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Obama federal contract guidelines exclude merit shop contractors and subs

April 13 was the first day that the new Obama styled contracting guidelines requiring that all Federal projects with budgets of over $25 million have negotiated Project Labor Agreements or PLAs. The guidelines further suggest that those agreements can only be negotiated with Union contractors and subcontractors according to Fox News . The Presidential Executive Order was quietly signed a few days after Obama took office last year. According to the news article, “Those agreements require contractors to negotiate with union officials, recognize union wages and benefits and generally abide by collective-bargaining agreements” effectively shutting all “Merit Shop” or “Open Shop” contractors and subs out of this work.

Opponents to the policy including the Associated Builders & Contractors and the Associated General Contractors have claimed that this policy will add as much as 20% to the cost of those projects; stifle competition and block out the 85% of contractors and subs who are not unionized but who might wish to compete for Federal contracts.

According to the article, “Proponents of the new policies (actually the reinstatement of Clinton era policies under an Obama banner) such as Mark Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department praised the policy.

Contrary to claims by those who oppose these agreements -- who subscribe to a 'race to the bottom' mentality, where success is predicated on the ability to assemble a low-wage, easily exploitable workforce -- PLAs have proven over and over that they are a valuable, market-based tool that ensures superior job site management, project efficiencies and workforce productivity and development."

In Texas, projects like the expansion of the South Texas Nuclear Plant will likely fall under these guidelines and could lead to additional union shop contractors moving operations into Texas.

What the President needs to realize is that there are socially responsible “merit Shop” contractors and subs that provide the appropriate training, wages and benefits to their workers even though they are not unionized. By excluding those firms like the firms who embrace the principles outlined in Construction Citizen, the Federal government is limiting the opportunities for construction industry workers where the unemployment rate exceeds 25%.

More reading:  Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


Anonymous's picture

I have worked both non-union and union in Pa. I've only been union for 4 years and would never go back! Worked Fleetwood homes, was injured with bruised ribs and pelvic bone, forced to stay working or lose job because their company paid Dr. would lose contract if he put me off. Jan of 05, my husband and I worked for same company, He was injured removing 12ft sheets of drywall 39ft in air. I was laid off worked here and there. Fought for workers comp. About a year later we won and I got fired. He hasn't been able to hold a job since.Just had back surgery, but still can work. Not sure if he'll ever be able to. He made $15 hr. and I made $11hr. because I was female. I found out about the union right after I got fired. I've been union ever since and wouldn't go back. I'm not saying the union is perfect, just like any other company or organization it has it's problems. There are people who don't work up to there ability for whatever reason. You have them everywhere. But there are alot of us who give 110% on all of our jobs. To give you an example when I was working on the cooling tower at Three Mile Island this past Oct. to Jan. I lost weight and dropped 3 paints sizes, you don't lose like that being lazy. I know that the men I work with work just as hard as I do because they have families to support and know that by doing there best keeps them working. I have every opportunity to learn new skill and refresh my old ones at our training center. I am certified in OSHA 10 and 30, rigging and signalling just to name a few of them many I have. I just started my welding. I also receive equal pay which in my 15 + years in construction I've never had. I have a pension and health benefits, which I wasn't offered. The companies I work for have the option to remove people from the job if they are not pulling there weight. At one time the union may have been what people though it was. But now days, the men and women are take so much pride in their work and the ability to support their families, especially in these time. Even take pay cuts just to stay working. We are working men and women just like everyone else, who have realized that being in a union helps us to support or families and have a secure retirement. And in these times, everyone needs this feeling of security. My name is Susan Finsterbush and I am proud to be a union carpenter, local 214, from pa.

Administrator's picture

Construction Citizen encourages owners and other end-users (such as the US Government) to award jobs based upon a set of values -- such as competitive pay, good benefits, good safety record, training , employee development, sustainability, etc. (all the things you are now appreciating) regardless of being a signatory to a union agreement or not. That way a bigger percentage of all construction workers like you and your husband will have the ability to be employed by those companies who embrace those values as they will be the ones awarded the contracts. If all owners were only willing to contract to what we call “socially responsible” contactors and specialty subcontractors, then those who did not embrace a "socially responsible" set of principles would have to change their ways or risk being shut out of getting the jobs. We’re simply suggesting that values should dictate who gets the work not union status.

Administrator's picture

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