Anchorage School Board votes for construction monopoly by labor unions



The Anchorage School Board voted to create a construction monopoly controlled by labor unions, limiting competition on construction projects over $1 million to those companies hiring union labor.

The policy, “Community Work Agreement,” is the same thing as a project labor agreement that requires all workers to be hired through union halls; non-union workers must pay union dues and pay into union pension plans; and union rules are applied to the project.

Non-union contractors may not compete competitively on a project that requires a Community Work Agreement. As a result, there are fewer project bidders and project costs go up due to a lack of competition. In addition, this policy change will lead to companies from the Lower 48 gaining contracts that previously would have gone to Alaska non-union contractors.  

This has nothing to do with hiring union workers because they have higher wages. The Davis-Bacon law requires that “prevailing wages” be paid for any publicly funded projects.  Both union and non-union workers benefit from the same wages.

There was significant opposition from the non-union construction industry. One contractor stated there are seven mechanical insulation contractors licensed in Anchorage. Only one is union, so that company will get the contract by default. This is sole-sourcing by definition and would increase project costs substantially.

Stephen Rowe testified that he is a union contractor opposed to this CWA policy. He depends on non-union workers as well. Rowe has worked on 15 Anchorage school projects worth more than $80 million. Rowe said, “I will make more money if you pass this. But that’s not the right thing to do.”

The only construction entity invited to participate in the discussion during an earlier work session was Local 341, the Laborer’s.  Others, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors, were not invited; only union input was accepted. 

Thomas Roth, chief operations officer, for the Anchorage School District, noted the district has a responsibility for transparency and other construction organizations should have been invited to participate in the discussion. 

The Beacon Hill Institute studied 52 Connecticut school construction projects from 2001-19. It found that community work agreements or project labor agreements increased costs by nearly 20 percent — an increase of $89 per square foot.

 The CWA policy can be expected to increase school construction costs for the current $111 million bond that is on the ballot to be mailed to voters on March 14.

This policy also does not align with the “equity policy” the board recently implemented. More than 75 percent of Alaska’s contractors are non-union and the policy discriminates against these companies and their workers, many of whom are minorities and Anchorage taxpayers. This policy discriminates against women-owned and minority-owned construction companies that are non-union, a violation of the ASD anti-discrimination policy.

Superintendent Deena Bishop stated that the district was strongly opposed to this policy because it will substantially drive up construction costs. She noted that the board has a fiduciary duty to get the best value for the taxpayers’ money.

Board president Margo Bellamy moved to table the policy until more information was available from the construction industry that opposed the bill in their written testimony. She was concerned with discrimination against minority construction companies. Her motion failed with 6 voting “no” and only Bellamy voting “yes”. 

Board member Andy Holleman then paraphrased House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”  He said, “We are going to have to watch carefully as it goes forward to see if it’s really doing what we want.” He made it clear he wanted to pass the policy that night.

Motions to raise the $1 million threshold failed. The $1 million threshold means practically all construction projects will include a CWA, be non-competitive, and cost taxpayers more. 

The CWA was approved by a vote of six to zero, with member Dora Wilson abstaining due to her job as the Community Outreach Manager for IBEW Local 1547. Even conservative board member Dave Donley, formerly associated with Local 341, voted for the CWA policy.

Here is a link to the written testimonies (14 opposing, 2 supporting).


    • Actually, Kelly Lessens who is running for reelection was in support of this. It was clear that member Holleman wanted it pushed through before other facts were brought out showing the shutting out of 75% of the industry to ASD projects. This will definitely increase the costs of the new Inlet View school which is now shown as $60 Million on the school bond package.

    • Larry, here we go again. Dave Donley was not “the instigator and champion of this monstrosity.” The entire responsibility goes to the voters who foolishly chose him for his position. Remember, those voters are many of your friends, neighbors, co-workers, relatives, etc. Accordingly, if we fail to convince them to change their foolish voting choices then we are also responsible for the election of tyrants.

  1. Bill Walker must love this School Board, except of course, for Dave Donley. It’s not about getting quality of work, or getting a quality of education at the best price. It’s only about getting the most money into the hands of communists and their bosses, oligarchical union thugs.

  2. This is an all out assault on the Free Enterprise System. Most of the contractors have union labor agreements anyway. This is the woke-spoke unconstitutional nonsense peddled by the extreme leftists and government employee monopolists. Wake up people!
    PS The reason unions exist is to provide a dependable supply of tradesmen for the employer (risk-taking capitalist). Along with the power of negotiating a fair and equitable wage for the workmen. No I did not Google that.

    • Communists will absolutely over-run our country if we allow it to happen. Remember, over 50% of our friends and neighbors are communist voters. Make the truth known.

  3. The USA in great debt, and Alaska spending tax payer money like its never enough. What a sad pathetic Country. Alaskan’s have a major blind spot to tyranny.

  4. Would not have expected anything different from this collection of liberal slobs, oh, I meant snobs, except maybe a little less transparency. Thank you, David Boyle, for shedding more sunshine on the vampires.

  5. So even Dave Donley can be bought? I wonder if his past association with the union was all it took?
    This whole thing stinks, and I hope it results in many lawsuits, including the members individually for voting against their fiduciary responsibilities.

  6. Negative, try again. This is exactly why to tank all props on this ballot. Time for MOA to live within their means, with provided equipment.

  7. The non union shops need to take it to court. Every one that’s non union needs to vote down all school bonds.

  8. Sad that Dave Donley has shown his hand. And it is dirty, like the rest. Talk about hating equity, as popular as that watchword is.

  9. This like the Anchorage CWA is worse than just anti competitive. It’s a transfer of open shop wages and tax payer dollars to prop up under funded union pension and health and welfare plans. The dirty secret is that anywhere from 12-22 dollars of of the David Bacon wage is designated for Pension/Health plans. When an open shop contractor and employee work on a cwa project this money goes to the union not on the employees check which is typical. The union claims this money is allocated to the employee but the fact of the matter is that, if the employee doesn’t join the union, and then also continue to work for union companies they won’t see the health benefits and they will never vest in the pension plan…. So that money eventually ends up unallocated and then fund keeps. Meanwhile this evil open shop contractor is left with two options screwing his employee and trying to compete cost wise with a union contractor, or pay the employee what they’re used to, and paying the union making them either uncompetitive or if they do get the job the tax payer is left with a costly project with no real value. This is not a small number. At 40-60 hours a week which is typical your talking about 600-1100 per employee per week. This is nothing more than a pay off to the unions to support political careers. The assembly did not, and now the school district is going to do it. Tax payers are getting ripped off.

    • Cr907, Excellent fleshing out of the corruption in this CWA. This will result in the unions supporting those who voted for this plundering from taxpayers. It is indeed a circle of funding: Union gets more money from ASD projects, union supports its school board candidates, union candidates win, and these board members start the cycle up again. Taxpayer pays!

    • Actually, I know people who work Davis Bacon, and they get all of the Pension/Health money on their check, or it is put in a 401-type fund in their name.

  10. Bottom line is this: If these people weren’t voted into their positions, we wouldn’t be having this discourse. At least not about this collection of tools. The apathy and ignorance in Anchorage, when it comes to voting – and the results thereof – is depressing.

  11. Unions go door to door in state and local campaigns. The Anchorage and Juneau IBEW offices serve as depositories for campaign contributions and yard signs. If individual Alaskans don’t work on campaigns to push back then the strangle-hold unions have on politics in Alaska will continue to grow, to the detriment of the economy and Alaska society. It’s that simple!

    And don’t expect to read about this anywhere except here in MustReadAlaska because for the most part the unions own the media.

  12. For some years I had a sign over my desk that said, “when the enemy is in range, so are you!” The unions and their communist allies are living in the past. The same legal logic that underlies the Janus v. AFSCME decision that abolishes the union shop in the public sector would apply to these forced union shops in the Third or quasi-governmental sector. I miss playing with lefties; they’re like Slinkies, useless but fun to push down stairs.

    • Art Chance, Having some experience in Building Schools and having been subjected to PLA’s in the past I have some thoughts on the matter. On the whole Union workers are much better trained , especially at the first, second and third year apprentice level. Many journeymen working non-union were trained by the Union programs but for various reasons left the Union. Some departed the Union due to their behavioral problems and others due to political or reasons of conscience, (most trade locals support democrats, ouch, very stupid). The above being stated I note that the cost per man hour is the same or slightly lower for Union contractors vs Non-Union contractors. Since your experience has been in Government you may not be aware of a concept called production or out-put. In the trades this element means the difference between profit or loss. Most workers are keenly aware of this and whether Union or Non-Union they generally “ride for the brand” and rope as many steers during their shift as they can. What really matters is that a Construction Company not unlike an Army runs on the foot soldiers, their production is the difference between profit and loss. So, I am not for School Districts or Governmental units, like the ASD or the CBJ mandating PLA’s . But if they do… again market forces come into play. The Contractor with the best crews and proper management will win the day. (see my comment above about hourly rate).
      I will caution the ASD about which Unions to enroll in this mandate. I know of certain Unions that were not able to “man the work” and the contractor had to hire elsewhere. The result was the owner, (school district) had to pay double for their mistake. The Contractor made out like a bandito since he received his profit and overhead both ways! Food for thought!

      • Ah yes, Mr. Schenker, I remember those halcyon days of working with you building schools with government-mandated union project labor agreements (the only such agreements in Alaska at the time). A careful reading of your comment above reveals your opinion that union tradesmen are generally more qualified and slightly less expensive than their non-union counterparts. Let’s assume your opinion is generally true; that means union trades enjoy a distinct competitive advantage. If so, why would they need to exert influence over elected officials to give themselves a further advantage? Could it be (gasp) that your opinion of their qualifications may be arguable? Remember that $60-million school job for which we spent $55,000 on coffee breaks?

        • Wayne Douglas Coogan
          I commend you sir for picking up what I was laying down as it were. Market forces dictate that better trained and more productive crews enable a Contractor to be very competitive.
          As for coffee breaks. Aside from them being in contract. What did potty breaks cost?

    • Art, these unions and their communist allies are not so much “living in the past” as they are vicariously forcing our culture to enable their tyrannical agenda to monopolize tax dollars into their own accounts. Communism, in every form, has always included a hierarchy of tyrants harvesting the fruit of the unwashed masses. This is no different.

  13. All across this country local, corrupt governments are raising taxes and choking us with ever more rules and regulations. Its too bad the founding fathers did not place more restrictions in the US Constitution to limit taxing authority and limiting debt government can take on.

    The best thing voters can do now is reject every single effort to pass more bonds- and this applies to Dunleavy wanting us to go into debt by hundreds of millions and pay over 100 million in interest. FTA.

    And, speaking frankly, it looks like every member of the school board could lose at least fifty pounds.

    • M, the saddest fact related to your comment is that the majority of voters now riding in the cart which the rest of us are harnessed into pulling.

  14. Anchorage’s School Board officials apparently declared their intent to engage in collusion, extortion, bid rigging, intentional discrimination against minority-owned non-union contractors, price fixing, and fraud against taxpayers, while operating a federally funded enterprise affecting interstate commerce.
    Madam Editor’s report reads like news of a criminal enterprise, a racket which School Board members voted to continue, which seems to qualify Board members for accountability under the RICO Act.
    Anchorage School Board members openly declared their intent to “require” (extort) union dues, -under color of law-, from contractors as a condition of doing business with the publicly funded Anchorage School District.
    Think about this in context with the district’s $111,090,000 bond proposition; you want a piece of that contract pie, Anchorage School Board makes you pay the union(s); no union means you get no pie.
    School Board members seem accountable under 18 U.S. Code § 1951 – Interference with commerce by threats or violence
    (a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
    (b) As used in this section
    (1) The term “robbery” means the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, by means of actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to his person or property, or property in his custody or possession, or the person or property of a relative or member of his family or of anyone in his company at the time of the taking or obtaining.
    (2) The term “extortion” means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.
    What’s “under color of law”?
    School Board members seem accountable under 18 U.S. Code § 242 – Deprivation of rights under color of law
    “Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State… to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States… shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both…”.
    That’s the school board, under color of law, depriving you the contractor of your right to make a living because you won’t pay off the union(s)
    Then we have the federal False Claims Act which school-district employees can use to file “qui tam” actions against school board officials and unions who defrauded the federal government. If successful, the employee may win up to 30% of the government’s award.
    An aggressive U.S. Attorney, Department of Education Inspector General audits (, successful False Claims Act lawsuits… this could work, no?

    • Might be fun to watch for contracts being inflated over the Magic Million Mark just so union(s) can get their government-mandated kickbacks.

  15. So the ASD has a number of blatant failures. The students of course, 49th and 50th of 50, depending on which test scores you look at. The teachers, same 49/50 as a result of their efforts. The union, who arguably are the cause and certainly part of the cause of the 49/50. And now blatant corruption. What a colossal failure.

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