Let’s Drive Infrastructure Costs Down For Tax Payers

To Whom It May Concern,

Government-mandated project labor agreements create a rigged bidding process because politicians steer taxpayer-funded construction contracts to special interests, needlessly increase construction costs by 12% to 20% and deny jobs to local construction industry workers and businesses due to anti-competitive language in typical PLAs. PLA schemes prevent some union members and more than 87% of the construction workforce who chooses not to belong to a union from rebuilding their own communities, create a procurement system that is not cost-effective and rob hardworking taxpayers of the value they deserve. This results in fewer construction projects and less job creation at a time when America must make effective investments in infrastructure to keep the U.S. economy competitive.

For many reasons outlined in this comment letter, I write in opposition to the FAR Council’s proposed rule implementing President Biden’s Feb. 4, 2022, Executive Order 14063 requiring PLAs on federal construction contracts of $35 million or more in total value. In addition, I oppose Biden administration policies–independent of the FAR Council’s proposed rule–encouraging PLAs on federally assisted water, sewer, broadband, energy, and other infrastructure projects via grant programs administered by federal agencies for state and local government applicants. 

The Biden administration’s executive actions to steer taxpayer-funded construction projects to favored unionized contractors and members of certain labor unions via PLAs fly in the face of bipartisan legislation passed by Congress that specifically does not contain these provisions. These policies also violate the Competition in Contract Act requiring “full and open competition” in the procurement of government contracts.

When mandated by governments, PLAs discourage quality nonunion contractors and subcontractors–which employ 87.4% of America’s construction industry as well as some unionized contractors and union members–from competing to build projects funded by taxpayer dollars. 

Government-mandated PLAs require contractors to follow restrictive union work rules and hire most or all workers on a job site from specified union halls and union apprenticeship programs instead of journey-level workers and apprentices already employed by their company. That limits the pool of bidders since nonunion contractors and even some union contractors do not want to abandon their existing employees and quality control practices–key components of a safe and productive workplace–for strangers from union halls governed by unfamiliar rules. 

When governments mandate PLAs, large companies and their unionized workforce have an unfair advantage and disrupt the local market at the expense of the local small businesses and their skilled construction workforce. In addition, local small, woman- and minority-owned general contractors and subcontractors will be harmed, because they are predominately nonunion and will be discouraged from competing for projects subject to special interest PLA schemes. The proposed rule does not adequately calculate the disparate negative economic impact and expensive compliance costs shouldered by federal small business general contractors and subcontractors because of the Biden administration’s pro-PLA policies at a time when the number of small businesses awarded federal construction contracts declined 60% from 2010 to 2020.

It is no surprise that construction unions and their members–who make up just 12.6% of the U.S. private construction workforce–spend millions lobbying for government-mandated PLAs on taxpayer-funded construction contracts to regain market share. In 26 states, less than 10% of the construction workforce belongs to a union, which means PLA mandates will result in contracts for union-signatory contractors and more jobs for union members–likely from out of the area–at the expense of hardworking taxpayers, fair and open competition and local workers and businesses.

Because of the Biden administration’s policies, federal, state, and local governments mandating PLAs on public works projects will increase construction costs and decrease the value of infrastructure investments paid for by hardworking taxpayers. Overall, this will lead to fewer construction projects and fewer construction industry jobs created and/or additional state and local tax hikes to pay for construction needs.

I call on the Biden administration and FAR Council to be equitable in its treatment of America’s construction workers and small and large businesses, whether union or nonunion, by abandoning the FAR Council’s flawed proposed rule mandating PLAs on federal construction projects. This exclusionary and unnecessary proposal will damage economy and efficiency in federal contracting and undermine taxpayer investment in billions of dollars of forthcoming public works projects needed to keep America’s economy competitive.

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