A recently published Gallup Poll indicates that labor unions have their lowest approval rating since the Gallup Organization started measuring this issue in 1936 (“Labor Unions See Sharp Slide in U.S. Public Support,” 9/3). The poll is full of interesting findings that point to a decline in public support for unions. One tidbit jumped out as particularly germane to the debate about discriminatory and costly project labor agreements (PLAs).
Americans’ most negative assessments of unions — as has typically been the case — involve their impact on non-union workers. More than 6 in 10 Americans, up from about half in 2006, say unions mostly hurt non-union workers.
Americans know the truth. Non-union workers are hurt by construction labor unions’ aggressive promotion of PLAs. Remember that PLAs discourage non-union contractors from bidding on PLA projects and PLAs typically prohibit non-union workers from working on PLA jobsites (review a typical PLA here).
In some instances, a PLA allows a limited number of non-union workers to work on a PLA jobsite. But first an employer must agree that unions are the exclusive bargaining representative of their employees for the life of a PLA project. The decision to elect union representation is made by the employer (by agreeing to the terms and conditions of a PLA in advance of working on a PLA project) and not the workers.
If non-union workers want a job on a PLA project, they must first visit a union hiring hall (where unions typically make a hard sell to join the union and gather personal information used in future organizing campaigns) and are dispatched to a PLA jobsite from there. In addition, non-union workers must pay union fees, follow archaic and inefficient union work rules and will not benefit from employer contributions into a workers’ union-managed pension and welfare funds unless they become vested and join a labor union.
With Big Labor promoting PLAs at the expense of local and qualified non-union workers, it is no surprise that the majority of American people believe that unions mostly hurt non-union workers.
So why did President Obama sign Executive Order 13502, which promotes PLAs on federal construction projects greater than $25 million? Why are state and local governments implementing equally bad public policy by requiring PLAs? The answer of course, has everything to do with rewarding political patrons and nothing to do with protecting taxpayer dollars and providing contractors and their employees with a level playing field to compete fort jobs.
PLA FACT: PLAs hurt non-union workers.