Union work does not guarantee good work

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As a taxpayer in Albuquerque, are you willing to spend 20 percent more of your hard-earned tax dollars on city construction projects that less than 8 percent of the entire construction industry in New Mexico is likely to bid on?

Well, if you vote for Pete Dinelli or Paul Heh for mayor this fall, you will be doing just that. Mayor Richard Berry, on the other hand, understands that project labor agreements will not only hurt working families but will drive up the cost of construction on all city projects.

A project labor agreement is a special interest scheme that discourages competition from non-union contractors and their workers.

When a government entity requires contractors to enter into a project labor agreement on a construction project, it is essentially tilting the playing field in favor of contractors that agree to use organized labor. If these agreements are required on Albuquerque construction projects, 92 percent of New Mexico’s private construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union would not be able to compete on an equal basis for projects funded by their own tax dollars – and yours.

Dinelli states that project labor agreements guarantee the quality of work. Government-mandated PLAs do nothing to guarantee better quality, skills, or productivity. Merely having a union status does not guarantee better performance, as there is no evidence that union labor is more skilled than merit shop labor.

Most of the largest and most successful projects completed every year are built on time and within budget by merit shop companies and without government-mandated PLAs.

The union label is not needed for construction to be of top quality. Project quality is determined by sound business practices such as quality project management and is governed by voluminous procurement laws and regulations, project specifications and bonding requirements.

Safeguards against shoddy work practices and stiff market competition also prevent unqualified companies from competing and winning public contracts. Moreover, quality lies with the worker’s individual motivation and performance. There is no evidence that a PLA produces quality construction and is the only method to achieve quality, safe and cost-effective construction.

Dinelli also states that project labor agreements ensure fair wages. This is a false statement. All employees on city projects must be paid the prevailing wage, whether they are union or nonunion.

In addition, an October 2009 report by Dr. John R. McGowan, “The Discriminatory Impact of Union Fringe Benefit Requirements on Nonunion Workers Under Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements,” found that employees of non-union contractors that are employed under government-mandated PLAs suffer a reduction in their take-home pay that is conservatively estimated at 20 percent.

This is because employees must pay their fringe benefits into the union coffers. After the project ends, they will never see that money again unless they stay signatory to the union for the rest of their career.

Heh’s comments are not even worth addressing, as he was just informed that New Mexico is not a Right to Work state.

The people of Albuquerque deserve the best public construction at the best price. Unfortunately, both Dinelli and Heh seem to care more about currying favor with local construction union bosses than standing with the taxpayers who ultimately will pay the tab.

We deserve better.