MCA Wins Victory as PLA Dropped from Publicly Funded GE Project

The Merit Construction Alliance has succeeded in removing a project labor agreement on the new General Electric headquarters in Boston. GE today dropped the PLA in an addendum to bid documents.
The MCA was the first to bring the PLA to the attention of the Governor's Office, which had worked hard to bring GE to Massachusetts but had not agreed to a union-only provision. The state pledged $150 million in incentives to relocate GE to Boston, including $120 million in infrastructure improvements.
MCA argued the project - the purchase of property and renovation of two brick buildings in the Seaport District - was public construction because it was entirely funded with tax dollars even if privately managed. As public construction, use of a project labor agreement ran counter to state case law and the policy of the Baker Administration.
GE's general contractor had signed a PLA in July, but had not revealed its existence to subcontractors until late November. MCA argued that while GE and its construction team are private entities, they were spending public money and following other state laws regarding public construction, including bidding and prevailing wage statutes.
"It would be simply wrong to lock out merit shop workers from a project they are financing with their tax dollars. We grateful to Governor Baker and his staff for their efforts to protect the rights of all construction workers in Massachusetts. We welcome GE to Massachusetts and applaud its actions today which demonstrate its commitment to the state and to being a good steward of taxpayer dollars," said Jason Kauppi, President of the MCA.
Background Details:
  • MassDevelopment, a quasi-public agency that aims to boost economic development, received $120 million in a state grant to pay to renovate two brick buildings at 5 and 6 Necco Court in Boston, part of the new GE campus.
  • MassDevelopment owns the buildings and will lease them to GE for $1 per year for 20 years. GE plans to spend its own money to build a 12-story tower on adjacent private property.
  • Rather than oversee the construction, MassDevelopment ceded control of the project to GE and it's construction team. Private developers are now in charge of $120 million in public funds.
  • GE's construction team is following other public construction laws, but apparently not the precedent-setting Callahan case that essentially banned PLAs except in extremely rare circumstances, of which this is not one. The project is being treated as a public job, following state bidding and prevailing wage laws.
  • Subcontractors, including merit shops, were prequalified to bid on the project in the fall, but not informed of the PLA until late November.