Fair Contracting Gets a Boost in Keystone Region

Kristi Pronovost The Merit Shop Advocacy Blog, The Merit Shop Spokesman Blog

By Brent Sailhamer, Director of Government Affairs, ABC Keystone

For years, Lancaster and Berks Counties have led the charge in promoting free and open contracting by maintaining ordinances that prohibit the use of project labor agreements (PLAs), or pre-hire collective bargaining agreements. These agreements, which are negotiated in secret prior to the bidding process, technically allow anyone to bid, but mandate that bidders must agree to use employees from prescribed labor halls, guaranteeing a portion (or all) of the work for organized labor.

Recently, a state court decision found that PLAs inherently created an uneven playing field and disfavored merit shop contractors. But under the National Labor Relations Act, public entities are still free to utilize them in contracts.

Last month, Republican Commissioners in Lebanon County took a bold step in promoting free enterprise by adopting an ordinance prohibiting the use of PLAs within the county. The ordinance would apply to any county project or any project utilizing county funding, including grants, loans, and tax abatements. The move makes Lebanon County the third county in the Commonwealth to put such a prohibition in place.

Commissioners Robert Phillips and Bob Ames both supported the measure, ensuring fair competition on public projects, while Democrat Jo Ellen Litz voted against the ordinance. After the vote, ABC Keystone Chapter President-CEO, G. David Sload, heralded the commissioners, “On behalf of the Associated Builders & Contractors and thousands of employees in the construction industry, I applaud Commissioners Phillips and Ames for their courage and commitment to the merit shop and what is right. This sends a clear message that discrimination is not welcome in Lebanon County.”

The ordinance is a critical part of the Keystone Chapter’s strategic plan, which calls for a county-based effort of promoting free enterprise and defending the merit shop.

May 29, 2019