Labor Department Admits Project Labor Agreement Policy Responsible for Construction Delay

1 November 11, 2009  Federal Construction, Uncategorized

As reported earlier, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) cancelled its solicitation for bids to construct a new Job Corps Center in Manchester, N.H. under a government-mandated project labor agreement (PLA). The cancellation came in response to a protest filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) by ABC member North Branch Construction of Concord, N.H., with ABC support and representation. 

North Branch Construction challenged the PLA as unlawful and discriminatory. 

The DOL’s Job Corps Center PLA was believed to be the first government-mandated PLA on a federal construction project since President Obama’s Executive Order 13502 was issued.

Yesterday’s Amendment No. 10 to the DOL solicitation offers an explanation why the solicitation was cancelled:

Nov. 9, 2009 Federal Business Opportunities Notice re the Manchester, NH Job Corps Center Construction Project

 As announced in our November 5, 2009 notice, the Department of Labor (DOL) has canceled the Manchester New Hampshire Job Corps Center construction solicitation. This solicitation included a requirement that each bidder have in place a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) at the time of submission of its bid to DOL. The solicitation was cancelled because DOL believes that it is in the public interest for the Department to further evaluate the issues involved in the PLA requirement. The PLA requirement is a new issue for DOL.

The solicitation was also the subject of a bid protest before the Government Accountability Office challenging the PLA requirement. The Department of Labor is currently considering next steps for building a new Job Corps Center in Manchester, New Hampshire.

This cancellation shall be recorded in accordance with 48 C.F.R. § 14.403(d).

An article by the Daily Reporter notes the practical implications of the cancelled solicitation ( “Canceled Contract Delays PLA Resolution,” 11/10):

A federal decision to delay bidding out a New Hampshire project sidesteps a legal challenge over whether such contracts can include project labor agreements…

…The decision to cancel the contract also terminates the opportunity PLA opponents had to challenge the legality and merits of using the agreement on federal contracts.

The good news is that the DOL has not abandoned the project entirely, and has acknowledged the need to “further evaluate” a PLA on this issue.  The bad news is that the legality of these giveaways to Big Labor on federal contracting remains unsettled. 

Time will tell if  the DOL’s cancelled solicitation is an admission that discriminatory and costly government-mandated PLAs have no place in federal contracting, or if the cancelled solicitation is simply a special interests-driven tactic to avoid an unfavorable ruling against PLAs and Executive Order 13502.

ABC and a coalition of associations, taxpayers, employees and businesses who champion free and open competition on government construction contracts will continue to fight government-mandated PLAs at the local, state and federal level.

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