To the editor:
Your article on the proposed project labor agreement for the Whittier Memorial Bridge (“Rancor over bridge project,” July 17) is woefully misleading on two points.
First, Greg Beeman of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts is offered up in the article as being the sole representative of the “public” — notwithstanding the fact that his organization only represents roughly 1 percent of the licensed and registered contractors in the entire state of Massachusetts.
Secondly, Beeman’s comment that a PLA “slams the door on most of the nonunion construction companies” is patently false.
Any qualified contractor — union or non-union — can bid to work under a PLA on a public project. It is entirely up to the contractor. Your own story includes a statement that “one local nonunion heavy construction company is still going to ... put in a bid for the Whittier bridge.”
Rather still, the pertinent question that your paper ought to be asking is this: Why is there any controversy at all when so many private sector, profit-oriented companies are increasingly utilizing project labor agreements?
Toyota has used PLAs to construct all eight of its American manufacturing facilities – and they report that their construction costs are one-third less than their competitors who do not use PLAs.
And Walmart, the acknowledged leader in corporate cost-containment and efficiencies, is increasingly turning to PLAs for the construction of its retail centers.
The story is the same on public projects across the commonwealth. The $80 million Taunton courthouse was built ahead of schedule and $6 million under budget.
UMass Boston’s Integrated Science Building is currently ahead of schedule and has surpassed hiring goals for women, minorities and Boston residents. Last summer, union contractors rapidly rebuilt 14 bridges on Interstate 93 over just 10 weekends – all early, $30 million cheaper than the non-union bid and with minimal traffic disruptions.
A number of other Massachusetts entities have utilized PLAs, including the Boston Housing Authority, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Mass General Hospital, Harvard University, Fidelity, the New England Patriots, Northeastern University, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and Logan International Airport.
The overwhelming evidence from the private sector suggests that PLAs are an effective tool to ensure quality construction on large, complicated projects.
The real question to ask is: Why shouldn’t the state avail itself of this tool for the Whittier Bridge project?
Francis X. Callahan Jr.