Braintree Wasting Million$
on New School Construction
Town's Project Manager Says Labor Policy Adds Millions to Project Cost
Without knowing the added cost, Mayor Kokoros and the School Building Committee imposed a project labor agreement (PLA) on the building of the new South Middle School. The PLA will cost Braintree taxpayers between $3 million and $14 million extra.
$3M to $14M
Estimates vary, but either way
it costs Braintree millions more
Braintree’s construction consultant says the PLA will cost an extra $3 million. That is likely a low-ball figure, considering studies of PLA cost impacts.
Numerous independent studies of public construction performed with and without PLAs have shown costs increase between 10 to 20%.
In a 2020 study of public school construction in Connecticut, the Beacon Hill Institute for Public Policy Research found “PLAs raise the final construction cost of building schools by 19.84 percent.”
A PLA requires use of union construction workers. That stops merit shop (nonunion) contractors from bidding and working, because they don’t want to fire their own employees and use unknown union workers.
PLAs are pushed by organized labor and its allies to create a monopoly for union contractors who then do not have to compete against merit shops.
PLAs deny nonunion workers opportunity. Yet, nonunion workers are 83.5% of the construction workforce in Massachusetts. (Source: unionstats.com)
School Building Committee meeting minutes show Mayor Kokoros led the committee to approve the PLA with a short, one-sided discussion that failed to:
Consider the cost of the PLA. The SBC voted on September 14, 2020, and the OPM delivered its cost overrun estimate on November 17, 2020.
Hear alternative viewpoints or analysis.
Analyze the publicly available information on the cost of PLAs.
When did this happen?
Mayor Kokoros won SBC approval for the PLA on September 12, 2020:
- 12 days before the Prop 2 1/2 override vote increasing property taxes to pay for the school.
- 2 months before Braintree's OPM, Hill International, estimated the additional cost of the PLA in the millions of dollars.
MCA has found no public record that the cost implications of a PLA were made known to voters prior to the override vote.
PLAs Take the Competition Out of Competitive Bidding
Already, this project is in trouble. The PLA will result in no electrical contractor to wire the school and a single bidder to install windows. What will be the impact of this lack of competition?
No union electrical contractors were prequalified. Only merit shop electrical contractors were prequalified. Merit shops don't bid PLA jobs. Who will wire the school?
In the Metal Windows subcategory, only one union subcontractor was prequalified. That contractor will bid knowing the three merit shops in the category will not bid.
"With more bidders, you tend to get a better price."
- former Fall River mayor after abandoning a PLA on a five-school project.
Expect Delays Ahead
With no electrical bids, the project will be delayed as the bidding process is redone.
And nothing delays construction quite like a lawsuit. A PLA violates state bidding laws, and it only takes one aggrieved party to file.
Ironic, since one argument for a PLA was keeping the project on schedule.
PLAs are 'Anti-Competitive,' says MA High Court
The Supreme Judicial Court has branded PLAs “anti-competitive” and ruled they are not justified “in all or even most circumstances.” (John T. Callahan & Sons, Inc., v. City of Malden, 430 Mass. 124 .) Further, the SJC ruled that “… the building of a single school will not in and of itself, justify the use of a PLA.”
“A PLA will not be upheld unless (1) a project is of such size, duration, timing, and complexity that the goals of the competitive bidding statute cannot otherwise be achieved and (2) the record demonstrates that the awarding authority undertook a careful, reasoned process to conclude that the adoption of a PLA furthered the statutory goals.”
Who Is Paying for this Project?
Construction cost (estimated by OPM): $73.7M
Two funding sources:
State grant (from Mass. School Building Authority): $31M
Braintree taxpayers: $42.7M
The PLA discriminates against residents of Braintree and Massachusetts who are paying for the school with their tax dollars, but who have been told they are unwelcomed to work on the project because they are employed by merit shops.
The Merit Construction Alliance is providing these documents as a service to the people of Braintree. The MCA obtained public records from the Town of Braintree related to construction of the South Middle School project. These documents are not publicly posted by the Town. MCA obtained them with a public records request that town officials fulfilled only after missing the statutory deadline.
School Building Committee minutes of the 9/12/20 meeting where members unanimously approved a Project Labor Agreement without knowing the increased cost or hearing any opposing viewpoints.
Cost of PLA
Braintree's Owner's Project Manager puts the cost of a PLA at $3M as seen in this 11/17/20 email from the OPM to the mayor's chief of staff and the school superintendent. MCA believes the OPM is underestimating the true cost. Numerous studies show PLAs add up to 20% to the cost of a school, meaning the cost of this PLA is about $14 million. Either way, Braintree taxpayers would pay millions more than necessary.
The draft Project Labor Agreement requires contractors to use workers sent by the union hiring hall instead of their own employees. This stops merit shop (non-union) firms from bidding because they are loyal to their own employees.
Town officials sent a single, 215-page PDF document containing the public records they claim filled the MCA's public records request. Take a look and tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.