In My Opinion

May 16, 2012

In My Opinion: Project labor agreements defended

As president of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, representing more than 200,000 unionized construction workers, I must respond to Stephen Lefebvre's editorial about Crown Point Bridge project.

Mr. Lefebvre referred to Flatiron's decision to utilize a project labor agreement, which Mr. Lefebvre claims to have forced non-union "employees (to stay) home, unable to work because of exclusionary union membership requirements."

I would like to make a few clarifications.

First, project labor agreements can be negotiated before a project goes out to bid or after a contract has been awarded. A pre-bid agreement for a public works project is an agreement entered into by the government. Because the government is a party to the agreement, it must be consistent with the state's competitive bidding laws.

A feasibility study is required, and absent a projected cost savings, use of a project labor agreement is precluded. If the study identifies a cost-savings advantage, implementation of the project labor agreement saves taxpayers' money.

The Crown Point Bridge agreement was negotiated by the low bidder, Flatiron, after being awarded the contract, and the state was not a party to the agreement.

Flatiron's private business decision to implement a project labor agreement post-bid underscores that such agreements provide certain benefits not otherwise guaranteed. For example, under a project labor agreement, every trade agrees to standardized hours, rules and holidays, assuring continuity and stability on large, complex jobs.

Project labor agreements also can reduce workers compensation premiums through the use of alternate dispute resolution. Most importantly, a project labor agreement ensures a skilled workforce capable of producing an on-time quality project. Whether the workers are union or non-union, they all must meet minimum training and experience requirements before working on the project. Finally, a project labor agreement may promote the use of a local workforce, but it also provides unique opportunities for veterans, minorities and women eager to establish themselves in the construction trades.

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