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:

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.

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.
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.


Patriot Paul said...

The quality control issue for the library rings hollow, considering the questionable safety building supports that had to be fixed to be compliant and the ensueing lawsuits that brought mixed results.
Secondly, whoever is in charge of the LOS building acoustics and health concerns wasn't doing their job. I'm reminded of the 1st Chesney concert where acoustics were so bad, people left grumbling, not to mention long lines of people waiting for their turn at the port-a-pottie with no sanitary hand washing. Added to that the hallway's mouse droppings.

Doug said...

So, I gather, this issue is maybe what Rep. Torr's HB 1010 is all about.

It prohibits a government entity awarding a public works contract from making certain labor friendly provisions part of the bid or contract requirements.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Probably, Doug. The non-union contractors and workers should file a lawsuit against the HHC to prevent this perversion of the public bidding process for public works projects.

Marycatherine Barton said...

You three are definitely on to something that does not pass the smell test. I wonder if this odor of corruption will result in lawsuits.

Downtown Indy said...

Once at Indystar I inquired of a person proclaiming the benefit of union labor about the concrete problems in the Library garage. The answer? Well it of course was 'management' and 'designers' who were to blame for bad specifications that included too much rebarso there wasn't enough space for the concrete to be poured correctly.

I got no reply when I asked why the 'skilled union workers' didn't stand on their principles but instead blindly went along with the pour rather than insist on corrective action.

Therein lies the problem with 'skilled union labor' - no accountability. They just blow off problems as being the fault of management.

dcrutch said...

Thanks to Gary and the Star for coverage on the issue.

Gary- we're spoiled and used to it.

The Star- surprised. It occurred to them that it's bad business to have the remaining people buying your newspaper throw-up after reading it? Too bad they didn't have this journalistic equanimity BEFORE the Wishard vote.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Dcrutch, I would point out the Star was only publishing a letter that someone else wrote. It's not like they reported on everything. In fact, I'd bet the Star knew about this backroom deal BEFORE the Wishard referendm, yet said nothing.

Unknown said...

Gaylor is only reaping the rewards of their previous actions. They used inferior materials, and poor quality craftsmanship to win bids. Even today the old saying you get what you pay for is still very true. He was run out of Fort Wayne for his poor job on the community center, and you wonder why he was locked out. He used equipment, includeing the main service(switch gear) that was below specs that he had when he bid on the project. He NEVER intended to do right, and in so doing dragged his own name through the mud. As far as management goes, or union quality, if your company's engineers say to do it this way or it will not pass inspection. That is their job, they signed off on it. Would you tell your boss that its your company; but I am going to do it my way. Be reasonable when you make expectations. In conclusion at least the union contractors and members are local to the area, that means local jobs and sustaining a local tax base. In short the money stays in your area and will lead to lower taxes for you, if we all worked for next to nothing taxes would go up, and the money leaves town with the cheapest Tradesmen International joke that happens to toss a bid on it.