A delay in enacting the federal government’s support of project-labor agreements on contracts is frustrating some unions and giving nonunion builders a short respite.
President Barack Obama on Feb. 6 signed an order lifting the federal government’s ban of PLAs on federal projects worth more than $25 million. The order gave federal agencies until June 5 to change procurement rules to incorporate the new acceptance of PLAs.
But the U.S. Office of Management and Budget is still reviewing the revision.
When PLAs are used, contractors and employees sign an agreement before a project begins to set contract terms, block strikes and lockouts, and establish procedures for settling labor disputes.
The Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., a nonunion contractor group that argues PLAs limit competition, does not mind the delay in enacting PLAs, said Ben Brubeck, ABC labor and state affairs director, government affairs.
“You will start seeing each agency adopt their own regulations or take the executive order and put it in their bid documents,” he said. “So we’ll see some PLAs on a case-by-case basis.”
But A. Neal Hall, business manager of the Colorado Building and Construction Trades Council, said he is tired of waiting. Hall said he is trying to encourage the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to require a PLA on an estimated $700 million hospital planned for the Denver suburb of Aurora.
But, he said, Veterans Affairs will not make a decision until the regulations are modified to include PLAs.
“It’s very frustrating for us to wait as long as we had to wait for this to happen,” Hall said. “In Colorado, Denver is probably the slowest construction market right now.”
But the U.S. Building & Construction Trades Department is content to wait for the rules, said Tom Owens, director of communications. There are proposed bills in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would prohibit PLAs on federal contracts, but Owens said those are not going anywhere.
“We’re encouraged by everything that the administration said,” Owens said. “Clearly they have a lot of stuff on their plate, so we’re not being critical that things are not moving as quickly as we expected.”
The changes to federal acquisition rules are bad enough for nonunion builders, Brubeck said. Worse, he said, is another component of the PLA executive order giving the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Labor until August to decide if PLAs should be used more broadly than just on large projects the federal government oversees.
“That’s the real concern for ABC,” Brubeck said, “because, right now, it’s not a mandate.”
Obama’s order also tells federal agents to decide if PLAs should be encouraged on state or local projects that receive federal money. Brubeck said the PLA rules could apply to any federal contract covered by Davis-Bacon rules, which are prevailing wage requirements applied to government contracts worth more than $2,000 and that receive federal money.
“So there’s a lot of things on the table,” he said, “and that’s the scariest thing.”