As we’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest misconceptions about PLAs is that they guarantee a local workforce on construction projects. On May 18, the Columbus, OH City Council adopted a PLA requirement for all city projects. The mandate applies to all new city construction costing over $100,000 and reconstruction or renovation costing over $20,000.
While this measure is designed to encourage firms to hire local employees, it will only be successful at putting union members to work. In Ohio, only 30 percent of the construction workforce has decided to join a labor union. PLAs on city projects will essentially block 70 percent of Ohio construction workers from building projects in their own communities (in addition to increasing construction costs by as much as 20 percent and blocking access to work opportunities for women and minorities).
In construction markets where the demand for union labor is greater than the supply, union workers from outside the local area are given preference over qualified and available local non-union workers on PLA projects. Since only 30 percent of the workforce will be eligible to work on Columbus’ city projects, demand for labor will certainly outpace the supply of local union workers. As a result, the union will bring in out of town union labor – called travelers. These travelers, from places like Pittsburgh, Louisville and Detroit, will be retained temporarily to finish projects in Columbus. Meanwhile, non-union workers will be forced to watch projects in the own community and paid for by their tax dollars be built by unfamiliar faces.
Make no mistake – wasteful and discriminatory union-only project labor agreements are about Big Labor, not ensuring a local workforce.