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ABC Leads Coalition Against PLA Legislation

Friday, July 23, 2021

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The Associated Builders and Contractors recently announced an advocacy campaign against project labor agreements, leading the Build America Local coalition with the goal to educate “Americans and members of the U.S. Senate about controversial government-mandated project labor agreements that reduce competition and increase costs for the construction of taxpayer-funded affordable housing, clean energy and infrastructure projects across America.”

The campaign is urging senators to opposed government-mandated PLAs as talks continue on infrastructure plants within the administration.

“As Congress works to craft infrastructure legislation, it is critical for the U.S. Senate to oppose government-mandated PLAs so all qualified contractors and construction workers have the ability to fairly compete and build America’s infrastructure,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs. “Ensuring fair and open competition on taxpayer-funded construction projects will ultimately result in savings to taxpayers, more opportunities for all qualified small businesses, minorities and women in the construction industry, and the construction of more quality infrastructure projects so America can Build Back Better and faster.”

cgtoolbox / Getty Images

The Associated Builders and Contractors recently announced an advocacy campaign against project labor agreements, leading the Build America Local coalition with the goal to educate “Americans and members of the U.S. Senate about controversial government-mandated project labor agreements that reduce competition and increase costs for the construction of taxpayer-funded affordable housing, clean energy and infrastructure projects across America."

As part of the American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden has proposed using PLAs on federally funded infrastructure jobs.

Arguments

The use of PLAs has long been controversial in the industry, typically coming down on lines of union and nonunion workers.

The ABC argues that PLAs result in a “rigged bidding process” that forces contractors to:

  • Use union hiring halls to obtain most or all workers instead of their existing workforce;
  • Obtain apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs;
  • Follow “inefficient” union work rules;
  • Pay into union benefit and multi-employer pension plans that nonunion employees permitted on the project will be unlikely to access unless they join a union and vest in these plans; and
  • Require their existing workforce to accept union representation, pay union dues and/or join a union as a condition of employment on a PLA jobsite and receiving benefits, resulting in an estimated 20% hit to the paychecks of local craft professionals.

On the flip side, the major proponent of PLAs is the AFL-CIO, which argues that PLAs protect taxpayers by eliminating delays due to labor conflicts or shortages and that PLAs help improve conditions of employment for all union and nonunion workers.

A non-partisan analysis by the Office of Legislative Research for the Connecticut General Assembly recently found that benefits of PLAs included:

  • Providing uniform wages, benefits, overtime pay, hours, working conditions and rules for work on major construction projects;
  • Providing contractors with a reliable and uninterrupted supply of qualified workers at predictable costs;
  • Ensuring that projects are completed on time and on budget due to the supply of qualified labor and relative ease of project management;
  • Ensuring no labor strife by prohibiting strikes and lockouts; and
  • Making large projects easier to manage by placing unions under one contract.

In Practice

PLAs are already required on some federal jobs, as well as many large, private projects. And, last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new PLA with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York.

That agreement overs renovation construction work on city-owned buildings, as well as a New Construction Project Labor Agreement, which will cover selected future projects. 

According to the city, the PLA aims to create consistent work rules across construction projects, reduce administrative burden on construction agencies, and connect working people in neighborhoods across the city to union apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs.

As part of the agreement:

  • Unions will prioritize the referral of workers from zip codes where at least 15% of the population lives below the federal poverty level and/or are NYCHA residents, aiming to reach an overall goal that at least 30 percent of all hours worked under PLA projects are logged by workers from these zip codes;
  • Unions will provide contractors with apprentices on city construction projects up to the maximum number allowed by the New York State Department of Labor when contractors request apprentices; and
  • This PLA increases opportunities and adds flexibility for MWBEs, allowing their workforce to gain valuable experience on city projects and build their companies, while continuing to source from within communities.

   

Tagged categories: Associated Builders and Contractors; Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC); Contracts; Good Technical Practice; Government; Government contracts; NA; North America; President Biden

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