Project Labor Agreement Wrong For Aurora

0 October 20, 2009  Federal Construction, Uncategorized

In a letter to the editor published in the Aurora Sentinel on October 11, Bob Roth of Aurora, CO outlines the negative impact of wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs).

Letter: Project Labor Agreement Wrong for Aurora


A disturbing thing is happening right under our noses, and I am willing to bet that most Aurora residents have never heard about it. It’s disturbing because it will affect the blue collar workforce in negative ways in an economic climate that has already seen way too much negativity.

Presidential Executive Order 13502 urges that all projects where the cost to the Federal Government exceeds $25 million implement a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA. A little background is in order.

A project that implements a PLA requires all contractors who want to work on that project, whether they have chosen to be represented by organized labor or not, be subject to the following:

•  Recognize the union as the representative of their employees on that project.

•  Exclusively use the union hiring hall to obtain workers for the project.

•  Obtain apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs.

•  Pay into the union benefits plan (a double blow for a non-union contractor because they have to pay into a fund they have no control over, while still maintaining their own benefits package)

•  Conform their normal project processes and procedures to union work rules.

At a recent meeting for the Colorado contracting community discussing The Veteran’s Hospital that will be built on the Fitzsimons Campus in our city, the Veteran’s Administration Project Manager told a stunned crowd that this project (valued between $500 and $600 million) will almost certainly be subject to such an agreement because it fits the basic criteria for inclusion under this order.

Before you think this is union bashing, I firmly believe that every employee has the right to choose whether they want to be represented by organized labor or not. The NLRB ensures this, and I support it completely. And through the years, unions have done a lot to help the workforce, especially in the construction and manufacturing industries.

But the fact is that a vast majority of construction workers in this state have chosen not to have union representation.

About 92 percent of construction workers choose to work for merit shops rather than union shops. Local union construction companies will have to supplement their workforce with out-of-state workers or “travelers” if non-signatory construction companies are not willing to sign the PLA.

If you were a part of that 92 percent of the construction industry, how would you feel about being unemployed while a worker drives in from another state to collect a check working on one of the most high profile projects our city has ever been a part of?

If you think a PLA is the wrong choice for this project in these economic times, make your voice heard.

This letter to the editor is available online here.

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