Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Friday, July 26, 2019
Honolulu CWAs a recipe for disaster
By Keli'i Akina PhD @ 7:21 PM :: 4277 Views :: Honolulu County, Labor

CWAs a recipe for disaster

From Grassroot Institute, July 26, 2019

Around the country, states and municipalities are changing their procurement regulations to allow for more competitive bidding. That’s a best practice that saves money on government projects.

Hawaii, however, appears to be moving in the opposite direction.

This week, the Honolulu City Council’s Budget Committee considered Bill 37, a proposal that would create new hiring conditions, called “community workforce agreements” or CWAs, on all county projects worth more than $250,000. 

The CWAs would drastically limit the use of nonunion workers on county public projects, even small government contracts. The inevitable result would be fewer competitive bids, resulting in higher costs for the county and ultimately Honolulu taxpayers.

In other states, there has been a move to reform such requirements, also known as “project labor agreements” or PLAs. In March, Kentucky became the 25th state to open up bidding on state construction contracts to all qualified bidders. As states have rid themselves of PLA requirements, they have been able to save taxpayers money.

In West Virginia, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, removal of PLA requirements resulted in larger pools of bidders and lower final bids. In New Hampshire, a public project that removed its PLA requirements not only lowered its costs, but elicited lower bids from union contractors.

Multiple studies have shown that projects with PLAs are more expensive. The Beacon Hill Institute found that PLAs increased construction costs per square foot of Ohio schools by 13%. A National University System Institute for Policy Research study of new school construction in California found that PLAs increased costs by about 13-15%.

In Hawaii, PLAs are “encouraged” for projects of $25 million or more, and our experiences with them mirror the delays and high prices faced by other states. The Honolulu rail is a PLA project that has become notorious for its delays, cost overruns and administrative irregularities. The University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy Building, another PLA project, was plagued for years by delays.

There is little question that PLAs and CWAs shrink the pool of bidders, create a less competitive bidding environment, and lead to higher prices on government projects. That’s bad news for taxpayers, who are always the ones left paying the tab. But it’s also bad news for another group: non-union workers.

One of the rationales for Bill 37 is that it will protect local jobs. That’s not completely accurate; it would protect some local workers, but leave others out in the cold. There are approximately 4,500 licensed contractor companies in Hawaii, about two-thirds of which would be shut out of work on government projects, if this legislation is approved.

Blocking their thousands of local workers from local jobs doesn’t seem like a policy our lawmakers should be pursuing, and it might not even be legal. The city Department of Corporation Counsel apparently has raised questions about whether the Council has the authority to enact bills regulating procurement.  

But even if it were deemed legal, our experience with PLAs — in terms of cost, efficiency, employment and taxes — is reason enough to think long and hard before requiring them as a condition of public contracts.

In the alternative, the County Council should follow the example of other jurisdictions across the nation and start removing regulations that restrict bidding on government contracts — not add more of them.

E hana kakou! (Let's work together!)  

Keli'i Akina, Ph.D.





TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii Military History

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Together


Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

July 4 in Hawaii

Land and Power in Hawaii

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

NRA-ILA Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii

Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

School Choice in Hawaii

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii