Without fair and open competition, taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth #momiracle

In the Capitol building, we talk a lot about fairness. We talk about unfair practices in business, in the financial sector, and even unfair practices in education. This week, the Missouri Senate set out to right one wrong, unfair and wasteful practice – Project Labor Agreements.

Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) show patterns of unfair public policy and bad governance. Senate Bill 182 addresses the problem of union-only PLAs, project-specific collective bargaining agreements imposed by political subdivisions. Union-only PLAs essentially ensure that public construction projects be performed only by union contractors or by contractors who agree to labor union demands.

These demands include hiring from union halls, agreeing to union work rules and requiring that all workers pay union dues and pay into union pension funds, even though the workers in question will never benefit from those pension payments. In theory a non-union, or merit shop contractor, can bid on PLA projects, but that contractor is essentially required to become a union shop for purposes of the project.

PLAs discriminate against the 75 to 85 percent of Missouri workers who work for merit shop contractors which means about eight out of 10 workers are prohibited from building schools, libraries, or city halls, that are built with their own tax dollars. On average PLAs raise the cost of construction 18 percent, which means that instead of building five schools, a district can only afford four.

With PLAs, unions aggressively use their power to serve their own interests at the expense of everyone else. Why do we allow them continue to pressure our political subdivisions into agreements that pick winners and losers and ultimately cost the taxpayers?

Our taxpayers deserve open and fair competition. They deserve the best product at the best price while creating fair opportunities for all businesses. Twenty-three other states have passed legislation to limit or prohibit PLAs. By encouraging all qualified bidders, regardless of labor affiliation, to bid on taxpayer-funded projects we are sending a clear message that these special interest handouts to union bosses are not welcome in Missouri. Now is the time to end the discriminatory, wasteful, inefficient practice of union-only PLAs.

Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis

District 2