-By Warner Todd Huston
For such a blue state, Illinois has some rather good Republicans in Congress, but on one issue many of them consistently fail. That is in their unfortunate support for Big Labor. The issue of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) is a perfect example of this penchant to support issues dear to the hearts of Big Labor.
Unions love PLAs because the rule forces government construction projects to be conducted under union rules, to pay union pay scales to workers as well as pension payments to the union plans, and requires all work to be controlled by union bosses even if the companies hired to do the work are non-union. With PLAs unions feel they have the best of both worlds because they can still benefit from free government money even when they aren't hired to do the work. In short, PLAs are a sop to unions.
The main problem with PLAs is that they drive up the costs of government building contracts from word go. This costs us all money and in this era when we need to be cutting back the skyrocketing costs of government adding rules that drive up costs before the first foundation is dug is madness. Worse it is unfair to the largest number of construction companies that aren't union members as they are forced as a condition of getting the work to pay unions thousands out of their pockets even as they'll never benefit from union pensions or other programs.
Sadly, too many Illinois Republican Congressmen have been consistently in favor of allowing unions this free government handout. It is probably not a huge surprise that even Republicans in deep blue Illinois might end up bowing to the needs of greedy Big Labor initiatives. But it is not a healthy support regardless.
Not all Illinois Republicans have been swayed by Big Labor, mind you, but most of them have repeatedly voted in favor of PLAs. Only three of the Illinois GOP delegation, for instance, voted PLAs down in the last round of votes for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) held on May 17.
During that last vote on NDAA amendments, an amendment sponsored by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R, Md.) passed by a slim 211 to 209 margin. This amendment would torpedo any requirements that PLAs be forced on qualified contractors by federal agencies. (Roll call vote results).
Unfortunately, only Representatives Randy Hultgren (14th District), Don Manzullo (16th District), and Bobby Schilling (17th District) voted in favor of free and open competition in government contracts with their NDAA votes. As for the rest, Congressman Adam Kinzinger (11th District) switched his vote at the last minute joining all the other GOP Congressmen in voting for Big Labor's interests. Even Congressman Joe Walsh (8th District), ordinarily one of Congresses most consistently conservative members, voted in Big Labor's favor last week.
Just as unfortunate, Congressman Manzullo, a staunch anti-Union voice, lost his primary and will not be returning to Washington for the 113th Session. Interestingly, two Big Labor Super PACs contributed heavily -- well over $200 K total -- to have Manzullo beaten in the Illinois Primary.
The two groups, the pro-Big Labor group calling itself Lunch Pail Republicans, and the Campaign for Primary Accountability, together donated $324,529 in the successful effort to defeat Manzullo. So, one good, pro-fairness voice will be missing starting with the next Congress and this means we need to impress on those remaining that they should drop their support for Big Labor and step up to the plate to support fairness in government contracts.
Certainly, Illinois is not the only state with too many Republicans voting against free, open and fair practices. It is an issue that must be brought to the attention of our Congressmen everywhere. (For several other PLA related amendment votes see: Roll Call 126, Roll Call 369, Roll Call 413)
To prove that it isn’t just Illinois Republicans that are a problem, here is another twist. Just because the Bartlett amendment was adopted in NDAA and the NDAA passed the House, remember one thing: this is Congress. Nothing is ever settled with these people. Word is that a new amendment to the MilCon/VA FY 2013 appropriations bill (H.R. 5854) will be introduced to strip language in Section 517 of H.R. 5854. Section 517 is very similar to the pro-fair and open competition language of the Bartlett amendment to the NDAA. It is going to be offered by another wayward Republican, Rep. Grimm (R-NY). They never give up trying to give payoffs to unions, folks.
PLAs must be defeated when they come to a vote. PLAs are bad for business and bad for the taxpayers. PLAs are just more union coercion that is at its core un-American. I hope the Illinois GOP delegation -- and the rest of Congress for that matter -- change direction and stop giving unions free money.