John Wright

According to the Post-Dispatch,

Construction unions are pressing the City Council to adopt a "project labor agreement" mandating union labor and other rules for the $28 million police headquarters-court facility approved by voters in April. In return, unions agree not to call strikes on the project.

While a project labor agreement that forces the city to use union labor rather than the best available bid is a bad idea in its own right, the fact that construction unions appear to be threatening a disruption in order to get exclusive access to this project is beyond the pale.

Where to begin?

Shouldn’t public works projects be awarded based on contractor qualifications and bid amounts? Doesn’t this combination get taxpayers the best value for their dollar? On the other hand, when a city adopts a constraint on a public works project that favors a certain kind of contractor for reasons other than value, isn’t that a bad sign?

I would say so. An agreement that awards contracts exclusively to unionized labor seems to be less about getting taxpayers the best deal and more about appeasing a politically active special interest group. If unionized businesses offer taxpayers in O’Fallon a better deal than non-union shops, they will win public contracts through the strength of their bids. Special treatment is unnecessary.

I don’t think anyone wants to see a slowdown on a $28 million public works project like this, but special treatment for unions trying to exercise political muscle should be non-negotiable, especially if they’re threatening to punish the city if they don’t get their way. O’Fallon should do the right thing for its taxpayers: Take bids from all parties and assess them on their merits.

About the Author

John Wright
Policy Analyst

John Wright was a policy analyst focusing on government transparency and labor relations.