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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 28, 2010 / 16 Tamuz 5770

The union-only protection racket

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | This is the kind of thing, Charlie Baker was saying one day last week, that "makes people crazy about state government."

The Republican gubernatorial candidate was standing near the site of the University of Massachusetts-Boston's forthcoming expansion -- a 10-year master plan for at least $750 million in new construction and renovation projects. On June 14, the University of Massachusetts Building Authority had voted to proceed under a Project Labor Agreement, meaning that only workers who pay dues to a union will be hired for one of the largest building projects now in the offing. Since roughly 80 percent of the construction workforce in Massachusetts is open-shop (non-union), the PLA amounts to naked political favoritism for organized labor -- and a raw deal for everyone else. Baker condemns PLAs as unjust, and pledges to ban them in state contracts if elected.

Governor Deval Patrick, on the other hand, openly touts his success in steering lucrative construction contracts to the politically-wired sliver of trade workers who choose to belong to a union. "Take our biggest construction project, the $300 million undertaking at Worcester State Hospital," he told the Building Trades Conference in Plymouth in March. "96 percent of the construction spending is being carried out by union workers."

Something is plainly wrong when elected officials boast of excluding the vast majority of contractors and their employees from the chance to work on public projects. If the situation were reversed -- if union members were the ones being blackballed by the administration -- voters would be outraged. Is it any less outrageous when bids are rigged in favor of unions?

There is no economic rationale for these union-only deals. They are discriminatory and anticompetitive, and thus drive up costs significantly. When Suffolk University's Beacon Hill Institute analyzed the costs of building126 Boston-area schools, it found that PLAs inflated the winning bids for construction projects by almost 14 percent, and added an extra 12 percent to the actual construction costs. When it comes to public construction, PLAs all but guarantee that taxpayers will be overcharged. As The Wall Street Journal observed wryly in April: "Boston's Big Dig, Seattle's Safeco Field, Los Angeles's Eastside Reservoir project, the San Francisco airport, Detroit's Comerica Park -- all were built under PLAs marked by embarrassing cost overruns."

Baker describes the Patrick administration's decision to require a PLA for the UMass-Boston overhaul as "arrogant." But that doesn't really go far enough.

The primary justification for PLAs is that they preserve "labor peace." Union leaders promise not to strike or otherwise disrupt a construction project in exchange for the government's guarantee that all contractors hired to do the work will operate as union shops and that all workers will pay union dues. PLAs, in other words, amount to a protection racket. To put it in Hollywood terms, unions tell government officials: "Nice construction project ya got here. Be a shame if somethin' was to . . . happen to it."

Not surprisingly, taxpayers resent such extortion. Earlier this month, voters in the southern California municipalities of Oceanside and Chula Vista handily enacted ballot initiatives prohibiting PLAs on city-funded construction. A similar measure goes on the ballot in San Diego in November.

According to a statewide Suffolk University-7 News survey taken in March, Massachusetts residents have no use for PLAs either. Asked whether private contractors working on public projects should be compelled to hire exclusively through union hiring halls, 69 percent said No. Opposition to excluding non-union laborers from work that their taxes help fund was expressed by clear majorities of both men (77 percent) and women (61 percent); of Democrats (52 percent), Republicans (88 percent), and independents (76 percent); of whites (69 percent) and minorities (67 percent). The same was true when respondents were sorted by age or geography -- strong majorities were against union-only mandates. Even among union households, 59 percent were opposed.

If support for open competition on public projects is so unambiguous, why doesn't Patrick join Baker in renouncing deals like the one effectively shutting out open-shop contractors from UMass-Boston? With voters so opposed to PLAs, what does the governor gain -- or think he gains -- from embracing them? It's that kind of thing that "makes people crazy about state government," Baker says. That's a message he should keep hammering home.

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Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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