Now, full disclosure. I’m definitely pro-union. I won’t cross a picket line, I’m not getting my coffee fixes at Dunkin Donuts right now, and I get chills up my spine when I hear “Solidarity Forever.” Nevertheless, I think that Deval Patrick did the right thing with flaggers, I believe that the Quinn Bill needs to be tightened up, and I’m glad that the Mass. Turnpike Authority is gone.
So when it comes to PLA’s, I’m looking for reasonable arguments. And here’s one that made an impression on me. On July 1st of this year, the Congressional Ressearch Service put out a report on PLA’s by Gerald Mayer. It’s not a polemic for or against PLA’s, just an attempt to summarize what the reseach about PLA’s shows. Here’s the part that woke me up:
PLAs have been used in the United States since at least the 1930s. According to a 1998 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), PLAs were used in the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington in 1938, the Shasta Dam in California in 1940, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Walt Disney World and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the cleanup of Boston Harbor. PLAs were also used in the construction of nuclear power plants in Hanford, WA, and Oak Ridge, TN.
According to the GAO report, the total number of PLAs is not known. The report states that there
is no identifiable group in either the private or public sectors that keeps comprehensive data on the number of PLAs. Nevertheless, GAO’s research concluded that most PLAs are in the private sector and that they have been used in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on both private and public projects.
A part of that last sentence must be repeated: “most PLAs are in the private sector.” Now, if that’s the case, what’s the big deal? If the private sector chooses to rely on PLA’s, in appropriate projects, why shouldn’t the public sector have the same option?
There’s much, much more in that report, most of which supports the use of PLA’s, some of which doesn’t. But that’s the one point that hit me the hardest. Did Walt Disney decide to build Disney World with a PLA because he was beholden to unions as special interests, or was it just because it made good business sense? And if it made good business sense to Walt Disney, what’s wrong with it for U. Mass. or other public projects in Massachusetts? And, please spare me the Beacon Hill Institute research — I’ve seen it, it’s been rebutted, and we need to get unbiased information to really make a sound judgment.
So can we, the BMG community, have a rational disucssion about PLA’s?