The Empire Center for Public Policy today announced its lawsuit against the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) for refusing to disclose a study DOT claims justified forcing bidders to sign a deal with specific construction unions.

DOT last year sought and then scrapped bids for construction work on the Empire State Trail in and near Syracuse. The Department re-bid the project with the condition that firms agree to sign what’s known as a project labor agreement (PLA) which required them to hire workers through Syracuse-area union halls. DOT received fewer bids, and ultimately awarded the work to a bidder whose price was over $1.5 million more than the lowest first-round bid.

The Department claimed the legally required study showed a mandatory PLA would save money, but when the Empire Center requested the study last year under the state Freedom of Information Law, DOT refused to release it.

“The public interest is never served when the government forces businesses to sign project labor agreements,” said Tim Hoefer, president and CEO of the Empire Center. “The facts surrounding this project are proof that state agencies have been needlessly inflating the cost of public construction.”

The Empire Center is involved in similar litigation to force other state agencies, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), to release records sought under the Freedom of Information Law.

You can view the DOT lawsuit here.

 The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

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