Fair and Open Competition Legislation Combating Inflationary Project Labor Agreement Schemes Introduced in 118th Congress

0 March 10, 2023  Featured, Federal Construction

Associated Builders and Contractors and a broad coalition of construction industry stakeholders voiced its strong support for the Fair and Open Competition Act (H.R. 1209  / S. 537), which has been reintroduced in the 118th Congress by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., in the U.S. Senate, and Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., in the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 27.

The Fair and Open Competition Act encourages more qualified construction companies to compete for federal and federally funded construction projects, providing the best value for taxpayers while benefiting all of the construction industry.

“ABC calls on Congress to immediately consider and pass the Fair and Open Competition Act in opposition to the Biden administration’s inflationary and anti-competitive policies pushing project labor agreements on taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects,” said ABC Vice President of Legislative & Political Affairs Kristen Swearingen. “PLA mandates needlessly increase construction costs by 12% to 20% and discriminate against nonunion contractors and workers, who comprise a record high 88.3% of the U.S. private construction industry workforce.”

The construction industry awaits a controversial final rule from the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council implementing President Joe Biden’s Executive Order 14063, which requires federal agencies to mandate PLAs on federal construction contracts of $35 million or more. In addition, the Biden administration is promoting PLAs on more than $100 billion worth of federal agency-administered grant applications for state and local government infrastructure projects.

FOCA would ensure that the nearly 7 million U.S. construction industry employees who choose not to join a labor union are welcome to build taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects. Government-mandated PLAs effectively cause many nonunion construction workers to experience wage theft, as workers lose an estimated 34% of wages and benefits earned on a PLA project unless they accept unwanted union representation, join a specific union, pay membership dues and meet the union benefits plans’ vesting requirements. FOCA would also foster competition from small, minority- and women-owned federal contractors and their diverse workforces, which are disproportionately harmed by PLA mandates.

“The Biden administration’s pro-PLA policies favoring special interests could not come at a worse time,” said Swearingen. “The U.S. construction industry is facing severe supply chain disruptions, unprecedented materials cost inflation of 38% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and a widespread skilled workforce shortage of more than half a million. This bill will increase competition on federal projects, reduce construction costs and eliminate favoritism in the procurement process of public works projects to provide the best value for hardworking taxpayers.”

“FOCA is a win-win for the recovering U.S. economy and taxpayers,” said Swearingen. “This legislation would implement an inclusive policy that allows all qualified companies and their workers to compete on a level playing field to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

While the Fair and Open Competition Act would prohibit government-mandated PLAs on federal and federally assisted construction projects, this legislation would still allow federal agencies to award contracts to businesses that voluntarily enter a PLA before or after a fair and open competitive bidding process. A total of 24 states have passed measures similar to the Fair and Open Competition Act in order to curb waste and favoritism in the procurement of construction projects and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly by letting the market determine if a PLA is appropriate.

On Feb. 7, an ABC-led coalition of 22 construction industry and business associations sent a letter to Congress in support of the bill, urging them to immediately pass this commonsense legislation.

Update: Support for FOCA in the 118th Congress has grown to include a dozen taxpayer advocacy and government watchdog groups (see this March 22 pro-FOCA letter).

Contact your elected officials in support of the Fair and Open Competition Act here.

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