If the April 13 final rule implementing President Obama’s Feb. 6, 2009 pro-project labor agreement (PLA) Executive Order 13502 didn’t make it clear that the Obama administration has a cozy relationship with Big Labor and is doing everything possible to cater to its key special interest by promoting PLAs, here’s what Vice President Joe Biden had to say April 19 at the Building and Construction Trades Department’s annual legislative conference:
“You’ve got an Administration that is working like the devil in keeping its promise to what we made to you. What was one of the first things President Obama did after taking office?
To most people they didn’t understand it. He overturned George W. Bush’s federal ban on project labor agreements. [Applause]
You know, we know that PLAs are a good idea. They mean a job is more likely to be done on time and on budget and we know they work because that’s why they have been used in the private sector construction in so many states. And we didn’t just undo the ban, we are actively promoting PLAs.
My middle class task force is working with agencies, providing them with the technical assistance they need to put PLAs in place. Just last week, our administration issued the most robust guidance in history to encourage federal agencies to use PLAs. And that’s just the beginning.” [Emphasis added].
Biden’s speech starts at 1:06 of the video here, but his remarks specific to PLAs start at 1:28:15.
Don’t forget this quote from VP Biden next time PLA proponents try to argue that the PLA Executive Order 13502 isn’t a PLA mandate, isn’t that big of a deal and there is no quid pro quo between Big Labor and the Obama administration’s PLA advocacy.
Curious how VP Biden’s Middle Class Taskforce is promoting PLAs? Here is what Middle Class Taskforce Director Jared Bernstein wrote on the Middle Class Taskforce Blog on the Whitehouse.gov website (“Project Labor Agreements: A Better Deal for All,” 4/12):
“Despite their growing use in the private, state and local sectors, Federal use of Project Labor Agreements has been curtailed twice since 1992, including most of the past two decades. Many agency contracting offices have little knowledge of or experience with PLAs. To boost implementation of the President’s Executive Order, the Middle Class Task Force convened an Inter-agency PLA Working Group to provide technical assistance to agencies on PLAs.
The working group currently includes the Department of Energy, the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Interior, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the General Services Administration, the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. The Department of Labor is also funding a survey of key participants in the contracting process to help us better understand how best to use PLAs in the future.
The Middle Class Task Force Working Group on PLAs will continue to compile resources and provide assistance to Agencies as they work to implement EO 13502, helping to coordinate large projects while generating efficiency gains for businesses, the government and taxpayers.”
It’s a shame that the Administration is actively promoting a policy that will deny jobs from 85 percent of the U.S. construction workforce because they don’t belong to a union. It’s also a shame that taxpayers will be forced to pay up to 20 percent more for federal construction projects and get less. At best, the underlying arguments in support of PLAs are flimsy and easily refutable. At worst, arguments made by the Middle Class Taskforce in support of PLAs are sadly misinformed or intentionally false. This crony contracting is indefensible.