Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

CEO Pens Pro-PLA Piece, Suggests Union and Non-Union Participation on WA Transit Project

A recent opinion piece by Pat McCarthy and Joni Earl in Washington state’s The News Tribune discusses the efficient nature of construction projects when issues are ironed out before construction begins under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). Speaking about Sound Transit’s new project to build more than $9.5 worth of light rail line, McCarthy and Earl talk about the benefits of a PLA entered into in 1999 and how it encourages extension of the agreement for further phases of work.

Extending Sound Transit’s 1999 PLA to cover these projects offers major advantages for all parties, especially the taxpayers. It means that well before construction starts, we’ve already addressed many of the most significant challenges.

The PLA’s provisions include the ability for light rail construction contractors to use both union and nonunion workers, as well as requirements that restrict unions from engaging in strikes, picketing, work stoppages or other disruptions. Having the PLA in place during the construction of light rail between Seattle and the airport avoided up to 74 days of work stoppages.

The PLA also establishes processes for resolving issues that inevitably arise on complex jobs. Over the course of building Sound Move, Sound Transit partnered with 29 prime contractors, 663 contractors and workers from more than 30 construction trades. We couldn’t have managed these projects as cost effectively without establishing consistent and well-understood rules and procedures that promote harmony and cooperation.

The importance of this opinion piece is two-fold. First, Joni Earl, CEO of Sound Transit, is a true businessman, fitting him squarely in a demographic that anti-union lobbies often try to foist as being harmed by PLAs. Second, the piece suggests that the 1999 Sound Transit PLA engendered both union AND non-union participation. Union exclusivity is the big lie being told by anti-PLA actors such as the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) and their sister act, the Associated General Contractors (AGC).

At this point, the value of the Sound Transit project to the community is indisputable. McCarthy and Earl appear overjoyed at past results and the potential for job-creation and efficiency moving forward:

Sound Transit values the roles of the region’s unions, workers and contractors. We will all have the chance to contemplate our contributions as we glide past traffic jams on a light rail system that stretches more than 50 miles by 2023.

In the meantime, the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure that voters approved in 2008 will bolster the region’s economic recovery. ST2 projects will create more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to the state’s forecasting models. The economic benefits will extend throughout the whole region. There is no better example than the 37,000 pre-cast concrete segments that form the University Link light rail tunnels – all made right here in Tacoma.


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