Rep. Stephen Bloom renews debate over project labor agreements
Cumberland County Republican Rep. Stephen Bloom has introduced legislation to end so-called project labor agreements in Pennsylvania.
Bloom said PLAs, or project-specific collective bargaining agreements established before work starts, discriminate against 80 percent of state construction workers who are not union members by excluding them from bidding on public construction jobs.
“This legislation will ensure taxpayers get the best work at the best price, and will finally stop the troubling practice of banning qualified contractors from building taxpayer-funded projects just because they aren’t part of some government-favored union,” Bloom said in a statement. “This is about fairness and openness in the contracting process. State contracts should not discriminate based on union affiliation, or be awarded as part of some political payback.”
His proposal is House Bill 2096, also known as the Open Contracting Act. It would prohibit “union-only” construction contracts. Because most open-shop companies won’t bid on such projects, they are effectively shut out of the bidding process, Bloom said.
The bill would eliminate the use of union or non-union status of a bidder’s workforce as criteria during the selection process.
The Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, which is made up of 16 regional councils and 113 local unions, remains opposed to the bill. Former Lancaster County Republican Rep. John Bear proposed similar legislation in the past two legislative sessions.
“Right now, it’s not a law to use PLAs,” said Frank Sirianni, the council’s president. “PLAs have been tested in court. Any contractor can bid on any publicly funded contract.”
He called the proposal “smoke and mirrors.”
“His figures are misguided and wrong,” Sirianni said, arguing that more than one-third of state construction workers are represented by a union. “It’s a tool municipalities and public entities can use, if they choose to.”
In 2011, Lancaster County commissioners banned the use of PLAs on all county-funded projects.