- The Associated Builders and Contractors, in association with other construction industry groups, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to rescind an Obama-era executive order that encourages federal agencies to use project labor agreements (PLA) on any federal or federally assisted project of $25 million or more.
- The coalition wrote that PLAs prevent contractors from being able to compete for work and that, in a time of construction growth and a limited workforce, the holdover policy did not make sense.
- Association members suggested the president replace the executive order with two other orders that would ban PLAs on federal or federally funded projects.
Project labor agreements, generally speaking, are collective bargaining agreements that dictate working conditions, dispute resolution procedures, pay, benefits and the type of labor that will be used. Typically, the agreement is between management and one or more trade unions, but PLAs don't generally keep nonunion contractors and their employees from taking part. However, nonunion workers still have to follow the terms of the PLA.
Even though there is no official barrier to nonunion contractors working on these types of jobs, working on a project where the majority of workers are union can be like working in another country for the nonunion businesses that are unfamiliar with union work practices, Jimmy Christianson, regulatory counsel for the Associated General Contractors of America, told Construction Dive last year.
Many states also look at PLAs as a barrier to competition and have eliminated them in an effort to attract big business. When Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens took office in 2017, one of the first measures he pushed through was the elimination of the requirement that PLAs be used on state-funded projects. Greitens, like most lawmakers who oppose PLAs, said the agreements are prevent growth and drive construction costs up. Advocates of PLAs say they keep wages from falling too low and help maintain the quality of work.
Still, some owners prefer using PLAs, even when they're not required. One reason, some say, for doing so is to ensure a steady stream of qualified labor. Brent Booker, secretary-treasurer of North America's Building Trades Union (NABTU), told Construction Dive last year that PLAs often have local hiring requirements, which prevent large out-of-town contractors from bringing in low-wage workers.