Never mind that county supervisors generally don’t involve themselves in the contracting details of a $5 billion project managed by a regional agency representing three states and dozens of other local jurisdictions.
Never mind that previous Boards of Supervisors had long ago committed the county to the project, which was subsequently designed and financed based on those assurances.
Never mind that only 4.8 percent of the so-called Silver Line extension — and only 50 percent of the Loudoun stations and track work — are being financed by Loudoun taxpayers.
Never mind that the general contractor for the first phase of the Silver Line project voluntarily entered into such an agreement to get access to a sufficient number of skilled workers, a no-strike pledge from unions and considerable flexibility on work rules.
No, what’s truly astonishing is that Republican politicians would even consider killing a project of such overriding importance to their county, their state and the Washington region just to stick it to labor unions and their Democratic allies.
What we’re dealing with here is yet another example of government by hijacking. If we don’t get everything we want, we’ll kill the project, we’ll close the government, we’ll put the U.S. Treasury into default. As the infamous general said in Vietnam: We had to “destroy the village in order to save it.”
In this poisonous political atmosphere, every little disagreement becomes a test of wills that must be fought until a total victory is won. It’s not about what’s good for the country, or the state, or the county — it’s all about politics and winning.
It’s just a hunch, but let me go out on a limb and say that, until this year, there weren’t many county supervisors — let alone many voters — spending waking hours worrying about project labor agreements. Someone must have wanted to call attention to the issue, and in this case it was the Associated Builders and Contractors, representing mostly nonunion firms. In this effort, they have made common cause with the ideological zealots of the Republican Party who are constantly on the lookout for any opportunity to destroy the labor movement.
After these folks first raised the issue earlier in the year, officials of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages the Silver Line construction, went to Richmond and hammered out a compromise. A project labor agreement would not be required, but bidders who had one would get extra points in the evaluation scheme. The airport authority was led to believe this compromise was acceptable to Gov. Robert McDonnell, who took a personal interest in the issue, and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton. The attorney general’s office also said it complied with a new state law rushed through the legislature by the contractors lobby.