Last week the Legislature voted to override Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of the project labor agreement (PLA) for the construction of a new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.  


The vote was generally along party lines, with Democrats voting to override and Republicans backing Gov. Baker’s veto.  Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) was the only Democrat to support Gov. Baker’s veto.


The House also adopted directing the Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion to investigate diversity in the construction industry and any barriers that may exist to minority, women, and veteran-owned contractors and their ability to access public contracts, including PLAs.


The Soldiers’ Home legislation also includes a provision to establish an Access, Inclusion and Diversity committee to monitor results on contractors' meeting diversity hiring goals for minority, women and veteran workers, mandated by the PLA.


“It is disappointing that the Legislature voted to mandate union labor and exclude the vast majority of the Massachusetts construction workers and contractors who live and work in their districts who have chosen not to affiliate with union,” said ABC MA President Greg Beeman.  “Governor Baker was 100 percent correct that the PLA will hurt, not help, minority, women and veteran participation with its union labor requirement,” he said.


Beeman said ABC will work to correct the misinformation spread by supporters of the PLA, such as Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), who claimed that PLAs ensure a better trained workforce.  The truth is PLAs have nothing to do with training.  False information was also spread in the House, such as remarks by Rep. Danielle Gregoire that PLAs don’t limit open-shop participation.  This is also untrue.  Since PLA’s mandate that all trade labor must come from the unions, they exclude both open shop workers and the contractors that employ them.  


Despite the override vote, ABC was pleased to see the strong position of Gov. Baker, the minority leadership in the House and Senate, and Sen. Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues.   Minority advocates, including the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, were vocal in their opposition to the PLA.  During Senate debate, Sen. Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) said that choosing inclusion is better than choosing exclusion.  ABC will continue to work with our allies to show that this is true.