Support Government Neutrality in Construction for North Dakota Taxpayers

4 December 11, 2012  State & Local Construction

A project labor agreement (PLA) is a special interest scheme that discourages competition from nonunion contractors and their workers by requiring a construction project to be awarded only to contractors and subcontractors that agree to recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job; use the union hall to obtain workers; obey the union’s restrictive apprenticeship and work rules; and contribute to union pension plans and other funds in which their nonunion employees will never benefit unless they join a union.

If mandated on public construction projects in North Dakota, PLA requirements would make it nearly impossible for the more than 90 percent of North Dakota’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union to compete for projects funded by their own tax dollars.

Government-mandated PLAs can occur in Right to Work states, though they are less common.  Although Right to Work laws prevent workers from being forced to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment, workers in both Right to Work and non-Right to Work states are still required to work under nearly all of the terms and conditions negotiated by the union under a PLA. These provisions are enough to discourage competition from nonunion contractors and significantly increase construction costs for taxpayers.

In February 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order encouraging federal agencies to require PLAs on projects costing more than $25 million. This order left open the door for potential PLA mandates on both federal projects costing less than $25 million and federally assisted construction. By enacting a statute to guarantee government neutrality with regard to PLA mandates, state leaders can signal to the Obama administration that taxpayers in their state want the best construction at the best price, not special interest handouts, for their hard-earned public construction dollars.

Fourteen states have banned these Big Labor handouts on taxpayer funded construction projects in their state, with ten doing so after President Obama issued his pro-PLA executive order.

It’s time to add North Dakota to this list.  Enacting this legislation will ensure that as the state grows, taxpayers are assured the best construction and the best price.  It will also guarantee that the entire construction industry workforce has the opportunity to compete for projects funded by their own tax dollars.

Critical Resources:

North Dakota PLA Reform Issue Brief

Government Mandated PLAs The Public Record of Poor Performance (2011 Edition)

A summary of studies on the impact of PLA mandates (online resources here)

CATO Institute: Why Project Labor Agreements Are Not In the Public Interest

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4 Responses to Support Government Neutrality in Construction for North Dakota Taxpayers

January 9, 2013 War on Workers News January 9, 2013 at 5:19 pm

[…] Project Labor Agreements (19 states): Despite the evidence … conservatives are trying to weaken or ban them as a way to increase profits for their allies in the construction business. Example: Conservatives in North Dakota are pushing to ban PLAs. […]

California District CPUSA – Northern Region » What the right wing has in mind for the states January 9, 2013 at 8:05 pm

[…] Project Labor Agreements (19 states): Despite the evidence that PLAs clearly improve the working conditions, salaries and benefits of both union and non-union workers, prevent disruptive work stoppages and bring construction projects in on time and under budget, conservatives are trying to weaken or ban them as a way to increase profits for their allies in the construction business. Example: Conservatives in North Dakota are pushing to ban PLAs. […]

USW Blog » Blog Archive » Now That the Election Is Over, the Real Battles in the States Begin January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

[…] Project Labor Agreements (19 states): Despite the evidence that PLAs clearly improve the working conditions, salaries and benefits of both union and non-union workers, prevent disruptive work stoppages and bring construction projects in on time and under budget, conservatives are trying to weaken or ban them as a way to increase profits for their allies in the construction business. Example: Conservatives in North Dakota are pushing to ban PLAs. […]

Chris Deitch January 18, 2013 at 10:40 am

93 percent of the construction workforce in North Dakota chooses to work for non-union construction companies. Project Labor Agreements tilt the playing field clearly in favor of union construction companies. This North Dakota legislation seeks to simply level the playing field so that all construction companies (union and non-union) are in a position to compete for construction project without regard to union affiliation. The legislation will also significantly reduce the cost to the taxpayers of North Dakota on construction projects while maintaining the highest level of construction quality. It is the essence of competition which raises everyone’s game and is at the foundation of America’s free enterprise system. Contact your North Dakota State Representatives and Senator and tell them to support HB 1270.

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