Contractors support counterbalance to feds’ project labor agreement bias

Sources: Associated Builders and Contractors, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

The Government Neutrality in Contracting Act introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R.-Okla.), notes 2011 ABC National Chairman Michael Uremovich (Great Lakes Energy Consultants), “Will guarantee that all qualified contractors and skilled workers, regardless of labor affiliation, have an equal opportunity to bid on and construct federal and federally assisted construction projects … [and] help taxpayers get the best possible construction project at the best possible price by increasing competition, reducing waste and eliminating favoritism in federal contracting.”

President Obama’s February 2009 Executive Order 13502, which encourages federal agencies to require project labor agreements (PLA) on federal construction projects exceeding $25 million, Uremovich added, “was designed to steer lucrative federal contracts to union construction contractors that employ only 13 percent of the construction workforce.”

A government-mandated PLA, ABC notes, requires construction projects to be awarded only to companies that agree to recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job; use the union hiring hall to obtain workers; obtain apprentices through union apprenticeship programs; follow archaic and inefficient union work rules; and pay into union benefit and multi-employer pension plans.

Studies indicate that government-mandated PLAs increase the cost of construction projects in numerous markets up to 18 percent compared to similar non-PLA projects, ABC contends. “Government-mandated PLAs unfairly discourage competition from merit shop contractors and their employees. Today, 87 percent of the U.S. private construction workforce chooses not to belong to a labor union,” adds Uremovich. “This legislation puts an end to these special-interest handouts and will result in more federal contracting opportunities for small businesses and more construction jobs for an industry suffering from an unemployment rate of 22.5 percent—more than twice the national average.”

The Government Neutrality in Contracting Act mirrors legislation Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced in late-January; it awaits Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs action.