In his op-ed “Break tradition to save Nycha,” Carlo Scissura, the president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, proposes a unique solution to ease the massive financial burden of rehabilitating New York City’s public housing: market-rate development on Housing Authority land. While the idea is respectable, there’s one factor that must be considered to shield taxpayers from another costly burden.
If the city were to implement Scissura’s strategy, it’s crucial that projects not be subject to the use of a project labor agreement. A PLA is a pre-hire agreement with labor organizations requiring that the workforce comes from the local hiring hall.
Using PLAs virtually eliminates competition for the unions, ensuring their contractors win the work. Certainly, increased competition would ensure more projects were completed because it leads to lower bids.
Those who favor organized labor will argue that PLAs are a cost-saving measure. That’s simply false. They will point to pre-construction studies that use an antiquated labor model created to demonstrate that the PLA will save money. However, the outdated model fails to accommodate for the massive changes in the construction industry over the past few decades. Let’s also keep in mind that New York doesn’t require a post-PLA study to investigate if the alleged savings were actually realized. The reason is simple. Labor savings never materialize—and their proponents don’t want you to know that.
To fix our public housing crisis, we need a remedy, not another financial injury. New York is home to thousands of trained and skilled merit-shop workers who take pride in their work and in their city. These workers stand ready to make sure New Yorkers get the most out of their dollar.
Vice President of Public Affairs
Associated Builders & Contractors, Empire State Chapter