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Grimm Leads Crowd of Republicans in Union-Labor Boondoggle

June 08, 2012 J

By Drew Dillingham

Scott Walker’s recent victory in Wisconsin is strong evidence that Americans do not want our governments to be held hostage by labor unions. Unfortunately, Rep. Michael Grimm (NY-13) and 33 other Republicans in Congress are still under the impression that inefficient union labor contracts for public projects are somehow in the best interest of American taxpayers. Recently, they voted to add an amendment to a spending package in the House that will benefit large unions at the expense of everyone else.

Grimm’s amendment gives the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs the option to require Project Labor Agreements for taxpayer-funded construction projects. Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are pre-hire collective-bargaining agreements that dictate the terms and conditions of a labor contract for a construction project. Under a PLA, all workers must be covered by these pre-negotiated labor rules regardless of whether they are union or non-union. In other words, PLAs basically ensure that expensive union contractors will win contracts because those pre-negotiated rules are too burdensome for their more-efficient non-union counterparts. Even if a non-union contractor may provide better service or save taxpayers money, the union contractor must nonetheless be selected for federal construction projects.

Grimm’s de-facto creation of a union monopoly on federal construction jobs is unacceptable at a time when the nation faces high levels of unemployment and skyrocketing debts.

PLAs limit competition for bids to union-only contractors meaning non-unionized construction workers (or 86% of total US workers) don’t have access to much needed jobs. Grimm and other members of Congress should be focusing on expanding opportunity, not giving kickbacks to their union buddies.

The amendment will also limit worker rights. Under the PLA, non-unionized workers are forced to pay for benefits that they will never receive. They may also have to pay union dues or fees and join a union just to work on a PLA site. Rather than benefiting workers, the PLA is forcing hard-working Americans to pad unions’ bottom lines with more union dues, losing their wages in exchange for little in return.

Grimm’s amendment completely disregards the free-market principles that have allowed the construction industry to boom in the past. It also neglects the fact that competitive wages and cost-efficient labor practices create the best environment for contracted projects, not over-regulated labor agreements. By voting to pass this anti-worker law, Grimm and his 33 Republican accomplices have dealt a serious blow to non-unionized workers and taxpayers.

In addition to limiting job opportunities for non-unionized Americans, PLAs have also been responsible for almost $3 billion in federal waste. This is due to the PLA’s creation of burdensome regulations such as inflated wages and out-sized union worker benefits. At the state level, even more has been thrown away. Artificially inflating the cost of government construction projects to give handouts to Big Labor is the very definition of fiscal irresponsibility.

If we’re ever going to shrink the size and scope of the federal government, we’ve got to hold these Members of Congress accountable for promising to fight for fiscal discipline and workers’ freedoms only to turn around and do the complete opposite.

Drew Dillingham is a policy intern at Americans for Prosperity

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