Construction Costs Likely to Rise Due to D.C. Council’s Project Labor Agreement Legislation

0 July 6, 2016  State & Local Construction

Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington issued the following press release today in response to the Council of the District of Columbia’s recent addition of language to Section 14 of the The Procurement Integrity, Transparency and Accountability Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-334) mandating the use of union-favoring project labor agreements (PLAs) on District of Columbia-funded construction contracts exceeding $50 million.

Click here to write or tweet your D.C. Council members today and urge them to strike to Section 14 of Bill 21-334. Learn more about this controversy here.

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Bill Would Keep 90 Percent of DC Construction Workers From Working on Large District-Funded Jobs

Construction Costs Likely to Rise by 18% if DC Council’s Anti-Competitive Legislation Passes

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 6, 2016–Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) today called on the DC Council and Mayor Bowser to eliminate legislative language that would mandate anti-competitive project labor agreements (PLAs) on contracts to build large-scale District of Columbia construction projects. If implemented, the controversial provision would effectively prevent 91.1 percent of the District’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union from working on certain projects funded by their own tax dollars.

On June 21, the Procurement Integrity, Transparency and Accountability Amendment Act of 2015 (Bill 21-334) was amended to mandate PLAs on publicly-funded DC projects exceeding $50 million. The amendment was not shared with industry stakeholders or the public prior to its introduction, and because it was added after the hearing on the bill, there has not been a public debate on the measure.

“The DC Council’s backroom deal to require project labor agreements on city projects is shameful because it hurts the District’s construction workers, contractors and taxpayers,” said Buddy Henley, President of Henley Construction Co., Inc. and Chairman of ABC of Metro Washington. “By requiring these PLA schemes on taxpayer-funded construction projects, the DC Council is putting special interests ahead of public interest.

“A PLA mandate will put local construction workers out of work and discourage competition from experienced businesses that have successfully built this city,” said Henley. “Additionally, studies show that PLA mandates drive up the cost of construction projects between 12 percent and 18 percent by limiting the number of qualified contractors that bid on PLA projects, meaning that taxpayers will get fewer schools, libraries and infrastructure projects for their money.

“DC will get the best bang for its buck if the Council rejects this discriminatory, sweetheart deal for labor unions on July 12 and encourages fair and open competition among all qualified contractors,” said Henley. “Residents can learn more and ask Mayor Bowser and DC Council members to oppose PLA mandates by visiting”

PLA mandates typically force contractors to hire most or all of their craft employees from union hiring halls; follow inefficient union work rules; hire apprentices exclusively from union apprenticeship programs; and pay into union benefit plans on behalf of employees, even if they have their own qualified benefits programs. PLAs force employees to pay union dues, accept unwanted union representation, and forfeit benefits earned during the life of a PLA project unless they join a union and become vested in union benefit plans.

In June 2010, the DC Council failed to pass the District Resident Employment and Trade Stimulus Amendment Act of 2010 (Bill 18-650), which would have required PLAs on projects costing more than $200,000. ABC opposed this bill, as well as PLA mandates on high-profile taxpayer-funded projects in the District and region, such as the Silver Line metro project, the DC United stadium, the Nationals ballpark, the DC Convention Center and the Wilson Bridge.


Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Metro Washington is the preeminent advocate for fair and open competition and the merit shop philosophy in metropolitan Washington, DC We protect and enhance the merit shop philosophy within the construction industry, speak for the industry to the public and engage members to succeed in a challenging marketplace. Visit us at

Update 7/12/16: During the D.C. council’s July 12 meeting, they passed the Procurement Integrity, Transparency and Accountability Amendment Act of 2016 (Bill 21-334) with a provision that will require government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) on District of Columbia construction projects exceeding $75 million. Mayor Bowser can exempt projects from the PLA requirement under certain circumstances, but the city’s new policy is a default PLA mandate. Mayor Bowser is likely to sign this legislation, despite the pro-PLA provision. While the threshold was raised from the original base of $50 million, requiring wasteful and discriminatory PLAs on any construction contracts procured by the District of Columbia government is bad public policy—no matter the project type or size.

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