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SUNY Binghamton Should Avoid Anti-Competitive, Costly Project Labor Agreement

SUNY Binghamton Should Avoid Anti-Competitive, Costly Project Labor Agreement

We caught wind of a potential Project Labor Agreement from one of our members. Understanding that many outside of the construction industry are not familiar with the numerous issues and tremendous increased costs that accompany PLA’s, we decided to be proactive and educate the public on what they are on the hook for if SUNY did indeed decide to move forward with a PLA. The Op-Ed as it appeared in the Press & Sun can be found here.

The building of SUNY Binghamton’s new pharmacy school is great news for the University and for the Binghamton area as a whole. For a region that has been hit so hard economically throughout recent years, SUNY Binghamton has been a tremendous bright spot.

This project will cost upwards of $60 million dollars with over $10 million coming from the State budget. An investment this large will certainly result in tremendous economic activity in the region, including high quality construction jobs, the new students who will frequent local restaurants and stores, and the graduates who are in high demand and will hopefully stay in the Southern Tier.

While there are numerous upsides, there is at least one potential pitfall on this project: As has become fairly standard with SUNY construction projects, there is a rumored study being done to determine the feasibility of a Project Labor Agreement or PLA.

For those unfamiliar with PLAs, these agreements typically restrict competition, increase costs, create delays, discriminate against nonunion employees and place merit shop contractors at a significant competitive disadvantage. People often ask how this could occur. Well imagine if you owned a construction company and wanted to secure new work for your company. But in order to get the work, you had to agree that your employees couldn’t do the work. You’d have to hire different employees. Would you do it? Of course not. You’re loyal to your employees. But that is exactly what a PLA would do to the construction companies that want to work on SUNY Binghamton’s School of Pharmacy.

Due to these restrictive mandates, many contractors choose not to bid these projects. This results in less competition and often times much higher bids. In addition to potential excessive costs because of a lack of competition, numerous studies have been conducted that show these agreements end up costing more per square foot than non-PLA projects.

One notable national PLA project was the San Francisco Airport expansion. There were huge cost overruns and other issues that impacted this project. In NYS, we have had our fair share of disasters with them as well. Throughout large cities in Upstate, there has been the “modernization of schools” that are all being done under a PLA, with numerous issues as a result. Who has ultimately paid for these costly issues? The kids because of less than the best facilities, and the taxpayers that have to pay more for less. This is not what SUNY Binghamton wants for its project nor is it what taxpayers want.

New York State has committed millions of our tax dollars to this project. We deserve the best value for the best price, and PLA’s ensure that this is NOT the case. I strongly encourage SUNY Binghamton to reject utilizing this burdensome, costly measure on its construction and to instead help local workers, the local economy, and taxpayers and pursue the most qualified and responsible bidder.

“Free Enterprise … The Future of Construction”