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Back PLA Deal for Local Schools
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen, Opinion/Letters
July 23, 2003
p. 11A

[and see the related Nicholas Johnson, "Make School Projects Labor-Friendly,"
"Proposal for I.C. School Builders is Akin to Teachers' Pacts" and
"PLAs Help Grow Local Economy"]

As glimmers of compromise emerge from Project Labor Agreement (PLA) debate and obfuscation, keep your eye on the ball ("Group Hears Both Sides of PLA," July 15).

There has already been an enormous compromise. No one is contesting the anti-PLA contractors dictating the terms of 95 percent of the construction. What these PLA opponents want is 100 percent.

Can you spell “ideologically-driven greed”?

We’re talking about the school district’s bond-funded new schools construction.

PLAs are popular among private owners, and are now expanding into public sector building.

They often improve quality, while bringing in projects under budget and ahead of schedule. They permit non-union and union contractors and workers alike, but require a level playing field for all.

As they’ve moved inland from the east and west coasts Iowa’s contractors have litigated, and lost, in the Iowa Supreme Court. But because local contractors are a little slow to adopt the innovation, all that’s proposed is a test, a pilot project, on a very small portion of the construction.

Thus, there’s little risk of any downside, and the possibility of great gains.

As the exploration of the issue proceeds, keep two facts in mind.

1. The contractors have already won 95 percent of their battle. All we’re talking about is a pilot project for the remaining 5 percent.

2. There are no magic ingredients in PLAs. That’s why they’re called “agreements.” The parties (district, unions, contractors) can put in them virtually anything they want.

So what’s the fight about? For the sake of the kids, let’s get on with it.

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City