PLAs Help Increase Construction Union Membership

0 February 26, 2010  Federal Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

The Daily Caller published an opinion piece today by Brett McMahon, vice president of Miller & Long, a concrete construction subcontractor, based in Bethesda, Md., and a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors (“State of the unions: Not good,” 2/26/10) that discusses how Big Labor is turning to their political chums to implement policies that will help reverse Big Labor’s declining membership and lost market share in the construction industry.

The BLS data also reports that, from 2008-2009, union membership in U.S. private construction fell from 15.6 to 14.5 percent. Just 958,000 workers in U.S. private construction now belong to a union, compared to 1.195 million in 2008. Construction-union membership is at its lowest since 1995, when 908,000 union workers composed over 17 percent of the private construction workforce [2].

But the construction unions aren’t without a plan to reverse this decline. On lucrative government contracts, project labor agreements (PLAs) give union contractors a landslide advantage over competing non-union companies like mine. So, it’s no coincidence that last February, President Obama signed an order encouraging their requirement on federal construction projects over $25 million. Executive Order 13502 will dramatically stifle competition for taxpayer-funded projects. Big Labor won’t benefit from this handout until the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council issues final rules to implement the order into federal procurement code. But with low membership making the case for a Big Labor bailout, expect to see union allies lobbying for its immediate implementation.

PLAs have a chilling impact on competition from nonunion contractors and that is why Big Labor aggressively promotes PLAs to public and private owners. 

For instance, here is what Big Labor Bosses have to say about PLAs.

Joseph Hunt, the President of the National Ironworkers Union, devoted his President’s Page column (”Ironworkers Have Tradition and Honor in Project Labor Agreements“) in the February 2008 edition of The Ironworker to urge the Ironworkers Brotherhood to honor PLA no-strike clauses because they were breaking them:

“A No Work Stoppage-No Lock Out clause is the most important because it is the foremost reason owners and contractors are willing to use the agreement [a PLA] to commit to an all-union job.”

Building and Construction Trades Council of New York President Edward Malloy (“PLAs are Essential to Growth Opportunities for Union Sector,” Subcontracting News, March 2008) wrote the following:

“To create growth opportunities in the union sector, PLAs are the most valuable tool we have…

…These PLAs, which typically involve modest adjustments on issues other than wages and supplements, can reap huge rewards for the union sector of the industry by assuring that all work from start to finish — including tenant build-outs — will be done union.

We must address our shrinking share of the residential market, particularly in the affordable and low-rise segments, but quite frankly, in the market rate and high-rise segments as well…

In the affordable and low-rise segments, however, we must acknowledge that there are very few projects where union labor, contractors and subcontractors are competitive.  We can, and therefore must, adopt a more aggressive package of wages and supplements to address this sector of work…”

A government-mandated PLA is nothing more than Big Labor’s tool to create a monopoly on a construction project and use government influence to regain lost market share.

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