In Virginia, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling used his tie-breaking vote in the commonwealth’s Senate for the first time on January 31 to pass legislation prohibiting state funds from being used in “Project Labor Agreements” that favor unionized contractors. The House of Delegates passed a similar bill the same day by a wide 69-29 margin. Governor Bob McDonnell is expected to sign the legislation.
Virginia is a right-to-work state where compulsory union membership is against the law.
In explaining his vote that broke the 20-20 tie in the Senate, Bolling said the bill “protects taxpayer dollars from being diverted to projects that favor union shops over merit shops.” He added that the action “ensured that taxpayers will not be beholden to labor unions and that non-union contractors will no longer face discrimination. Virginia’s strong right-to-work law has been one of the cornerstones of our economic prosperity.”
The bill was introduced after officials at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, a regional agency that includes Maryland and Washington, D.C., said they preferred to use PLAs in the construction of a new rail line to Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia. With this legislation, insistence on a PLA would put a $150 million funding commitment from Virginia — and possibly $350 million more in proposed additional funding— in jeopardy.
Union-only Project Labor Agreements undermine the principle of fair and open competition. They are discriminatory in nature in that they prevent skilled contractors from bidding on construction contracts solely because they don’t cater to organized labor’s demands. Consequently, where they are not challenged, PLAs put qualified Americans out of work, cause American families to suffer unjustly and overburden taxpayers who may end up paying beyond market value as a nod to union political power. Virginia lawmakers are doing the right thing by standing up to political pressure and protecting the economic freedom of those they serve.