Recommended Labor Day Weekend Reading on PLAs

0 September 4, 2009  Federal Construction, Uncategorized recommends some Labor Day Weekend appropriate reading. 

Ivan Osorio and F. Vincent Vernuccio highlight the benefits Big Labor is getting from the Obama Administration and Congress in the American Spectator (“Big Labor’s Benefits,” 9/4).  Give it a read to learn more about the Employee Free Choice Act, health care and a union pension bailout. And of course, they briefly discuss project labor agreements (PLAs).

…the administration is requiring contractors who want to bid on large federal construction projects to be subject to project labor agreements (PLAs), which impose burdensome requirements on non-union contractors. PLAs typically require non-union employers — even those who provide their own benefits — to pay into union benefit plans. This can entail paying into underfunded union pension funds, which can impose huge liabilities on companies. PLAs may also require contractors to employ workers from union hiring halls, acquire apprentices from union apprentice programs, and require employees to pay union dues.

Jacqueline S. Holman at Independent Business News Network makes the case that the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act’s (ARRA) estimated 3 milion “shovel ready” jobs for construction workers President Obama promised would benefit disadvantaged jobseekers is a lie (“Obama’s Broken Jobs Promise Women, Minorities, Middle-Aged Jobless Excluded,” 9/3).

In February Obama signed an executive order that encourages executive agencies to consider requiring the use of project labor agreements (PLA’s) on federal projects of $25 million or more. PLA’s are collective bargaining agreements with unions. PLA’s set the terms and conditions of employment on large construction projects. They also make unions the bargaining representatives for workers on job sites, even though 85% of all US construction workers aren’t union members.

But since white middle class males dominate the skilled trades unions, disadvantaged women and minorities won’t benefit from the good jobs created by Obama’s stimulus bill projects. PLA’s have always skewed the bidding process in favor of union contractors, thus in favor of middle class white males — at the expense of poor women (many whom are single mothers), minorities, and job seekers over age 40 who will overwhelmingly be excluded.

Data from the 2008 US Department of Labor report shows that women and blacks comprise only 11% of construction unions’ membership rolls. For decades, women and blacks trying to join unions were discriminated against. They had little to zero access to union apprenticeship programs and faced nepotism, according to Stanford University law professor William Gould.

Catherine Singley of theNational Council of La Razacriticized Obama’s negligence to include women and minorities. Singley also said that giving preference to unions is leaving out Latinos who also face discrimination for good jobs and union membership.

“In an environment where jobs are already scarce, the promise of infrastructure jobs is supposed to be a promise for all,” Singley said.

While it is true that PLAs fail to create job opportunities for minority and women owned businesses and minority and women construction workers who have traditionally not been a member of construction labor unions, it should be noted that not every ARRA construction project is subject to a PLA.  With over $140 billion in ARRA set aside for construction spending, it is unrealistic to think that disadvantaged jobseekers will not benefit from ARRA’s investment in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. Non-union contractors and workers will win and have won ARRA contracts.

But Holman has a point. President Obama’s Executive Order 13502 encourages federal agencies to require PLAs on large federal construction projects. It is bad public policy and the more federal construction projects are steered to unionized contractors via PLAs, the fewer new jobs will be truly open to disadvantaged jobseekers who need assistance in these difficult economic times.

Happy reading and Happy Labor Day weekend.

This post was written by and tagged Tags:, , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *