President Joe Biden’s Executive Order, which requires the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects valued at more than $35 million, will apply to $262 billion in federal construction contracting and impact nearly 200,000 workers.
A PLA is a pre-hire Collective Bargaining Agreement between labor and management to establish various conditions of employment, including hourly wage.
Mechanical Insulators Labor Management Cooperative Trust (LMCT) Executive Director Pete Ielmini joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast and discussed how Biden’s Executive Order will improve both labor quality and the pay of construction workers.
Ielmini attended the Feb. 4 Executive Order signing at the Ironworkers Local 5 Union Hall in Upper Marlboro, Md. and heard the President discuss the benefits of PLAs. He also shook Biden’s hand prior to the signing of the order.
PLAs do not discriminate against non-union labor, Ielmini pointed out. Rather, they effectively prevent the exploitation of non-union workers by unscrupulous contractors through substandard wages and benefits. Non-union contractors are free to bid on any job governed by a PLA as long as they agree to the terms of the PLA, he said.
Ielmini welcomed the opportunity to work alongside non-union shops. This actually is a great opportunity for union members to educate non-union workers about the benefits of joining a union, he added.
Why PLAs are good for both wages and project quality
In the absence of PLAs, workers on some projects are often brought in from out of state, Ielmini said. These workers are typically paid substandard wages. Not only do the workers suffer, but the local communities suffer as well because the money will ultimately go home with the out-of-state worker and not stay in the local economy, he added.
Ielmini then pointed out that Biden’s Executive Order will improve the quality of federal construction projects. When contractors are required to pay Prevailing Wage, the project is often built by better trained construction workers. This helps ensure a project is completed on time, within budget and to a high degree of quality, he said.