Ending Project Labor Agreements Vote Determines Congress’s Agenda: Jobs or Cronies?

In a vote today, the House of Representatives will determine whether federal construction projects will be open to competitive bidding. In 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order 13502 declaring that to win a federal construction project costing over $25 million, the contractor must sign a project labor agreement. Project labor agreements eliminate competition and discriminate against non-union workers. In the current economic state, the federal government cannot afford to mandate any contract which increases costs and furthers the burden on the taxpayer.

Section 415 of H.R, 2055 (The Military Construction (MilCon) and Veterans Affairs (VA) and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012) abolishes the taxpayer waste of mandating project labor agreements. Not only are PLAs costly, they cost 10 percent to 20 percent more than merit-based contractors. PLAs enable the federal government to alter business behavior and strip workers of their right to freedom of association.

PLAs are pre-hire agreements mandating the employer to use a union workforce to receive the construction contract. The federal government, by mandating PLAs for federal construction projects, is clearly choosing winners and losers in the marketplace, affording contracts to employers willing to use union shops exclusively. Seeing how the federal government believes that more government spending will lead to economic recovery, this arrangement can be prevalent, severely contributing to waste, fraud, and abuse.

If that is not evidence enough to convince Congress to eradicate PLAs, then the restriction of workers’ rights should alarm even the most liberal representatives. In the case of a PLA, the worker has no choice other than to pay union dues over the term of the project. There is no secret ballot election or card check vote by employees to determine if they wish to join a labor organization and pay dues, eliminating the worker’s right to associate or not. Not only are non–union member workers discriminated against, the merit shop employer has no choice other than to discriminate against their normal workforce of non–union members or choose not to bid on the project. Considering only 14.5 percent of construction workers are unionized, there is no other reason for PLAs other than as a sop to Democrats’ key constituency and source of campaign cash: Big Labor.

For Congress to oppose this bill is a vote for crony capitalism and irresponsible use of taxpayer money. Eliminating competition and adding red tape is what has led to the economic downturn. Economic freedom is no longer present during federal construction projects requiring PLAs. The employer must sign an agreement regarding which employees they will hire, the worker must pay tithes to a union to receive work, and the government is subscribing all taxpayers to the support of private organizations: unions. This assault on freedom in all aspects of PLAs should be unacceptable for all parties and ideologies. Congress needs to use this opportunity to assure the American people that jobs are at the top of their agenda and not reelection or campaign contributions.