A Win for Fair and Open Competition: Wyoming Passes Law Restricting Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements
Associated Builders and Contractors praised the Wyoming legislature and Gov. Mark Gordon for enacting SF 147, the Fair and Open Competition Act, which protects Wyoming taxpayers by ensuring all of the state’s skilled construction workforce can compete on a level playing field for contracts to build state, state-assisted and local public works projects. Once in effect on July 1, 2023, Wyoming will be the 25th state with an active policy restricting the use of government-mandated project labor agreements.
Introduced by state Sen. Jim Anderson, R-District 68, this measure prevents the state and its localities from mandating controversial PLAs on any taxpayer-funded construction project, thereby ensuring all Wyoming construction workers, including the approximately 97% of the state’s construction workforce that has chosen not to belong to a union, can build their communities.
“As the Biden administration continues its all-out assault on merit shop contractors, Wyoming has chosen to protect their construction workers and taxpayers by ensuring all projects in the state will be procured via fair and open competition, even if the project receives federal dollars,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “State leaders have sent the message that Wyoming doesn’t do business through political favoritism and discriminatory policy, and that all of Wyoming’s construction workforce is welcome to compete to rebuild their communities.”
Government-mandated PLAs typically force contractors to recognize unions as the representatives of their employees and hire most or all employees from the union hiring hall and union apprenticeship programs. Employers must also follow union work rules and pay into union benefit and multiemployer pension plans, in addition to any existing benefit plans, putting them at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Research indicates government-mandated PLAs can raise costs by 12% to 20% compared to non-PLA projects, which results in fewer infrastructure improvements and reduced construction industry job creation. Government-mandated PLAs also 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.
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 $250 billion worth of federal agency-administered grant applications for state and local government infrastructure projects.
Wyoming Gov. Gordon was one of 19 Republican Governors to submit comments to the FAR Council on October 17, 2022, and signed a April 26, 2022, letter to the Biden administration signed by 18 Republican Governors in opposition to the White House’s pro-PLA policies. Gov. Gordon’s opposition is joined by more than 50 members of the U.S. Senate and House, and a diverse coalition of construction industry, small business and taxpayer advocates.
Wyoming’s new pro-taxpayer law is similar to federal legislation, 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. FOCA is strongly supported by ABC and a diverse coalition of construction and business groups and taxpayer advocates and government watchdogs.
Contact your U.S. House and Senate lawmakers in support of fair and open competition on taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects. Ask them to cosponsor FOCA today.