Project Labor Agreement (PLA)

by Executive Order on Government Construction Projects

A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) is a project specific collective bargaining agreement that establishes the terms and conditions of employment through the duration of a construction project. Before President Clinton's 1997 Memorandum establishing preference for PLAs on government projects, no previous president had ever set any policy dealing with PLAs. It has sense become a partisan political issue.

On February 17, 2001 President George W. Bush signed Executive Order No. 13202, that precluded the use of Project Labor agreements on federal construction projects

On February 6, 2009 President Obama took action to repeal the Bush order with Executive Order 13502 which encourages PLAs on federal construction projects in excess of $25 million. The Obama Executive order reverses the Bush Administration's policy while simultaneously reinstating President Clinton's Memorandum.

Recently, some local and municipal governments have adopted laws to either require or ban Project labor Agreements in their jurisdiction. Proposition "A" in San Diego County in November of 2010 is a most notable example.

  1. For project owners it is not necessary to negotiate separate contracts with many different unions.
  2. Project owners are protected from strikes, lockouts, or other work stoppages for the length of the project
  3. Local union workers have a preference on hiring. More payroll is spent locally and requirements for social services are reduced. The merits of this argument has been questioned by open shop organizations.
  4. The benefits for the labor unions are obvious. They negotiate the contracts, dictate the work rules and supply the manpower.
  1. Opponent studies indicate an increase in the total cost for PLA projects; Proponents disagree. Most proponent studies compare PLA projects to other union projects rather than open shop projects.
  2. All contractors are typically required to hire through the local union halls, abide by union work rules and pay union wages and benefits.
  3. PLAs are said to be discriminatory, limiting opportunities for small businesses, minority contractors and merit shop workers.
  4. Permit workers are required to pay non-refundable union dues.

Executive order 13202


About PLAs

Associated Builders and Contractors

The truth about Project Labor Agreements

Howard Watkins
Jan. 2011