Project Labor Agreements Irk Cajun Contractors

1 December 16, 2009  Federal Construction, Uncategorized

The New Orleans City Business ran a story on the anticipated impact of project labor agreements (PLAs) on Louisiana contractors and the greater New Orleans construction industry (Project Labor Ageeements Irk Contractors, 12/14).

Construction industry officials insist it will have the opposite effect and severely impact right-to-work states such as Louisiana, where union labor is hard to come by.

Nationally, 85 percent of the construction work force is nonunion. In Louisiana, that figure climbs to 96 percent, according to ABC. If the federal government starts to impose PLAs on projects requiring union involvement, it could freeze Louisiana contractors out of the running for the flood of work expected to come online next year, said Ben Brubeck, ABC director of labor and federal procurement.

“Louisiana may not have enough union workers to do the work, so out-of-state union members might get bused in and get preference over nonunion, in-state workers,” Brubeck said.

The ABC’s New Orleans chapter receives at least one call a week from out-of-state contractors looking for work.

“Their economies are worse than ours so far as the construction industry, and they’re desperate for the work we’re seeing here,” Latino-Geier said.

PLAs also might scare off contractors from bidding for federal projects if they have never dealt with labor unions before, said Ken Naquin, CEO of Louisiana Associated General Contractors.

“With the amount of federal work the city of New Orleans is seeing come to fruition with schools, the Corps of Engineers, more street and sewer work, if those federal funds have PLAs tied to them, it will change the landscape of the contracting community in New Orleans and Louisiana,” Naquin said. “Contractors that have historically been open shop will have to negotiate wages and benefits with unions. It’s a whole new ball game.”

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