The bid package for construction of the new Braintree South Middle School was released last week and includes a project labor agreement (PLA) that requires union-only labor.   

There was little advance notice of the PLA, which ABC has learned was approved by the Braintree School Building Committee in September of 2020.   ABC attempted to meet with town officials to discuss the PLA, but we were told the decision had been made.  

“PLAs effectively prevent open shop contractors from working on public projects due to their union labor requirement,” said ABC President Greg Beeman.  “Not only do they unfairly exclude the vast majority of the construction workforce, but they raise costs by reducing competition, and for no legitimate reason.”  

Braintree recently released the list of prequalified bidders, and more than half are open shop, including three of the five prequalified general contractors and some 40 subcontractors, or slightly more than half.   “With such a significant portion of the pre-qualified bidders being open shop, Braintree is likely to see a significant reduction in the bidding pool as a result of the PLA,” Beeman said.     

Braintree recently completed its East Middle School project without a PLA, with a number of open shop contractors successfully participating with their own workers.  “It’s hard to understand why a year later on a companion school open shops are now told they can’t participate unless they agree to use union labor,”  Beeman said. 

The MA Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that PLAs should only be used in limited circumstances since they can be anti-competitive.  “Information from Braintree’s own project consultants pegged the additional cost of the PLA at $3 million, and we believe that’s a very low estimate,” Beeman said.  A 2010 study from New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development found that PLAs increase costs by more than 30 percent and that the projects took 28 percent longer than those built using open competition.  

Beeman said ABC is reviewing options to fight this PLA.  The PLA and other bidding documents can be found here.