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May 3, 2005

Letter to the Editor: County has other options besides Brightwater PLA

The members of Associated Builders & Contractors of Western Washington were disappointed to read that King County is considering adopting a union-only project labor agreement for building the Brightwater sewage treatment plant and conveyance system.

A union-only PLA is not necessary and will discriminate against the majority of construction workers who have chosen not to join unions.

Imposing a PLA will require open-shop contractors to pay dual benefit payments, their own employee health and retirement plans, and additional payments to the union for the union's health and retirement trust funds, which their employees will never benefit from. Thus open-shop contractors will decline to bid on the project, and fewer bidders generally means higher bids.

There is another solution, which will ensure labor peace and create a positive atmosphere and responsible contract. A site-stabilization agreement, such as was used at the Denver airport project, provides all the assurances the county needs, such as common work conditions and no strikes or disruptions, but doesn't require union membership or dual benefit payments from contractors. Around the country, many complicated, long-duration projects have been built successfully using this type of agreement instead of a union-only PLA.

ABC has given a copy of site-stabilization language to county officials. We hope that they will consider it rather than the discriminatory PLA they are currently considering.

If the county adopts a union-only PLA, instead of a non-discriminatory site stabilization agreement, it begs the question as to whether it is a politically motivated decision rather than one to ensure sound public policy and fairness.

Kathleen Garrity

Associated Builders & Contractors of Western Washington

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