Business & Lobbying

Construction industry pushes back on Biden order for labor agreements

President Biden holds an executive order regarding project labor agreements at Irownworks Local 5 in Upper Marlboro, Md., on Friday, February 4, 2022.
Greg Nash

Construction industry trade groups are pushing back on President Biden’s policy to require collective bargaining agreements between contractors and workers for federal construction projects.  

Biden signed an executive order earlier this month to mandate project labor agreements (PLA) for federal construction contracts exceeding $35 million in an effort to improve working conditions and wages for construction workers and increase the quality of federal projects. The order, which drew praise from some construction unions, would impact nearly 200,000 workers.

Sixteen construction industry groups wrote a letter to Biden Tuesday warning that the order could slow down projects financed by the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. They said that PLAs “unfairly discourage competition from quality non-union contractors and their employees” that make up 87 percent of the private construction industry, driving up costs.

“In short, hardworking taxpayers are getting less and paying more when PLAs are encouraged or mandated by the government on federal and federally assisted construction projects,” the groups wrote.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents nonunion construction companies, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the American Pipeline Contractors Association joined the letter, among other groups.

The trade groups added that the order will exacerbate the construction industry’s shortage of roughly 500,000 skilled workers. They said that the policy will “undermine the Biden administration’s ability to meet its infrastructure, affordable housing and clean energy agenda.”

Biden, who has pitched himself as the most pro-union president in history, announced the order during a speech to members of the Ironworkers Local 5 union in Upper Marlboro, Md., earlier this month, stating that it will “ensure that major projects are handled by well-trained, well-prepared, highly skilled workers.”

Tags Associated Builders and Contractors Construction Infrastructure Joe Biden Labor Lobbying PLA

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