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To the Editor: City's skatepark PLA use is pretty sketchy

To the Editor:

For those of you who aren't skateboarders or have kids who are, sketchy means something not done well or not trustworthy. That is exactly what happened when the city of Cloquet, because of its recently-passed ordinance, was forced to use a discriminatory, union-only project labor agreement (PLA) to build a new skatepark. In Minnesota, roughly three out of four construction craft professionals choose not to join a union, yet PLAs systematically discriminate against them, preventing these hardworking, tax-paying men and women from working on these projects.

Construction unions often coerce municipalities to adopt PLAs by saying if there isn't a PLA in place for a project, the unions can't guarantee they won't strike or engage in a work stoppage. It's a thinly-veiled threat.

PLAs also require any contractor who wishes to work on that project either be a union contractor or become one for the length of the project. PLAs force all of the contractor's workers, union or not, to become a union employee for the project, whether they wish to join that union or not. So much for worker choice. Because of these and many other inflexible mandates found in PLAs, merit shop contractors who choose not to be signatory to union agreements simply do not bid on projects with PLAs.

As is often the case when PLAs are put on public projects, the number of bidders decreases and costs of projects increases because of less competition. This is what happened when only one bid came in for Cloquet's skatepark project, which was higher than the city's $307,000 estimate by over $100,000! Not surprisingly, the City Council bailed on that bid and is having to rethink the park's plans. Taxpayers and skateboarders alike should be disappointed that the City Council is continuing to use costly, discriminatory, and inflexible project labor agreements that drive up construction costs.

Robert Heise, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Minnesota