WaPo: VA GOP Holding Up Dulles Metrorail “Just to Stick It to Labor Unions and their Democratic Allies.”
Never is the partisanship of politics more rampant than in an election year, but what has been taking place in Virginia over the Dulles Metrorail extension (get background from our previous pieces here, here, here, here and here) could make even the most extreme gridlock artist tear up. The Washington Post‘s Steve Pearlstein penned a piece that breaks down the state GOP’s outrageous obstructionism:
If you want a perfect example of why government has become dysfunctional, look no further than the Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County, Va.
A majority of the newly elected, all-Republican board has threatened to derail the extension of Metrorail out to Dulles Airport and beyond because of a requirement that the general contractor for the project negotiate a “project labor agreement” with local construction unions.
Never mind that county supervisors generally don’t involve themselves in the contracting details of a $5 billion project managed by a regional agency representing three states and dozens of other local jurisdictions.
Never mind that previous Boards of Supervisors had long ago committed the county to the project, which was subsequently designed and financed based on those assurances.
Never mind that only 4.8 percent of the so-called Silver Line extension — and only 50 percent of the Loudoun stations and track work — are being financed by Loudoun taxpayers.
Never mind that the general contractor for the first phase of the Silver Line project voluntarily entered into such an agreement to get access to a sufficient number of skilled workers, a no-strike pledge from unions and considerable flexibility on work rules.
No, what’s truly astonishing is that Republican politicians would even consider killing a project of such overriding importance to their county, their state and the Washington region just to stick it to labor unions and their Democratic allies.
What we’re dealing with here is yet another example of government by hijacking. If we don’t get everything we want, we’ll kill the project, we’ll close the government, we’ll put the U.S. Treasury into default. As the infamous general said in Vietnam: We had to “destroy the village in order to save it.”
Pearlstein goes on to defend Project Labor Agreements, the reason for Republican hold-ups:
Dip into this debate and you’ll quickly confront assertions that project labor agreements will add 10 to 15 percent to the cost of Silver Line construction. It’s pure malarkey. All firms doing work on a project with federal money have to pay at least the same minimum wages. In Phase 1, the union firms have wound up paying 3 percent above that minimum. Non-union subcontractors also paid 3 percent above the minimum. In other words, no difference.
What’s so silly about this controversy is that there are only a dozen firms that are big and experienced enough to manage a transit project of this size and complexity, and all of them are giant national and international firms that are either union shops or have long since learned to operate in both union and nonunion environments. The opportunity for local contractors is to bid on subcontracts that are explicitly not required to sign on to project labor agreements. And yet in Phase 1, 80 percent of the nonunion subs have done so voluntarily.
So what are we arguing about here? Politics. Ideology. Certainly nothing that is worth risking the most important economic development project in the region.
This article is by far one of the most resounding and complete on the subject to date. Give it a full reading….