The No. 1 excuse that our local and state GOP officials have been preparing as the explanation for why they’re pulling the rug out from their previous pledges to support rail to Dulles and Loudoun is that the project includes a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA.
As noted earlier today, state attorney general and gubernatorial very-hopeful Ken Cucinnelli saw a chance to burnish his ideological credentials with the union-bashing right-wing of his party by suddenly deciding that the PLAs violate Virginia’s anti-union “right to work” laws. (Even though weeks earlier his office issued an opinion that that the negotiated PLA provision in the Metro project — which he himself helped negotiate — complied with Virginia’s laws).
Even our own big MetroRail supporter, Loudoun Board of Supervisors chairman Scott York (R-At Large), has been making ominous noises that the all-Republican Loudoun board can’t possibly vote for the Metro extension to Loudoun if the contracts contain a PLA.
It looks, though, that this fig leaf is not going to be large enough to cover GOP Supervisor Geary Higgins’s, er, problems.
Because while the Virginia Republican machine has been heading to the barricades over the (just possibly exaggerated) issue of PLAs in the Metro-to-Loudoun project, Geary himself in his day job has been a major lobbyist in favor of PLAs in federal construction projects.
PLAs, which date back to the 1930s, basically are agreements with construction unions that set the terms of a project in advance, while also barring strikes.
It turns out that despite all of the Republican political grandstanding over the issue, contractors in fact really like these agreements. And no contractors like them more than Geary Higgins’s very own National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), for which he works as Vice President for Labor Relations.
As NECA explained in a recent press release:
PLAs help minimize the risks and inconvenience to the public that often accompany public work projects, help ensure that projects are not only completed on time, but on or under budget, and that they are to be an important tool in the procurement toolbox available to the Federal agencies to procure construction on a case-by-case basis.
In fact, just a few days ago, Geary’s association of contractors was trumpeting their lobbying victory in the U.S. House of Representatives in which they managed to convince a “whopping 34 Republicans” (their words, not mine; full text below) to join Democrats in defeating a GOP sponsored provision that would have barred the use of PLAs in a military construction bill. The press release from NECA described their “all-out offensive” to protect PLAs, which included a barrage of phone calls and personal contacts with House members.
Sort of makes Geary the odd man out among the Virginia far-out Republican faithful, doesn’t it?
At least it adds yet another complication to the Loudoun GOP’s very fraught balancing act over Metro.
Perhaps Geary’s safest recourse is also in this case the most honest one: Recuse yourself, Geary!
full text of the statement on PLAs by the National Electrical Contractors Association, Supervisor Geary Higgins’s employer:
House Rejects Attempts to Limit Project Labor Agreements and Eliminate Davis-Bacon
On the evening of May 31, the House approved an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY 2013 (HR 5854) offered by Rep. Michael Grimm (R, NY-13) that rightly removed a provision (Sec.517) from the bill that would have restricted the federal government from utilizing project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects. The vote prevailed by a 218-198 vote.
NECA launched an unprecedented all-out offensive to support the amendment. NECA sent a letter to every member of Congress arguing that PLAs help minimize the risks and inconvenience to the public that often accompany public work projects, help ensure that projects are not only completed on time, but on or under budget, and that they are to be an important tool in the procurement toolbox available to the Federal agencies to procure construction on a case-by-case basis. In addition, NECA contractors sent letters and made phone calls to their respective Representatives urging them to vote in support of the amendment. Finally, NECA staff made multiple contacts with House offices urging them to vote to support the amendment.
A total of five votes have been held since 2011 to limit the use of PLAs and all were defeated within the margin of a few votes. This time, a whopping 34 Republicans – the most ever – voted with NECA to help pass the Amendment, leading to the largest margin of victory on a PLA vote for NECA.