On Feb. 4, President Biden signed an Executive Order requiring Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects valued at more than $35 million. The Executive Order is expected to apply to $262 billion in federal construction contracting and impact nearly 200,000 workers.
PLAs are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements between labor and management that establish conditions of employment, including a guaranteed adequate wage.
Mechanical Insulators Labor Management Cooperative Trust (LMCT) Executive Director Pete Ielmini appeared on the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss Biden’s Executive Order and how PLAs improve labor quality.
Ielmini attended the Feb. 4 Executive Order signing at the Ironworkers Local 5 Union Hall in Upper Marlboro, Md. and listened to Biden discuss the benefits of PLAs. Prior to the signing, Ielmini met with Biden and shook his hand.
Ielmini explained how PLAs do not discriminate against non-union labor. PLAs effectively prevent unscrupulous contractors from exploiting workers and paying them substandard wages with no benefits. Non-union contractors remain free to bid on these jobs in competition with union shops, providing they pay fair wages, he said.
Ielmini said that he personally welcomes the opportunity to work alongside non-union shops because it gives his workers the opportunity to educate non-union labor about the benefits of being in a union.
The beneficial impact of PLAs on wages and project quality
Without PLAs, out-of-state workers are often hired to work on projects, Ielmini said. Not only are these workers paid substandard wages, but the local community suffers because those workers spend their wages elsewhere, effectively robbing local municipalities of a much needed tax base, he added.
By increasing the prevalence of PLAs across the construction industry, it raises the standard of living across the nation, Ielmini explained.
Ielmini also argued that Biden’s Executive Order will increase the quality of federal construction projects. Requiring PLAs institutes Prevailing Wage, which eliminates the race to the bottom that often happens when projects are bid low. By eliminating the lowest bidders, PLAs and Prevailing Wage help ensure a project is completed on time and within budget, but also at a high degree of quality, he said.