(Associated Builders and Contractors) – In testimony delivered today on Capitol Hill, Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) General Counsel Maurice Baskin, a partner with Venable, L.L.P., stated that recent administration efforts to make project labor agreements (PLAs) part of the federal procurement process are “threatening to violate the longstanding Congressional mandate of full and open competition in federal procurement—at taxpayers’ expense.” Baskin’s remarks were given during a hearing on the impact of the administration’s pro-PLA policy on construction job creation and the efficient use of taxpayer dollars held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending.
“Neither the president nor the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council has the authority to override the statutory mandate of full and open competition in all federal procurements,” Baskin said. “No fact-based justification for the change in policy has ever been shown, leading to the widespread belief that the administration’s policy is simply a political payback to organized labor.” According to Baskin, this is the kind of political favoritism that The Competition in Contracting Act was enacted to prevent.
“Since 2009, ABC members have filed a series of bid protests with the Government Accountability Office to stop unjustified PLA mandates from being imposed by federal agencies. In each case, the federal agency has withdrawn the PLA mandate rather than risk a finding of a procurement law violation.
“The government’s own market research has shown repeatedly that PLAs will not serve the interests of taxpayers, will discourage competitive bidding and will increase costs. Yet, we continue to see PLA requirements popping up on agency procurements around the country,” Baskin said
“Eighty-seven percent of all construction workers currently choose not to belong to a labor union. Rather than promoting full and open competition and maximizing the available labor pool for government construction projects, which is overwhelmingly merit shop, government-mandated PLAs result in the award of federal construction contracts primarily to the much smaller group of unionized contractors and their union employees,” said Baskin.
PLAs are pre-hire contracts that require projects 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 hiring hall to obtain workers; obtain apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs; pay into underfunded and mismanaged union benefit plans; and obey costly, restrictive and inefficient union work rules.
In his testimony, Baskin also urged Congress to support the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act
(H.R. 735), which would prohibit the federal government from requiring contractors to execute a PLA as a condition of winning federal or federally funded construction projects. “This legislation will result in more construction jobs, more infrastructure renewal and a more accountable federal government,” Baskin said.
ABC members John Ennis, Jr., CEO of Ennis Electric Company, Inc., Manassas, Va.; and John F. Biagas, CEO of Bay Electric, Newport News, Va., also testified at the hearing.