My Turn: PLAs make financial sense for Alaskans

Posted: Friday, April 17, 2009

Passage of House Bill 185, sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly, strips Alaska of an important tool that would diminish control of Alaska's interests.

The question is, why would the state want to eliminate its ability and legal right to secure such things as the best economic terms, an Alaskan work force, control of work site scheduling or any other terms and conditions important to Alaska? We should be getting the best bang for our buck when it comes to state-funded projects.

Under the terms and conditions of a Project Labor Agreement, the state has the ability to negotiate and require certain controls that are important to our interest. The state recently included controls requiring a PLA in the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which focused on getting the best trained Alaskan workforce on the job.

The Legislature did this for many economic and proprietary reasons. Most obvious is that, with an Alaskan workforce, the paychecks earned from the construction of the gas line will cycle through our economy many times. When Alaskans are working, our businesses are flourishing and that is an economic stimulus plan we can all get our arms around. This same Alaska workforce will be here years after construction is done to operate and maintain the infrastructure.

The National Labor Relations Act expressly permits private employers to implement agreements or PLAs requiring all contractors performing work on a project to adhere to the terms and conditions of the PLA. They permit such control to the private sector so that they may determine some financial control and other parameters that are important to their project.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states, and their political subdivisions, should be allowed to benefit from PLAs, just as the private sector does, when acting in a proprietary capacity. HB 185 would restrict Alaska's proprietary capacity and, at the same time, would reduce our ability to meet our fiduciary responsibility to protect our revenues when deemed necessary.

The 50-year history of Alaska shows that PLAs can be an effective tool, but it also shows that PLAs have not flooded the market. PLAs have been used when deemed necessary. A tool in the tool box, so to speak. Government entities need every tool available to them.

Why tie the hands of the state of Alaska or any of our local governments? They, too, may want to seek terms important to them in the future. Rep. Kelly performed his fiduciary responsibility in 1996 when he supported a PLA on the Northern Inter-tie. I ask him and the 26th Alaska Legislature not to take away the right of others to do the same.

• Jay Quakenbush is a Fairbanks resident, IBEW Local 1547 assistant business manager and president of the Fairbanks Building and Construction Trades Council.

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