The extent and huge costs of the damage from Hurricane Sandy to New Jersey should make rebuilding the worst affected areas a priority for Garden State lawmakers. That would include keeping down costs. Yet the Democrat-controlled New Jersey State Senate is trying to do the exact opposite. Last week it passed, along a 23-13 party-live vote, a bill (S2425) that expands the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) in state construction projects.
Astoundingly, the Senate did not consider any other legislation. “So in these days post-Sandy, we’ve been called back to debate only one bill,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union). “This is one bill that has the potential to change that recovery estimate, if the cost estimates are right, form 10 completed projects to 9 completed projects.”
Project labor agreements disadvantage nonunion contractors through the imposition of burdensome rules similar to those faced by their unionized competitors. Under a PLA, nonunion contractors can be required to employ workers from union hiring halls, recruit trainees from union apprentice programs, and even collect union dues.