PLAying with Veterans' Jobs
April 14th, 2010 by Demophilus
Executive Order 13502, signed by President Obama, went live yesterday. The Order directs federal agencies taking bids for government construction projects to accept only those from contractors who agree in advance to a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that requires a union work force. How does that affect veterans you ask? Read on! Unions have certainly had a beneficial impact on workplace conditions. Anyone such as myself who was forced in High School to suffer through the unending misery devoid of uplifting qualities that was Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” could tell you that. However, should we be in a position in which we’re mandating that only union contracts are being utilized for government building projects? I think no, and I think so because it’s going to negatively impact the veterans’ community. Last year, fully 100% of the construction contracts the National Cemetery Administration was authorized under the Stimulus Package went to veteran owned businesses. Many of those businesses were owned and operated by disabled veterans. This is a win for both VA and the veterans. It’s a rising tide that lifts all boats. The more contracts VA doles out to veteran owned businesses, the more they fulfill a dual goal of both improving VA facilities and bolstering the job market for veterans. Veteran owned contracting businesses get to give back to the community that’s going to give back to them. Many veteran owned businesses are small businesses and aren’t always in a position to solely staff with union workers. In states such as Virginia that are “Right to Work” states, union membership can’t be mandated as a condition of employment. If veterans aren’t employing union workers, they’re being shut out of government contracting owing to VA’s status as a government agency. A plank shoring up the foundations of VA’s ability to help veterans in an overall sense is being taken away. The ability of VA to return the nation’s gratitude for service is being eroded. The job market is quite honestly not so great right now. Veterans in particular have been noted as hard hit by this economy. With veteran joblessness in the state that it’s in, why would you take away an avenue for those veterans to not only work, but work building their own infrastructure for benefits and services? Subsections of the government should have more latitude to serve the communities they were intended to serve. The Bureau of Indian Affairs can better serve the Native American population by seeking to offer more contracts for construction to Native American owned business in the same manner that VA can work towards bolstering veterans’ employment by hiring veterans to construct VA facilities. It helps the people the agencies are designed to help. Is this a blow to veterans’ employment? I suppose time will be the best measure, but it seems to me that this Executive Order could set back efforts to help veteran owned businesses at a time when veteran owned businesses need all the help from VA that they can get.
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