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August 17, 2006

Opinion: Strike raises PLA questions

While it is heartening that federal mediators met with concrete suppliers this week, it is very disturbing that Sound Transit, Port of Seattle and other major construction projects in King County have been shut down due to the strike by the operating engineers union, Local 302.

The boards of Sound Transit, the port and other public owners signed project labor agreements to specifically prevent strikes. The basic concept behind a PLA is organized labor is promised that their members will get the vast majority of the work, and in those few contracts that do go to open shop contractors, the open shop workers will pay a representation fee to the union.

In exchange for that near monopoly on PLA projects, the unions agree not to strike.

While 302 did not sign the Sound Transit PLA, their international union did. The fact that the striking operators are plant workers and not site workers is a technicality that may or may not hold up in court.

The fact is that projects where PLAs have been signed are stopped, falling behind schedule, costing hundreds of non-striking workers their paychecks because the project has been put on hold for lack of concrete, and the taxpayers can expect to pay more for these delayed projects, more every day the strike continues. Hopefully public owners will think twice next time they are approached to sign a PLA. It isn't the guarantee they were lead to believe it was.

Kathleen Garrity


Associated Builders & Contractors of Western Washington

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