Associated Builders and Contractors, an organization that represents construction companies, has objected forcefully to an executive order by President Joe Biden that mandates project labor agreements on most federal and federally assisted construction projects over $35M.
“Multiple studies of hundreds of taxpayer-funded school construction projects found that PLA mandates increase the cost of construction by 12% to 20% compared to similar non-PLA projects,” the organization stated in an April letter to the president.
The letter further asserted that PLA mandates discourage qualified nonunion contractors from bidding on jobs, noting that such labor comprises 87.4% of the private U.S. construction industry workforce. It also said that the order defies the congressional intent of the $1T infrastructure bill passed by Congress in November, and would “affect the allocation of a significant portion of these funds.”
The order, which was signed in February, is explicitly pro-union. “Agencies shall require every contractor or subcontractor engaged in construction on the project to agree, for that project, to negotiate or become a party to a project labor agreement with one or more appropriate labor organizations,” it says.
The Executive Order also stressed the benefits of PLAs. “Such agreements avoid labor-related disruptions on projects by using dispute-resolution processes to resolve worksite disputes and by prohibiting work stoppages, including strikes and lockouts,” it notes.
There are certain exceptions in the order to mandated PLAs. For instance, agencies could forgo the agreements if they would “substantially reduce the number of potential bidders so as to frustrate full and open competition.”
The quarrel over federally mandated PLAs comes at a time of distinct victories for U.S. organized labor. In late March, Amazon workers at a company warehouse in Staten Island, New York, achieved the first successful unionization vote in Amazon’s history, despite an aggressive anti-union campaign by the e-commerce giant. Workers have also unionized at a number of Starbucks locations.
West Coast union dockworkers may strike this summer after their contract expires, potentially exacerbating the supply chain crisis, though International Longshore and Warehouse Union International President Willie Adams said this week that he expects an agreement to be reached before then, Bloomberg reports.