Building & Construction

The last thing working families need to worry about is whether the bridge they drive over to get the kids to school was done by skilled or unskilled workers. But Republican legislators in several states are trying to ban two key tools for ensuring skilled labor, decent wages and taxpayer value on public construction projects: Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and prevailing wage requirements.

PLAs, which have been used for generations, are collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and contractors. They govern terms and conditions of employment for all craft workers—union and nonunion—on a construction project. They protect taxpayers by eliminating costly delays due to labor conflicts or shortages of skilled workers.

Prevailing wage laws ensure that workers on public construction projects paid for with taxpayer dollars are paid a wage comparable to the local standard or “prevailing” wage. They prevent unscrupulous contractors from low-balling bids and undercutting community wages with cheap, unskilled labor, and they make sure work is done by trained workers who know what they’re doing. These requirements ensure high-quality construction work and help prevent cost overruns.

Prevailing Wage

What Are Prevailing Wage Laws?

  • Prevailing wage laws ensure that workers on public construction projects paid for with taxpayer dollars are paid a wage comparable to the local standard or “prevailing” wage.
  • They prevent contractors from low-balling bids and undercutting community wages with cheap, unskilled labor, and they make sure work is done by trained workers who know what they’re doing. These requirements ensure high-quality construction work and help prevent cost overruns.
  • Prevailing wage requirements have been used in this country since 1891, but were made the law of the land in 1931 when Congress passed the federal Davis-Bacon Act. Today, 32 states and the District of Columbia have prevailing wage laws of their own.

Why Are Prevailing Wage Laws Under Attack?

  • Contractors who are more concerned with having a low-wage workforce than in the quality of their projects, along with corporate groups like the notoriously anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), strongly oppose them. So do the politicians they helped elect.
  • They’ve tried four times to outlaw prevailing wage laws at the federal level, but every attempt has failed. Now, with more corporate-backed, anti-worker legislators in Congress and state legislatures, they’re at it again.
  • These legislators are repeating ABC’s lies about prevailing wage laws. The truth is, contractors that don’t want to pay fair wages for skilled labor are behind the attacks.

Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)

What Are PLAs?

  • PLAs are collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and contractors.  They govern terms and conditions of employment for all craft workers – union and nonunion – on a construction project.  PLAs have been used for generations on successful public and private construction projects.
  • Union and nonunion workers benefit because their wages and benefits are defined and protected at local standards.
  • Union and nonunion contractors benefot from the assurance of a level playing field and a guaranteed skilled workforce.
  • Lenders and insurance companies benefit because with skilled workers and protection from delays due to labor disputes, their investments are safer.
  • Communities benefit because many PLAs provide recruiting, hiring and training for disadvantaged workers and local residents.

Why Are PLAs Under Attack?

  • Corporate-backed anti-worker politicians hold the majority in our state legislature, and they’re attacking our jobs, pay, and unions.  In fact, they’re doing the bidding of the notoriously anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) by trying to outlaw Project Labor Agreements.  ABC is known for opposing such basic workers’ rights as the 40-hour workweek, fair pay measures, prevailing wages, protection from being cheated of overtime pay through misclassification, the Employee free Choice Act and enforcement of workplace safety laws.
  • Corporate-backed legislators are repeating ABC’s lies about PLAs.  The truth is, contractors that don’t want to pay fair wages for skilled labor are behind the attacks.

The Separations Act

  • The Separations Act requires public works contracts costing more than $4,000 to have separate specifications and bids for electrical, heating, plumbing and ventilation portions of each building project (called a multiple prime bid).
  • Encourages small and medium-sized contractors to participate in public woks.
  • Opponents claim that multiple bid contracts are more expensive for the public, but data shows the opposite – single bid contracts have recently come in 14 to 24% higher than multiple bid contracts for area school districts.
  • Single prime bids awarded to general contractors often involve the hiring of out-of-state subcontractors; multiple prime bids go to Pennsylvania companies and Pennsylvania workers.