work for a period before becoming a master plumber.

Pennsylvania does not license plumbers however counties and municipalities have the authority to do so. Here are two examples in Pennsylvania; one from the Allegheny County Health Department and the other from South Whitehall Township.

Elaine is quoted in the article as saying “Anyone with questions or research to do — do it,” “I want this off the table and when we vote it’s off the table.” That sounds quite authoritarian to me. The board is comprised of nine members. If any member decided to bring it back to the table the chairman cannot prevent it. Just a tidbit on Robert's Rules of Order. It is called a motion to rescind and it must pass by two thirds of the members present.

Qualifications, not unionization, determine the fitness for employment of any individual. There's your research.

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