DC Construction Company Warns New Union Bill Hurts Taxpayers

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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The Washington D.C. city council passed a contracting measure Tuesday that includes a provision some fear will hurt nonunion construction companies by requiring union contracts for public projects.

The provision would require all public construction projects over $75 million to be subjected to a mandatory Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The agreements work like normal union contracts but for temporary projects. Henley Construction Co. President Buddy Henley warns it will drive many nonunion companies out while putting more stress on taxpayers.

“For our company personally we do 90 percent of our work is educational and local government work,” Henley told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “So essentially it shuts us completely out of the market in the district for our work. So it will throw us out partially and it will effect a lot of smaller companies.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser now has the choice on whether to sign the measure into law or not. Henley warns the proposed measure will increase labor requirements significantly and undercut nonunion companies that operate at a lower and more competitive price. Public construction projects are often contracted out to private-sector companies.

“Nine our of ten construction workers choose to work their shop and not join a union,” Henley continued. “The average costs is going to raise by five by 18 percent. You’re essentially going to be building four elementary school for the price of five. That’s libraries and rec centers.”

Henley also represents other construction companies in the city as the chairman of the local Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). He and several other local construction companies have petitioned city policymakers to reject the measure but fear it is likely to be signed into law.

“We’ve gone down and we’ve met with each member of the city council, we’ve spoken to the mayor,” Henley added. “Trying to bring this to the forefront so that resident can see what’s happening as well. What’s happening in the city council, its their tax dollars.”

The PLA provision was included into the measure June 21 without much public notice. The main purpose of the measure is to reform the city procurement processes. It will change how the council reviews contracts while setting guidelines for privatization contracts. It also aims to enhanced transparency in contracting and procurement practices.

ABC has found through extensive research that PLAs in general tend to drive up costs for public projects and thus puts a burden on taxpayers. It also provides an unfair advantage to unionized companies against nonunion competitors who are otherwise able to operate at lower costs.

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