Click for audio Union Preferences for Government Construction Are Costly and Unfair (RealAudio)

Suppose you need repairs on your home.  Would you pick a contractor at random, without considering their price?  Of course not.  You'd solicit bids from several firms and then choose the best value.   

Unfortunately, that's not how many local governments operate. They often turn away from competitive contracting and enter into agreements that reserve construction work for union labor alone. 

This may sound all right until you realize that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 80 percent of construction workers are not unionized.  That means union preferred labor agreements discriminate against most construction workers and contractors in favor of the relatively few that are unionized.  The result: Less competition in the bidding process. And that means higher costs.  And that means higher taxes. 

Example: In 1996, Oldsmobile Park in Lansing was constructed under a union preference agreement to the tune of $10 million.  The city might have saved taxpayers as much as $2 million with open, competitive bidding.   

The public will benefit from lower costs and higher quality services if all workers—not just union members—are allowed to compete for the privilege of building public works in Michigan.   

For the Mackinac Center, I'm Catherine Martin.