To: Members of the Binghamton City Council

From: Associated Builders & Contractors, Empire State Chapter

Re: Project Labor Agreement Proposal on the Binghamton‐Johnson City Joint Sewage Treatment Plant

October 21, 2015

Dear Council Member:

As you are aware, we have attended your last few council meetings and work sessions to speak out against a proposed Project Labor Agreement on the Joint Sewage Treatment Plant. First off, we'd like to thank you for your service to our community. We know that this is an important decision and appreciate that as stewards of tax dollars you are educating yourselves to make a decision and spend these tax dollars wisely and efficiently.

We want to help ensure that you get the best possible treatment plant at the best price. We heard a number of false statements and misinformation being touted and felt it was prudent to address these issues on behalf of our 100+ members and their thousands of employees in Central New York and the Southern Tier.

Myth #1‐Jacob’s Is Acting in the Best Interest of the City with a PLA Proposal

Wick’s Law in New York State requires four prime contractors on this job. Jacobs wants to attach the PLA not because it's better for you but because it's better for them. They want to maximize their "return" by only dealing with one contractor. You are paying Jacobs millions of dollars to manage this job and to work towards efficiencies that save you money. While a PLA and one prime contractor would make life easier for Jacobs, it would do so at the expense of the City, its taxpayers, dozens of local businesses and hundreds of local workers.

Myth #2‐ A PLA Would Prevent Any Work Stoppage Saving $1.2M

Nautilus attempted to calculate the avoidance of a work stoppage into a “savings” of roughly $1.2M and attribute the “harmony” to the PLA. If that were only the case. Recently, within the last few months, the carpenters union walked off 16 jobs that contained PLAs. They were forced back to work by a Judge who ruled their strike was illegal. In the end, these are contracts, and the contract is only as good as the word of the people signing it. A guarantee that no strike will occur with a PLA is simply not possible, and it is irresponsible to lead you to believe that it is. As one of your members pointed out, union and non‐union workers work together in “harmony” on jobs throughout the state on a daily basis, managing to do it without a PLA.

Myth #3‐ A PLA Will Guarantee A Workforce

A PLA does NOT mean that there will be no issues with workforce and is certainly not a viable solution to this issue. In fact, all a PLA really does is to exclude much of the local workforce who would otherwise be able to work on this project. In Upstate New York, over 80% of workers in the construction industry choose not to be in a union. This PLA would exclude the vast majority of these workers from the project. Common sense would dictate that excluding these workers would do nothing to help alleviate a worker shortage and may in fact make it worse.

Myth #4‐ PLA’s Freeze Wages And Would Save $1.9M

This assumption makes little sense in the big picture of the scope of this project. Rather than force wage concessions that are unfair to workers, why not avoid the PLA and let the added competition drive down the costs?

Myth #5‐ Bidding and Competition

Nautilus’ study implies that without a PLA the union contractors will not bid the work. As you heard for yourselves from a union representative at your work session meeting that simply is not the case. However, attaching a PLA does everything to discourage non‐union contractors from bidding. And that lack of bidding has consequences. In a PLA study conducted for the Kingston School District, the author was able to quantify that the lack of competition would drive up the cost of the project. In this case, it would raise the cost between 3‐10% depending on the trade class. As a result, the district rejected the PLA.


There is no question that there are a number of issues with this “study” not the least of which are the mythical savings that MAY be realized. To help you compare and contrast, we've included a copy of the Kingston School District.

As the saying goes, you can’t have the fox watching the henhouse. Allowing Jacobs to push this PLA for the sole purpose of maximizing their return is doing just that.

Please let us know if there are any additional questions we can help answer.

Brian Sampson
President, Associated Builders & Contractors Empire State Chapter