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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Sweetheart deals for labor unions

Uploaded: Mar 14, 2013
Taxpayers wanting to understand why government projects cost so much should look no farther than project labor agreements.
These agreements, at their core, amount to organized labor protection agreements because the provisions are such that they virtually guarantee union contractors will build the projects.
Given the Democratic party's allegiance to its biggest benefactors—public employee unions and other organized labor—requiring these agreements repays the unions for their financial and boots-on-the-street support.
What these agreement do it drive up costs. Federal and state contracts have been covered for years under the federal Davis-Bacon Act and its California sister. These are union friendly without regard to the taxpayers. Typically prevailing wage adds at least 20 percent in costs.
As the construction trades have increasingly shifted to non-union or merit shops, those operators have learned to compete effectively while paying union-level wages. The difference is the staffing levels that naturally are large in the union shops and much leaner in the others. Studies have demonstrated that labor agreements add 10 to 15 percent to the costs.
For example, a plumbing job involving an 8-person crew averages $100.87 with union work rules and $77.06 for the merit shop when paying union scale.
Two recent sad examples:
The already hugely controversial scam project called the high-speed rail that will start with a line in the San Joaquin Valley—that, with all due apologies—would run from nowhere to nowhere. The state's congestion issues are in its major metropolitan areas. A line that was built in the Bay Area or the broader Los Angeles basin could have a positive effect even if it went no farther. This is a $70 billion project with about $6 billion in identified funding and a voter-approved bond measure that says no taxpayer subsidy. Buy that and I have some fine beach front property for you—located in the Mohave Desert. So, let's pile on additional costs instead of shaving costs to save every dime.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal funds going to the Project Sandy restoration also will include project labor agreements. In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order directing the use of agreements on contracts of more than $25 million. It's notable that a pure blue eastern state like New Jersey (albeit with a Republican governor) has less than 25 percent of its construction industry in organized labor. So, this forces 75 percent of the work force to be employed through union halls and pay the union dues instead of working for a private contractor who may compete within the Davis-Bacon regulation, but without the union staffing requirements. For those with a bit of memory, union work rules are where the term "feather bedding" arose.
For way too long, pols have done these sweetheart that amount to nothing more than political patronage at the taxpayers' expense.

Comments

Posted by Neighbor John, a resident of Downtown,
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:16 pm

Neighbor John is a registered user.

Amen to that! It pains me to witness thinly veiled welfare programs that call themselves "stimulus". They're nothing but government waste, pure and simple. Case in point is the unnecessarily extravagant "improvement" project of Stanley Blvd at Shadow Cliffs. Who ever sits on those 21 benches that are cluttered along that bike path? Why so much wood trim detailing on all the guard rails? I'm all for landscaping, but who decided to go so far overboard at the expense of my hard-earned (and unwillingly taken) tax dollars?


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