Project Labor Agreements have become increasingly common on federal government construction projects, especially since the issuance of Executive Order 13502 [pdf] and the implementing regulations (FAR Subpart 22.5). These rules encourage the use of PLAs in connection with all “large-scale construction projects,” defined as a “project where the total cost to the Federal Government is $25 million or more.” Opposition to these rules focused on the potential for discriminatory impact on non-union contractors and employees. Implementation has not been without controversy either, with contentious litigation focusing on the discriminatory impact of PLAs on government projects.
Given the background, it is not surprising that we are seeing new legislation to provide federal agencies with more flexibility in the use of PLAs. See Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (H.R. 436 and S. 109) (introduced January 29, 2013). Proponents of the legislation cite to studies indicating that government-mandated PLAs increase the cost of construction projects between 12 percent and 18 percent.
Similar bills were introduced last year and did not make it out of committee. We will see what happens in the current Congress.