Project Labor Agreement on the GSA’s St. Elizabeth’s Site Possible

0 April 29, 2010  Federal Construction, Uncategorized

A Washington Post article about the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) multi-billion dollar St. Elizabeth’s federal project in Washington, D.C. piqued the curiosity of a reader (In St. Elizabeths project, opportunities for many,” 4/26).

First, here is some information on the St. Elizabeth’s project:

Backhoes scoop thousands of cubic yards of dark brown dirt to make way for the new headquarters for the U.S. Coast Guard, the first of 22 agencies scheduled to move into the Southeast development by 2016. Nearby, huge forklifts tear down a warehouse from the District’s famous psychiatric hospital.

It’s the largest federal construction job since the Pentagon in the 1940s. The $3.4 billion consolidation of Homeland Security’s far-flung agencies in one campus is slated to create 16,000 direct construction jobs involving at least 100 contractors over the next six years. Presently there are roughly 400 construction workers on the site.

From the reader:

“ Did you see the WaPo article on the St. Elizabeth’s construction project today? Will St. Elizabeth’s be subject to a government-mandated project labor agreement (PLA) now that the Obama administration’s final rule implementing Executive Order 13502 was issued April 13? Keep fighting for free and open competition. Best, T.R.”

The answer is that the final rule doesn’t take effect until May 12, so the fate of a PLA on this project is not dependent on the controversial final rule.

Construction is underway, so many of the construction contracts have already gone out to bid and have been awarded without a PLA.

However, the GSA listed an estimated $93 million contract at the St. Elizabeth’s site for a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters Campus in their Procurement Instructional Bulletin (PIB) 09-02, which highlights GSA projects that will be evaluated for PLA requirements.

In advance of the final rule, the GSA went ahead (likely illegally) and started experimenting with mandating PLAs on about $1.25 billion worth of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded construction projects in seven states and Washington, D.C.

The other potential PLA projects in Washington, D.C. listed in the GSA’s PIB 09-02 memo are:

  • 1800 F Street (GSA headquarters) – Approx. award amount of $159.29 million
  • Lafayette Building on 811 Vermont, Ave, NW – Approx. award amount of $106.27 million readers may remember that on Feb. 4, 2010 the GSA cancelled the Lafayette Building solicitation in response to a bid protest contractors submitted with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) against the GSA’s PLA requirement.

The GSA issued a new solicitation March 24, 2010 that permits contractors to submit bids with a PLA, without a PLA, or both:

“Offerors will be invited to submit a proposal subject to PLA requirements (a PLA offer), a proposal not subject to PLA requirements, or both. If a PLA proposal is accepted by GSA, the awardee shall be required to execute a Project labor Agreement (PLA) with one or more appropriate labor organizations for the term of the resulting contract.” 

However, in their technical evaluation section of offerors (Section M), the GSA is giving a 10 percent preference for contractors who submit a PLA bid. The same PLA preference is being used for the 1800 F Street building.

The GSA’s preference for PLAs may be a violation of the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) and may be subject to legal challenge. In addition, a recently released study indicates that PLAs make little sense in the District of Columbia construction market.

If solicitations for the St. Elizabeth’s project contain PLA preferences similar to the Lafayette Building solicitations, or contain PLA requirements, they will likely be challenged, too.  Some St. Elizabeth’s contracts currently “on the street” from the GSA, such as this one, do not contain PLA language at this time.

In short, the St. Elizabeth’s project is not subject to a government-mandated PLA at this time. will continue to monitor this project and related contracts and all GSA projects for potential PLA requirements or preferences.

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