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Union-Only Project Labor Agreements
Union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal contracts require that contracts be awarded only to contractors who agree to collective bargaining and union hiring. Union-only PLAs exclude a majority of the workforce from the opportunity to participate in federally-funded projects.
On February 6, 2009, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13502, which authorizes and encourages the use of union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction contracts. President Obama’s order also repealed President Bush’s Executive Order 13202, which banned PLA’s on federal projects. On April 13, 2010, the Final Rule implementing Executive Order 13502 was published in the Federal Register.
Union-only PLA proponents argue that the agreements promote fair wages and labor peace through non-strike clauses. However, Davis-Bacon laws already ensure that the local, usually union, prevailing wage is paid on federal construction projects and merit shop employees do not go on strike. In reality, these agreements are about forcing merit shop contractors to submit to union rules and hiring halls if they want to bid on projects covered by a union-only PLA.
PLAs cost the American taxpayer more money by drastically limiting project bids to a small segment of the market that runs union-only shops. In a time when elected officials in both parties preach the doctrine of fiscal discipline, the expense of PLAs does not seem justified.
In 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 87% of the construction workforce in the United States did not belong to a labor union. Not only do union-only PLAs waste taxpayer money, but they prohibit the large majority of the workforce, which has chosen not be a part of a union, from working on projects financed by their tax dollars.
Status of Legislation: The Government Neutrality in Contracting Act aims to preserve open competition on federal construction projects. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) introduced the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (S. 109) on January 23, 2013. Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) introduced the House counterpart (H.R. 436) on January 29, 2013, and currently has 76 cosponsors. Specifically, S. 109 and H.R. 436 would “prevent discrimination against Federal Government contractors or their employees based upon labor affiliation or the lack thereof, thereby promoting the economical, nondiscriminatory, and efficient administration and completion of Federal and federally funded or assisted construction projects.”
IEC Position: IEC supports S. 109 and H.R. 436 and any effort to ensure open competition on federal construction projects. IEC opposes Executive Order 13502, and any legislation or other efforts that promote union-only PLAs.
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