In a recent letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, SMACNA expressed its support for the appropriate use of construction project labor agreements (PLA’s) on public construction. Similarly, SMACNA opposes the mischaracterizing of the PLA issue and the federal contract bidding process for reasons unrelated to improving the quality of construction services for the public ownerand therefore strongly opposes H.R. 1671, the so-called “Government Neutrality in Contracting Act of 2015” as introduced by Representative Mulvaney (R-SC).
Under government financed PLA’s, competing construction contractors and prospective workers are solicited for PLA projects regardless of their union or nonunion status - as required by law. In comparison, private sector owners are free to select union-only PLA’s to build their high quality and often highly complex projects. Private owners frequently take advantage of their freedom to contract with a skilled and formally trained workforce employed by highly regarded contractors as an economic decision. Simply put, Federal PLA’s are determined through an open bidding process for all contractors and workers contrary to the myth some have advanced in legislation, such as H.R. 1671. Those seeking to ban PLA’s are attacking a proven private sector practice enhancing an owner’s management discretion to seek the most skilled contractors and workforce.
SMACNA’s position supports the option of considering and utilizing PLA’s where deemed in the best economic interest of the project owner on behalf of the taxpayer on public work. Therefore, SMACNA stands in opposition to H.R. 1671 or ANY legislation banning the option of using project labor agreements on federal construction. Further, SMACNA has joined other organizations in supporting President Obama in 2009 for signing the Executive Order 13502 encouraging executive agencies to consider the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) on all federal-funded construction projects.
The Administration’s action reversed past hostility toward using any PLA-managed projects and this fair consideration of PLA’s is a great source of optimism to our leadership and the thousands of contractors we represent. Those decrying the consideration of PLA’s today had no objection to a ban on PLA’s in past administrations. That speaks volumes to their objectivity on the issue of PLA’s and contracting related issues in general.
From decades of real life experience on projects where PLA’s have been used, SMACNA firms know that project agreements are a voluntary, legal and most often highly efficient means of meeting construction quality standards, owner deadlines and unique project demands. For this reason, most PLA’s are found on private projects where corporate budget and scheduling decisions are highly scrutinized. SMACNA believes that utilizing project agreements on federal construction when and where appropriate expands the proprietary responsibility the President is charged with under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act and offers the likely result of decreased costs, higher quality and expedited project completions. Smart construction management calls for the federal government, like the private sector, to have the option to consider and establish project agreements where necessary and appropriate. While banning the use of PLA’s on large federal projects may have found favor in certain ideological circles, unfortunately it has not served sound construction management in all cases. Economics, not ideology or anti-labor views, should drive PLA debates and related labor–management votes in Congress.
SMACNA opposes H.R. 1671 and is asking for House support and endorsement of the federal government’s long established right to consider the use of PLA’s on federal construction where deemed most appropriate for project management success.