Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

SMACNA Press Releases

SMACNA urges support for PLAs on federal construction projects

Jan 18, 2017

In a recent letter to Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, SMACNA urged support for sustaining Executive Order 13502, which allows for the consideration of construction project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects. The Executive Order does not mandate the use of PLAs, union workforces, or union contractors on federal construction as has too often been falsely claimed.

Under government financed PLAs, 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 PLAs 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. 

Federal PLAs are determined through an open bidding process for all contractors and workers, contrary to the myth PLA opponents have advanced in communications targeting Executive Order 13502. Those opposed to Executive Order 13502 have offered a highly speculative and easily discredited cost-saving argument as an attack on a proven and commonly used private sector practice enhancing management discretion. Private owners use PLAs because they work on a variety of levels all focusing to an enhanced bottom line outcome, contrary to specious claims of always costing much more. 

SMACNA’s position supports the option of considering and utilizing PLAs where deemed in the best economic interest of the project owner on behalf of the taxpayer on public work. Therefore, we stand in opposition to any effort banning the option of using project labor agreements on federal construction.

SMACNA has joined other construction and construction related organizations representing tens of thousands of contractors with government contracting experience in supporting President Obama’s Executive Order 13502, encouraging executive agencies to consider the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on federally funded construction projects. The Obama Administration’s EO 13502 simply removed the previous ban against using a PLA on any federally managed project and established an unbiased consideration of PLAs on projects of significant scope, size, and complexity.

From decades of real-life experience on projects where PLAs have been used, our firms know that project agreements are a voluntary, legal, and highly efficient means of meeting projects construction quality standards, owner deadlines, and unique project demands.

For this reason, most PLAs are found on private project 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 PLAs on large federal projects may have found favor in certain political and ideological circles, unfortunately it has not served sound economics or construction management in all cases. Project economics, not ideology or anti-labor sentiments, should drive PLA policy debates as well as rational Executive Branch contract decision making.

As an association of contractors with extensive experience on private and public PLAs, we ask that you sustain Executive Order 13502. The federal government’s long established right to consider the use of PLAs on federal construction where deemed most appropriate for project management success should be endorsed by the incoming Trump Administration.

SMACNA is supported by more than 3,500 construction firms engaged in industrial, commercial, residential, architectural and specialty sheet metal construction throughout the United States.