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President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that requires project labor agreements (PLAs) for federal construction projects valued at $35 million or more. Biden made the announcement to a union audience and said it was a step in fulfilling his commitment to being a President who supports unions and workers’ rights.
The order will affect $262 billion in federal projects and an estimated 200,000 workers. It also includes training and strategies for some 40,000 employees in the departments of Defense, Labor and the Office of Management Budget to implement the policy.
Recent presidents have taken sides on project labor agreements, using executive orders to mandate or prohibit them. Project labor agreements set conditions for job-sites and hiring and are generally based on local collective bargaining agreements. While they do not mandate union contractors and workers, the standards set level the playing field for bidders, allowing unions much better opportunities to win publicly-funded work. They are also commonly used by private corporations, who favor the cost certainty of wage schedules, the elimination of strikes and established processes for resolving time and money-costing onsite disputes.
Biden said the order would “help ensure that we build a better America, we build it right, and we build it on time, and we build it cheaper than it would have been otherwise.” He said PLAs “secure the commitment of all stakeholders on a construction site that the project will proceed efficiently without unnecessary interruptions.”
“They also advance the interests of project owners, contractors and subcontractors, including small businesses,” he said. “The use of project labor agreements is fully consistent with the promotion of small business interests.”