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To Best Protect Taxpayers, Avoid Imposing a PLA on Stadium Construction

ABC Empire State Chapter President Brian Sampson's Op-Ed in the Buffalo News.

After years of discussion, the Buffalo Bills, their fans and the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Metropolitan region are finally poised to get a modern stadium that can provide an exceptional gameday experience for one of the most loyal fanbases in professional sports. As negotiations continue, we must ensure that the majority of the local construction industry workforce and the local community have the ability to benefit from this project and taxpayers get a bid process that ensures the lowest possible tax burden.

The best way to accomplish these things is to make certain that a Project Labor Agreement is not mandated on the stadium project. A PLA – a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement contractors will be forced to sign prior to bidding on the stadium project if there is any taxpayer funding – will create several issues that will limit how much the local community can benefit from the project.

A PLA will require the contractor with the winning bid to hire, on average, three-out-of-every-four workers from a union hall. To comply, a non-union affiliated contractor, will be forced to sideline his or her workers to make these hires. Imagine the Bills being forced to bench Josh Allen, without pay, to play someone else in the biggest game in franchise history: that idea doesn’t sit well. So, why would we expect our contractors to bench their loyal employees? In return for the loyalty of their hard-working employees, these contractors simply will not bid on the project.

This is not a union versus non-union debate. The concern with mandating union hires is that more than 75 percent of the construction industry workforce in Western New York, depending on the trade, is not affiliated with a union. The goal of this project should be to employ local contractors and local workers. A mandated PLA will make that virtually impossible.

The other issue created by a dramatically decreased bid pool, is that it will directly result in higher bid prices, as evidenced in a study by former Cornell University Professor Paul Carr. His study proves that when bidder participation is stifled by PLAs, bid amounts are higher, thus increasing the burden on taxpayers.

Gov. Hochul is a self-avowed Buffalo Bills fan, correctly acknowledging they are New York’s only professional football team. Since becoming part of the Western New York Community, Kim and Terry Pegula and Pegula Sports & Entertainment, LLC have proven their dedication to the region, by investing hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars in the community. It’s now time for the governor to show the full community her support by ensuring every contractor and construction worker has a fair opportunity to bid and win work on the new Bills stadium.

Make the bidding process a level playing field for all contractors, regardless of affiliation, and may the best bid win.