Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bill Introduced to Limit Union Preferences

Last week, identical bills were introduced into the House and Senate (H.R. 436 and S. 109) which would ostensibly level the playing field for construction workers applying for federal contracts and those funded by federal dollars. According to the bill sponsors, Executive Order 13502 introduced in 2009 strengthened project labor agreements (PLAs) which favored union-based construction workers over non-union construction workers. The result has been a de-facto discrimination against non-union construction workers, costlier projects,and longer completion time.

A PLA is a job-specific collective bargaining agreement with multiple construction unions. When mandated by a government agency on a taxpayer-funded project, construction contracts are 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 at the expense of existing qualified employees; obtain apprentices through union apprenticeship programs; follow inefficient union work rules; and pay into union benefit and multi-employer pension plans.

Studies indicate government-mandated PLAs increase the cost of construction projects in numerous markets between 12 and 18 percent compared to similar non-PLA projects. That, to us, is not surprising, nor is it necessarily a bad thing.

Similar bills were introduced last year and did not make it out of committee. This time around, the House version has 55 sponsors while the Senate bill has eight.

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