On February 4th President Biden signed a remarkable executive order mandating Project Labor Agreements for federal construction projects valued at $35 million or more. The Order instructs federal agencies to require: “every contractor or subcontractor engaged in construction” on projects valued at $35 million or more to “agree, for that project, to negotiate or become a party to” a Project Labor Agreement (“PLA”) with “one or more appropriate labor organizations.” What makes this executive order different similar orders in other administrations is that this order mandates the use of Project Labor Agreements.
Project labor agreements are collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and contractors. They govern terms and conditions of employment for all craft workers—union and nonunion—on a construction project. This order binds all contractors and subcontractors on the construction project but it also allows all contractors and subcontractors on the construction project to compete for contracts without regard to whether they are otherwise parties to collective bargaining agreements. The PLA’s contain guarantees against strikes, lockouts, and similar job disruptions. They set forth set forth effective, prompt, and mutually binding procedures for resolving labor disputes arising during the term of the project labor agreement;. PLAs also provide for provide other mechanisms for labor-management cooperation on matters of mutual interest and concern, including productivity, quality of work, safety, and health”
North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) President Sean McGarvey issued the following statement in support of the White House Executive Order.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news for all workers, union and nonunion. Project labor agreements address labor supply issues, secure workers’ classification, set good wages, promote strong health and safety standards, and ensure that large-scale projects are completed on time, with the highest degree of quality, efficiency, and safety.”
Observers note that one of the benefits of such agreements is the strengthening of apprenticeship programs. The stability inherent in these agreements encourages workforce development that is apprenticeship programs.
Most PLAs also have pre apprenticeship requirements thus providing thousands of women, people of color and veterans access construction career pathways. Such programs would be of particular value here in Wisconsin.
The impact of the PLA agreements in Wisconsin will be clear once the infrastructure investment projects targeted in the various Biden economic stimulus proposals are implemented.
Reporting Courtesy of Frank Emspak for Labor Radio
Image Courtesy of Prachatai on Flickr