OPINION: Missouri lawmakers send ban on Project Labor Agreements to Greitens



Jefferson City – Missouri lawmakers continued their assault on workers recently with the House sending a Senate bill banning Project Labor Agreements to Governor Eric Greitens for his signature.

Senate Bill 182 cuts all state funding for local governments that require Project Labor Agreements, or when non-union construction workers must pay union dues when working on a local construction project. State projects already ban PLAs; this bill affects Missouri’s cities and counties.

Mike Louis, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said PLAs ensure a safe, trained workforce on public construction projects like schools, roads and bridges, guaranteeing quality, on-time work on a tight budget. They also protect the public investment, he said, by weeding out unqualified contractors and keeping projects on schedule, with fewer injured workers and no strikes or work disputes.

“It seems to me that a House and Senate full of legislators who ran as candidates saying we need less government are now voting for more and more government overreach,” Louis said.

“It’s shocking but it isn’t,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council.

“We knew once this guy (Greitens) was elected that he was going to go after working families,” Stiffler said. “It’s just the shame that the Missouri Legislature thinks the way to cure all the state’s ills is to take it out on the backs of workers, going after unions and all the things that help us do our jobs safely, on time and on budget.”

The PLA bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis, is the second piece of anti-union legislation this session to be sent to Greitens, who made it clear in his State of the State address that these bills were priorities.

The first was so-called “right-to-work,” which prohibits unions and employers from negotiating union security clauses that allow employees in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying dues or a fair share fee for the cost of being represented. It is set to go into effect Aug. 28 unless the current citizens referendum collects enough signatures of registered voters to put the issue to a public vote in 2018. It would stop RTW implementation until the 2018 election.

Next up is a bill repealing Missouri’s prevailing wage law.

The PLA bill was handled in the House by Representative Rob Vescovo (R-Arnold), who has sponsored similar legislation for the last three years.

Despite that, Vescovo seemed woefully uninformed about the contents of his own legislation or its impact when questioned by Representative Doug Beck (D-Affton) (Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562) when the House version of the bill was in committee.

When Beck asked what a paragraph in the bill meant, Vescovo simply read the passage aloud. When pressed by Beck to explain it, Vescovo said Beck would have to ask the lawyers who wrote it.

“He’s been carrying it for three years and he didn’t even know what was in it,” Beck said. “It’s disgusting.”

Beck, who also serves on the Affton School Board, said the PLA ban will take away a valuable tool that districts use to ensure that building projects are completed on time and done right in the first place.

Beck noted that recent expansions at Boeing and Monsanto both involved PLAs for good reason.

“They’re taking that tool away from the public,” Beck said. “It’s a shame.”

Representative Bob Burns (D-Affton), a retired member of Teamsters Local 600, echoed Beck’s sentiments.

“PLAs are a valuable tool to keep jobs on budget with no work stoppages and with quality work,” Burns said.


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