From Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times:
February 25, 2010
The Obama administration is planning to use the government’s enormous buying power to prod private companies to improve wages and benefits for millions of workers, according to White House officials and several interest groups briefed on the plan.
By altering how it awards $500 billion in contracts each year, the government would disqualify more companies with labor, environmental or other violations and give an edge to companies that offer better levels of pay, health coverage, pensions and other benefits, the officials said.
Because nearly one in four workers is employed by companies that have contracts with the federal government, administration officials see the plan as a way to shape social policy and lift more families into the middle class. It would affect contracts like those awarded to make Army uniforms, clean federal buildings and mow lawns at military bases.
Although the details are still being worked out, the outline of the plan is drawing fierce opposition from business groups and Republican lawmakers. They see it as a gift to organized labor and say it would drive up costs for the government in the face of a $1.3 trillion budget deficit.
“I’m suspicious of what the end goals are,” said Ben Brubeck, director of labor and federal procurement for Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents 25,000 construction-related companies. “It’s pretty clear the agenda is to give big labor an advantage in federal contracts.”
Critics also said the policy would put small businesses, many of which do not provide rich benefits, at a disadvantage. Furthermore, government officials would find it difficult to evaluate bidders using the new criteria and to determine whether one company’s compensation package should give it an edge, said Alan L. Chvotkin, executive vice president of the Professional Services Council, a coalition of 340 government contractors.
From his earliest days in office, President Obama has called for an overhaul of government procurement policy, citing the contracting scandals of the previous decade involving cost overruns and no-bid contracts.
“The president made it clear that he is committed to reforming government contracts to save taxpayers money while protecting workers and the environment,” a White House spokesman, Bill Burton, said. “The administration is currently gathering data and examining the best ways to do this.”
Two of Mr. Obama’s allies — John Podesta, the Clinton administration chief of staff who headed the president’s transition team, and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union — have repeatedly pressed the president to use procurement policy to push up wages and benefits.
In testimony last year to the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Podesta said that 400,000 workers employed under federal contracts — like cafeteria workers, security guards and landscaping workers at federal buildings — earn less than $22,000 a year, the federal poverty line for a family of four, assuming just one paycheck in a household.
“We have a president who is talking about bringing more people into the middle class,” Mr. Stern said. “The government should expect contractors to obey the law, and at the same time contractors should not be building a poverty economy, but should be trying to build a high-road economy.”
The officials briefed on the plan said it was being developed by officials in the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Office of Legal Counsel, the Treasury, Justice and Labor Departments and the vice president’s Middle Class Task Force.
Even as business groups press the administration for more details, they are denouncing the plan, tentatively named the High Road Procurement Policy.
The Daily Caller, a conservative Web site, reported Feb. 4 that the plan would “heavily favor government contractors that implement policies designed by organized labor.”
Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president for labor at the United States Chamber of Commerce, called the plan a “warmed-over version” of President Bill Clinton’s regulations that sought to bar federal agencies from awarding contracts to companies with a record of breaking labor, environmental or consumer laws. President George W. Bush vacated those regulations soon after taking office.
“We strongly opposed the Clinton blacklist regulations,” Mr. Johnson said, “and this appears worse than that.”
On Feb. 2, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and four other Republican senators sent a letter to Peter R. Orszag, director of the White House budget office, saying, “We are concerned that the imposition of these requirements, during a time of significant economic turmoil in the private sector and tight federal budgets, could have serious, negative consequences, especially for our nation’s small businesses.”
Excerpted; continue reading HERE.
Union Giveaways That Will Hit Your Wallet
January 26, 2010
The Washington Times ran an Op-Ed by Brett McMahon, vice-president of ABC member Miller & Long Concrete Construction, documenting a number of backroom deals that the White House and Congress cut with Big Labor that will harm private sector job creation and small businesses while giving Big Labor a big advantage (”Yet Another Reason to Oppose Obamacare: Union Giveaways That Will Hit Your Wallet,” 1/26/10).
McMahon highlights President Obama’s pro-project labor agreement (PLA) Executive Order 13502 as a prime example of a special interest giveaway that will hit your wallet (along with the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) and some pro-Big Labor language in the health care reform legislation).
McMahon on potential PLAs on three federal projects in Washington, D.C. selected in the GSA’s Procurement Instructional Bulletin 09-02:
So, the District of Columbia is about to witness one of those unhappy occasions where local events become a symptom of the nation’s policy problems We’ll learn the cost of pandering to Big Labor’s agenda through the construction and renovation of three federal buildings in Washington managed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and funded by stimulus dollars.
These projects will be large, sought-after and likely require bidders to follow pro-Big Labor guidelines set forth in discriminatory and costly project labor agreements (PLAs) that will lock out the 92 percent of the District construction workforce that doesn’t belong to a union.
PLAs give Big Labor a big advantage over nonunion contractors competing for lucrative federal contracts. Those agreements have a public record of poor performance and extra costs (see the Massachusetts Big Dig, running $14 billion over budget and counting).
In fact, the only reason PLAs are even being considered on these projects is that President Obama’s first gift to Big Labor last February included his signature on Executive Order 13502, encouraging agencies like the GSA to require PLAs on all federal jobs over $25 million. The president marketed PLAs as a way to prevent labor unrest and keep federal jobs on-time and on-budget. But a recent study by the Beacon Hill Institute in Boston undermines the claims, finding no evidence of labor unrest from 2001 to 2008 when PLAs were prohibited on federal and federally-assisted projects. In short, the report found that PLAs are a solution in search of a problem.
But Federal agency officials also don’t seem to be familiar with the extensive research showing that PLAs add an average 10-18 percent cost to every job they touch. If your community needs five schools and now you can only afford four, thank the president and his Big Labor pals.
Still who can blame the GSA? Government-mandated PLAs were virtually nonexistent during the last administration when a presidential order prohibited wasteful PLAs on such projects. And there have yet to be any government mandated-PLAs executed under Mr. Obama’s watch because the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council has yet to finalize his order.
Eighty-five percent of the nation’s construction workforce has chosen to work without belonging to a union. We will have to sit and wait on the FAR Council to learn the fate of open competition on job-preserving federal contracts.
As a D.C.-area nonunion contractor, I worry that the GSA’s decision to flirt with PLAs on those three projects – without waiting for the FAR Council to issue a rule – will cause chaos for area construction. Chaos in the form of litigation, badly-needed projects delayed, job-creating opportunities wasted and taxpayers cheated.
The bidding process the GSA uses is riddled with problems that decrease the number of qualified bidders and increase costs. The Washington Times, in fact, recently covered the controversy already brewing.
The truth is that all of us have a vested interest in preserving open competition in the construction industry – whether we’re a contractor or a taxpayer hoping to see our paycheck contributions used wisely. I think District residents are smart enough to know what’s in their best interest – it’s just a shame we’re being undermined by Mr. Obama’s debt to Big Labor.
Progressives and Unions abetting forced unionization of all businesses? Federal jobs are only the beginning.
Progressives now trying to Unionize the…….Unemployed.
Forced unionism of all businesses will only lead to only Federal jobs after bankrupting small businesses. Is this the ultimate utopia of the progressives?
Things to watch for in the NEAR future:
EFCA bill in Congress: aka Check Card legislation (end of secret balloting on whether to unionize a business)
Immigration bill to give ILLEGAL aliens amnesty in America. (to build Progressive ranks).