Government, union & court rackets

Government, union & court rackets

Perhaps the jig is up for the government’s labor union protection racket in Westmoreland County.

Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Pennsylvania (ABC) has filed a three-count civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh to stop the county from requiring union labor in public works projects.

As the contractors’ group explains it:

“The intent of the county’s project labor agreement is plain: to prevent the more than 70 percent of Pennsylvania’s construction workforce who don’t belong to a union from competing to build and work on projects funded by taxpayer dollars and to drive more dues revenue to one particular group of unions that are politically allied with Democratic county commissioners.”

It’s behavior so putrid that 25 states have banned the practice.

Project labor agreements, commonly known as “PLAs,” by various accounts can raise construction costs by as much as 25 percent. ABC says costs can rise by between 12 and 18 percent.

In Westmoreland County’s case, the law, revived in 2016, applies to public works projects of more than $150,000.

Such kowtowing to organized labor is anathema to sound public policy. Government should not be in the business of protecting cartels.

Uh-oh. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has remanded to Commonwealth Court the latter’s ruling this year that the City of Pittsburgh cannot force landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

Commonwealth Court found that the 2015 city ordinance, designed to ban housing discrimination against those receiving this federally subsidized rent, violated the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter, which prevents the city from regulating private businesses.

The housing voucher program is voluntary.

But the Supreme Court cited another of its recent rulings that upheld Pittsburgh’s ordinance requiring private businesses operating in the city to provide employees with paid sick leave.

Thus, the high court has telegraphed that it likely would rule in favor of the city. Talk about a racket.

How wretchedly troublesome that the state Supreme Court can essentially say the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter doesn’t say what it means and doesn’t mean what it says and that the court can substitute its growing “social justice” adjudication for the will of the people who voted for the charter in 1974.

How else might we not look forward to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court disenfranchising the electorate?

Speaking of rackets. For those who might have thought that professional sports franchises no longer attempt to rip off taxpayers to build their fields of dreams, think again.

Of course, Greater Pittsburgh unfortunately knows all about such shakedowns and transferring scarce public resources to the barons of sport.

And now, Reason magazine details how the Boston Red Sox’s top minor league affiliate is shaking down Massachusetts taxpayers for $100 million to build a new minor league park in Worcester.

It is a sordid tale of eminent domain abuse and plucking taxpayers, all the while claiming the project somehow will be a robust economic development engine.

And as Reason recounts, a Worcester Business Journal survey found nine of 10 experts surveyed were skeptical that the ballpark would pay for itself.

Do remember that “pay for itself” claim is one of the most fallacious contentions from those perpetually pimping for publicly financed sports stadiums.

That public officials continue to make such a claim as they do the bidding of professional sports franchises is proof-positive that they believe there is an infinite supply of turnip trucks from which taxpayers will continue to fall off.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).