The Minnesota Vikings have approved a union-only Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in cooperation with labor unions to limit employment to union workers to build the proposed Vikings stadium.
These PLAs are bad public policy. In Minnesota, three out of four construction workers are employed by contractors not affiliated with any union.
Since PLAs effectively preclude open-shop companies from working on a stadium project, they discriminate against the majority of workers who choose not to join a union but whose hard-earned tax dollars may go toward funding this project.
Organizations like the Associated Builders and Contractors would never advocate a public policy that says "union contractors should be banned from doing public work." That would be as offensive to us as it is when the unions advocate policies that shut out merit shops.
If the unions really are as efficient as they claim, they wouldn't need to advocate for public policies that give them an artificial competitive advantage in projects like stadiums.
Several minority and women's groups have been vocal opponents of union-only agreements
. The National Association of Women Business Owners, National Black Chamber of Commerce and the Latin Builders Association are among the groups that have gone on record opposing PLAs. The National Black Chamber of Commerce described PLAs as anti-free-market, noncompetitive and, most of all, discriminatory.
Basically, the PLA deal was sold to the Vikings on the basis that they could reduce costs and ensure "labor peace." Both propositions are erroneous.
By limiting the bidding pool to union-only contractors, you reduce healthy competition and drive up costs, almost guaranteeing wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. The unions also agreed not to strike on the Vikings stadium project in exchange for the concession that the PLA be signed.
They contend this saves money by avoiding costly delays and keeping labor peace. The real meaning of labor peace is that, since only union labor will be working on the stadium, unions will not engage in strikes. This guarantees protectionism for a small part of the construction market.
These restraints imposed by the Vikings are political decisions, which have no economic rationale. The real losers are the taxpayers across the state who have chosen not to be affiliated with a union. Their tax dollars will subsidize a stadium that they will not be allowed to build.
It's going to be difficult to gain legislative support to fund a Vikings stadium when the Vikings can only support some fans some of the time.
Robert Heise is president of the Minnesota Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors.