When the leaders of Wishard Hospital brought forward a massive renovation plan, all of the appeal was for this to be an all-community effort. The entire community was asked to support this by their votes "confirming our community's commitment to the New Wishard." Matt Gutwein, CEO of the Health and Hospital Corp., on a number of occasions in public meetings to rally community support touted inclusiveness of all community sectors as important to the success of this project.Yep, the construction cartel is alive and well in Indianapolis. This is the group of union contractors and labor leaders who have bought off all of the local politicians to make sure they land every public works project and screw over the general public as much as possible at every turn. Two of the key advocates for the Wishard project, Mark Fisher of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Ballard's Chief of Staff Paul Okeson, both landed jobs with major construction companies shortly after the referendum election. Some Democrats have pondered recently why certain labor groups have given such large contributions to some Republican campaigns. Look no further than deals like this one to get your answer to that question. Once upon a time, Republicans were on the side of non-union contractors and workers. Not in this town.
Now that actual construction documents are being distributed, we find a much different story. We are finding out that a large sector of the construction industry -- nonunion contractors and nonunion construction workers -- will essentially be locked out from participating due to a backroom deal with the local big labor bosses.
Only through investigative reporting by Kara Kenney of WRTV (Channel 6) did Gutwein produce this divisive document on Dec. 28. Rumors of this had surfaced months ago when there was a supposed deal with the labor bosses who had promised to ensure a successful referendum vote if Wishard would, in quid-pro-quo fashion, direct the bulk of the $750 million of construction work to the unions and eliminate their competition.
Now as this backroom deal is being exposed, Gutwein is claiming that this was a necessary deal to get the project done on time and on budget, a real protection to the taxpayers. Similar deals were cut to eliminate qualified nonunion contractors on other high-profile projects. Let's review how those have turned out for taxpayers:
» The Central Library was more than two years late and $50 million over budget.
» Lucas Oil Stadium was $75 million over budget and used up a $50 million contingency fund.
» Indianapolis International Airport opened a year later than original projections.
Labor bosses shift the argument and say this is about wage protections, safety and quality control. Those are hollow arguments from many years ago when unions were prominent.
The bait-and-switch is alive and well. It worked on the stadium. Appeal for inclusiveness of the entire community when you need it and then switch to an exclusive deal with a small group of power brokers when you think no one is watching.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Non-Union Contractors Still Locked Out Of Wishard Project
When I pointed out a recent letter to the editor in the Star complaining about how non-union contractors and workers were being locked out of the $750 million Wishard hospital project, the deceptive HHC CEO Matt Gutwein was quick to run to some in the media to say this claim was simply untrue. J.R. Gaylor of the Associated Builders & Contractors of Indiana pens a My View column in today's Star where he confirms the deal Gutwein and other city leaders behind the Wishard referendum cut with the labor unions to garner their support. Gaylor writes: