By Brian Sampson
President, Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors

The much-talked about Plattsburgh Airport $40 million construction project will provide hundreds of construction jobs to the region and put Clinton County on the map for growth. 

That’s the good news. 

The bad news? The project, like the current Norsk plant, is subject to Gov. Cuomo’s habit of picking winners and losers. As he’s done with countless projects across the state, the Governor want a union-favoring Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to be used. If that happens, it will be virtually impossible for most local hardhats to work on the project.  

Governor Cuomo earlier this year again pledged his undying support for union labor to build everything union, even when it means back-benching local workers.  He’s already done that here in the region when he forced Norsk to ignore local contractors that built their first facility for union friends that donate to his campaign.  

A PLA is a requirement that contractors hire through union halls and follow construction work rules negotiated between government bureaucrats and union labor political bosses. Essentially a PLA means the 80 percent of local construction workers that choose not to be in a union will have to sit this one out. 

The corruption that exists under the current Buffalo Billion program, where former state employees and unscrupulous developers are under indictment, is now right in your backyard.  And the Governor wants to do it again.  The question is why would Clinton County elected officials allow that type of nonsense tarnish the North Country?

As is that wasn’t bad enough, the problem is even worse for Minority/Women-Owned Businesses (MWBEs), which tend to be merit shop contractors. This project has a stated goal of using 30% MWBE participation.  Yet a recent state report highlighted that PLAs act as a roadblock to M/WBE firms. A PLA will all but guarantee project delays as contractors struggle to find qualified MWBEs that will work under a PLA. And when they find them they won’t be from Plattsburgh.

More and more municipal government work is bid without a PLA, simply because they know a PLA isn’t necessary to save money and they want to make sure all local workers have a shot. Recently the City of Binghamton rejected a PLA on their $330 million waste water treatment plant and the Kingston Central Schools did the same on their $140 million construction project. Both jobs are on track, within budget and employing a mix of local merit shop and union workers that earn prevailing wages.

It’s time for Clinton County elected officials to stand up for their constituents and tell “Boss Tweed” Cuomo they don’t want a PLA on the airport project.  Doing so ensures that local people work on a local project.  It also ensures that the project will move forward and lawsuits won’t impact the timelines.

This Op-Ed appeared in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican on July 18, 2017.