As I've reported previously, the linchpin is E.O. 13502, a union-friendly executive order signed by Obama in his first weeks in office. It essentially forces contractors who bid on large-scale public construction projects worth $25 million or more to submit to union representation for its employees. The blunt instrument used to give unions a leg up is the "project labor agreement," which in theory sets reasonable pre-work terms and conditions. But in practice, it requires contractors to hand over exclusive bargaining control, to pay inflated, above-market wages and benefits, and to fork over dues money and pension funding to corrupt, cash-starved labor organizations.
These anti-competitive agreements undermine a fair bidding process on projects that locked-out, nonunion laborers are funding with their own tax dollars. And these PLAs benefit the privileged few at the expense of the vast majority: In the construction industry, 85 percent of the workforce is nonunion by choice.
David G. Tuerck of the Department of Economics and Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University testified on Capitol Hill last year: "The adoption of a PLA amounts, in effect, to the conferral of monopoly power on a select group of construction unions over the supply of construction labor." The mandate serves "one purpose: to discourage competition from nonunion contractors (and, in some instances, union contractors) to the end of shoring up declining union power, along with union-mandated wages and benefits, against competitive pressures." The institute's studies show that PLAs have added between 12 and 18 percent to school construction costs in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The total price tag for GSA projects built with PLAs remains unknown. But here's just one example: The Washington Examiner reported in 2010 that the GSA paid the federal Lafayette Building's general contractor an additional $3.3 million above the initial $52 million contract to ensure that the project was built with a union payback PLA. The Obama administration had previously tried to slip a PLA mandate into a $35 million jobs center construction project in New Hampshire, but retreated when state contractors challenged the provision as an unfair restriction on competition. According to The Washington Times, just 8.7 percent of construction workers are unionized in New Hampshire.
Among the GSA administrators fired over Vegas-palooza was Robert A. Peck, chief of the agency's Public Buildings Service. That's the same office overseeing the $5.5 billion in stimulus contracts for capital projects like the Lafayette Building. But neither Peck nor any other GSA official nor the White House has been held accountable for job-killing union favoritism in its everyday contracting practices.
And as the pro-competition watchdog website The Truth About Project Labor Agreements points out: "Numerous (GSA) projects have been awarded to contractors submitting PLA bids at the expense of qualified firms opposed to PLA mandates. Full and open competition has been curtailed in violation of the federal Competition in Contracting Act. Taxpayer dollars have been wasted. Skilled nonunion craftspeople and their qualified employers have been denied jobs and opportunity as a result of this needless policy."
For Obama's union donors and their GSA fixers, the party's still on.