Project Labor Agreements: A Community Good Worth Fighting For
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are a type of pre-hire agreement unique to the construction industry and we need to make sure they are mandatory for any new school construction projects in Prince George's County. They lay out the terms and conditions of construction projects but can also require the hiring of local residents, which will help promote Black construction workers and Black-owned construction business given that Prince George's is predominantely Black. Right now, billions of dollars are being allocated to build new schools and this is great for our community, but we need to make sure that the workers who build these schools are from our community and have union wages and protections.
Oftentimes, PLAs include standards that all contractors and subcontractors must meet, like hiring local residents, participating in state-approved apprenticeship programs, paying area standard wages, and protecting workers against wage theft to combat discrimination increase productivity, and create value for taxpayers.
This is a community good worth fighting for and we need our County Executive, Angela Alsobrooks, to get on board with it. Please call her office and ask her to support PLAs for a better Prince George's.
What is a Project Labor Agreement?
Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are a type of pre-hire agreement unique to the construction industry. They lay out the terms and conditions of construction projects. Oftentimes, PLAs include standards that all contractors and subcontractors must meet, like hiring local residents, participating in state-approved apprenticeship programs, paying area standard wages, and protecting workers against wage theft.
PLAs are widely used throughout the Baltimore-Washington region and across the United States. In fact President Biden recently issued an Executive Order requiring PLAs on federal projects valued at $35 million or more.
Why PLAs are a Community Good:
-PLAs combat discrimination. PLAs set pay, benefit and jobsite safety standards that apply equally to all workers, regardless of their backgrounds.
-PLAs promote jobs for local residents and local businesses. PLAs are frequently tailored to local community needs, including requiring the hiring of local residents, minority workers and women- and minority-owned contractors. And, PLAs are open to all contractors, both union and non-union.
-PLAs create quality jobs with health and retirement benefits. A steady pipeline of PLA projects enables apprentices to get the hours they need to become union journey workers who will receive not only family-supporting wages but also family health insurance and a pension.
-PLAs raise wages because they ensure that everyone on a construction project gets paid regularly and at the area standard rate, which prevents unscrupulous contractors from underbidding local competition.
-PLAs promote quality apprenticeship programs and career opportunities. PLAs outline clear guidelines around apprenticeship programs and ensure that contractors and subcontractors performing work are participants in state/federally-registered apprenticeship programs. Once apprenticeship is completed and a worker becomes a journeyperson, they have a career accepted across the United States and beyond.
-PLAs increase productivity because they standardize work schedules and payment arrangements,which helps project owners better estimate construction costs. PLAs also prohibit strikes and lockouts, a benefit to owners and developers who want to prevent unexpected delays.
-PLAs help small, local and minority businesses. PLAs accommodate any existing policies promoting the use of small, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses. In addition, union hiring halls ensure that small, local, and minority businesses have a steady supply of qualified workers to satisfy their workforce needs.
-PLAs are good for safety. Safety violations are far less likely to occur on jobs with PLAs because PLAs include provisions that require and verify that contractors and subcontractors comply with all federal, state, and local safety laws.
-PLAs create value for taxpayers. Studies show that PLAs lead to increases in productivity, economic impacts, and stability – and decreases in change orders and safety violations. In addition, PLAs are a mechanism for controlling construction costs and ensuring efficient completion of projects.
Don’t Believe the Lie – PLAs and Minority Businesses Can Work Together to Build Strong Communities
Across the Baltimore-Washington region and the United States, local governments are using both MBE requirements and PLAs to address racial disparities in construction contracting and employment.
Experience with PLAS both in and around Prince George's County demonstrates that this tried-and-true tool is not an obstacle to achieving high rates of minority business participation but can rather be used to promote that participation:
- Under a PLA, the MGM National Harbor Casino exceeded local workforce participation goals, with 47 percent of workers being Prince George's County residents, and it met the goal of $368 million of contracts going to minority- and women-owned businesses. The project was completed on time and on budget.
- The Banneker High School project, a PLA project, won the Engineering News-Record's Best K-12 Project of the Year in 2022. Built on time and on budget, the project saw no lost-time accidents during nearly 400,000 work hours. It also complied with DC's stringent local hiring requirements and participation requirements for certified local, small and disadvantaged businesses participation.
In its pilot asbestos removal project with LIUNA and the Prince George's County Board of Education, the Board's report shows that of 63 workers employed, 98 percent were minority. Fifty-eight percent of the workers were residents of Prince George's County. Also of note, 56 percent were female.