Metro's Silver Line extension to Dulles airport and into Loudoun County now hinges on a political fight over something called a project labor agreement.
Because the Silver line is key to the redevelopment of Tysons Corner, McLean Patch asked Dranesville Supervisor John Foust (D) and Del. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean Great Falls, Loudoun) to explain to readers the five things they need to know about the Dulles PLA. Foust's response follows. .
The Metropolitan Washington Airpots Authority board is scheduled to vote today on the PLA issue.
Dranesville Supervisor John Foust
1. Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are often used on large complex construction projects to guarantee against strikes, lockouts and similar job disruptions; establish effective, prompt and mutually binding procedures for resolving labor disputes; provide other mechanisms for labor-management cooperation on matters of mutual interest and concern including productivity, quality of work, safety, and health; provide alternative dispute resolution procedures for a range of issues; ensure compliance with laws and regulations governing workplace safety and health, equal employment opportunity, and labor and employment standards; set uniform work hours and holiday schedules; and, require pre-job conferences to assign and coordinate work.
2. Construction has many risks and regardless of the agreements that are put in place at the beginning of a project, there is no way to completely eliminate those risks. PLAs are a tool used on many very complex construction projects to attempt to control costs, ensure timely performance and provide work safety rules. Phase I of the Dulles Metro and the Beltway Hot Lanes are two examples of successful Northern Virginia projects that have benefited from a PLA. The Springfield interchange ("Mixing Bowl") project is an example of a large complex project that did not use a PLA. That project was several years late, had cost overruns of several hundred million dollars, and several workers were killed during construction.
3. Virginia is a "Right to Work" state so workers cannot be forced to join a union. PLA's do not discriminate against non-union contractors in the context of bidding, nor do they force or require non-union workers to join a union or abide by any union rules.
4. PLAs can be "mandatory" (the project owner requires the successful bidder to enter into a PLA) or "voluntary" (the successful bidder chooses to enter into a PLA). Many owners of large complex construction projects, including private owners who are concerned about their bottom-line, require PLAs. Toyota, a non-union shop, has built all its North American manufacturing facilities under a PLA and reports that its construction costs are substantially less than its competitors.
5. On public construction projects, deciding whether to use a PLA should be based on whether a PLA is more likely to reduce the risk of delay, cost overruns and job-site injuries and deaths, and not on whether the decision makers are "pro-union" or "anti-union."