Mark Obenshain: Big Labor takes a beating
On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) finally took Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) off the table for the Dulles Rail project, voting 11-1 to scrap PLA incentives for bidders. But let’s not mince words: these weren’t just run-of-the mill “incentives”; they were a bid scoring bonus that would have effectively made the project union-only, locking out Virginia’s non-unionized contractors.
Wednesday’s decision is a victory for Virginia taxpayers and a vindication of the General Assembly’s action on the issue this past session. It is MWAA’s recognition, however late, that Virginians take the right to work seriously.
Virginia is a Right to Work state with a 96% non-union workforce. The Project Labor Agreement that MWAA wanted would have run up costs and limited competition, to the great disadvantage of Virginia companies and Virginia workers.
Earlier this year, I patroned SB 242, legislation prohibiting state agencies and recipients of state assistance from mandating PLAs for Virginia and Virginia-assisted construction projects. The bill passed both chambers and has been signed by Governor McDonnell.
Before it had even passed the House, though, MWAA claimed to have gotten the message, and that they were addressing the issue.
If only. Unfortunately, they simply meant that they had converted a mandate into an incentive that accomplished exactly the same thing: smoke and mirrors, nothing more. They were playing games, but the General Assembly wasn’t. We enacted a budget amendment that drove home the point, and the Loudoun and Fairfax County Boards of Supervisors made their position clear as well-and finally, on Wednesday, MWAA really got the message.
This week’s vote was the result of a concerted effort of legislators, the Governor, the Loudoun and Fairfax County Boards of Supervisors, and concerned taxpayers across Virginia. Particularly, I’m grateful to Delegates Hugo, Comstock, and Ramadan for patroning the House companion legislation (HB 33), and to Senator Black for championing the budget amendment.
There are still important decisions to be made about the project, but I’m very pleased that, whatever the final scope of the project, Virginia taxpayers won’t be on the hook for the inflated costs of union-only contracts, jobs won’t go out of state, and Virginia contractors won’t be left out in the cold.
When Virginians stand together in defense of our convictions, we accomplish a lot. Chalk this up as a victory for job creation, for our Right to Work laws, and, really, for common sense.
Mark Obenshain is a Virginia state senator.