What is a Project Labor Agreement?.........What is a Project Labor Agreement

A comprehensive pre-hire collective bargaining agreement. That means basic terms and conditions for labor are established in advance for everyone involved in the project: the public sector employer, contractors and subcontractors, and the labor force.

AND?

Under a PLA, contractors make exact bids. Costs are established for labor. Those costs include wages and benefits including health insurance, and workers' compensation. No surprises!

NO SURPRISES AT ALL?

None. A typical PLA includes no-strike, no lock-out agreements. And for additional headache relief, a PLA includes procedures for settling - quickly - any problems or disputes that might develop during the project.

WHAT ABOUT MY BUDGET?

Your budget is safe with a PLA. There are no hidden costs and no cost overruns. You won't be confronted with unexpected wage demands or disputes halfway through the project. One more headache eliminated.

DO I HAVE TO USE UNION CONTRACTORS?

No! Public works PLAs never restrict bidding solely to union contractors. A PLA is available to any contractor who will accept its terms. It's the contractor's decision.

UNION LABOR?

No again. Public-owner PLAs do not exclude nonunion labor.

BUT I WANT TO NEGOTIATE FOR LOWER WAGES.

You like headaches? Lower wages can cause problems further down the line. Lower wages mean lower productivity and higher accident rates. Both lead to cost

overruns. Lower wages also mean you're going to see all kinds of hidden costs popping out - good headache material. There are no hidden costs with a PLA. Everything is settled before construction begins, right up front for the life of the project... including any wage increases.

SPEAKING OF NEGOTIATIONS...

No fancy footwork here. Most PLAs are drafted by project or construction managers retained by the public entity.

AND THE UNION?

The union has input like all other parties to a PLA. It does not lead or dominate the proceedings.

THIS IS PUBLIC SECTOR CONSTRUCTION. IS A PLA LEGAL? 

Very legal. In a major 1993 decision (the Boston Harbor case), the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of public sector PLAs, affirming that private and public owners can decide for themselves when a construction project should utilize a PLA.

HOW LONG HAVE PLAs BEEN AROUND?

PLAs have been used for more than 60 years. They have an impressive record.

IMPRESS ME.

For starters: the Grand Coulee Dam; the Shasta Dam; the Cape Kennedy Space Center; the Oak Ridge, Tenn., nuclear research facility; O'Hare Airport; Boston Harbor clean up; Detroit's Cobo Hall; Logan Airport's remodeling; a Veterans Administration Medical Center, Tenn.; and Los Angeles' LRT (Light Rapid Transit) system. Those are some of the big names, but PLAs are used routinely in hundreds of smaller construction projects at state, county, and municipal levels. Every project, big or small, had enormous headache potential (by the way, how is your headache?) but in each case, a PLA administered in advance eased the pain.

ARE PLAs USED ONLY IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR?

Not at all. Corporations, large and small have managed their construction projects with PLAs...corporations like General Motors, British Petroleum, Walt Disney and Toyota.

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