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Statement from David Allison: Virginia Republicans Fought for Cheap Labor, Now Silver Line Phase 2 is a Mess

Statement of David Allison, Business Manager of the Baltimore/Washington Laborers' District Council, regarding ongoing issues on Phase 2 of the Silver Line Metro Expansion 

Reston, Va. (February 19, 2019) In response to actions from Universal Concrete Products, the concrete manufacturer on Phase 2 of the Silver Line, David Allison made the following statement: 

First, it was a low bid. Then, it was illegal and low-quality work done by an unscrupulous precast wall contractor. Now, this contractor is paying a settlement when it should be paying to fix its faulty concrete. Low-bid general contractor, Capital Rail Constructors (CRC), hired a precast concrete firm that falsified concrete test results for concrete that should have never been delivered let alone installed. I am outraged by members of Virginia’s Republican party who advocated for low-bid procurement on Phase 2 and who are not taking blame for this mess of a project. I am also outraged by the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for accepting work on a brand-new project that does not meet the design build project requirements. The proposed solution for its concrete is a spray solution every 10 years for the next 100 years. Does anyone really believe that this is going to happen and that taxpayers are not going to foot the bill for this maintenance?

I worked in concrete construction for 34 years, so I know that the concrete that is installed right now will need costly maintenance. Nearly 1600 concrete panels and over 400 concrete rail ties need to be replaced completely if Virginia residents are going to see concrete lasting 100 years that they were promised. A settlement does nothing to solve these problems. It is toll road drivers, metro riders, and Virginia taxpayers in Loudoun and Fairfax counties who will pay for repairs over the years unless the public demands new concrete now. Once construction is complete and the warranty period ends, who will be left to sue when more problems unravel? Just as a sealant spray is a cheap alternative to new concrete, awarding projects to the lowest bidder is a cheap procurement method. Yet, this is what politicians signed up for when they declared war on labor agreements.

Despite Silver Line Phase 1 construction running smoothly under a project labor agreement (PLA), Virginia Republicans, namely Former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock and former Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, threatened to deny millions of funds for Phase 2 if it included a PLA. Comstock went as far as to introduce and pass anti-PLA legislation in the 2012 legislative session. After the MWAA Board voted to remove the labor agreement from the project, she said she saved the Commonwealth $400 million. Fact checkers found this claim to be a three-Pinocchio falsehood of PLA costs.

In reality, Virginia residents like myself will pay more for a project that is already over-budget and two years behind schedule. When projects are awarded to the lowest bidder, as we are seeing on Phase 2, don’t expect to see superior work. Their bids are low because they plan to use unskilled workers, and subcontractors who cut corners. This leaves Virginia residents paying for costs not included in the initial bid. Virginia deserves better.

The Baltimore Washington Laborers’ District Council, an affiliate of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), represents more than 7,000 LIUNA members who live and work in the Baltimore-Washington region.