Biden signs executive order aimed at strengthening union construction jobs

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

President Biden on Friday signed an executive order aimed at strengthening union jobs in construction by expanding the federal government’s use of collective bargaining agreements between unions and contractors on construction sites. 

“The executive order I’m going to sign today is going to help ensure that we build a better America, we build it right, and we build it on time, and we build it cheaper than it would have been otherwise,” Biden said in remarks at the Ironworkers Local 5 located in Upper Marlboro, Md. 

Biden said the collective bargaining deals, known as project labor agreements (PLAs), are aimed to “help defuse problems before they arise.”

The executive order will require the use of PLAs on federal construction projects above $35 million, and it directs the Department of Labor and Office of Management and Budget to lead a training strategy for the nearly 40,000-person contracting workforce on the implementation of the new policy.

The president has promised that the bipartisan infrastructure law, which he signed in November to provide funding in part for construction projects, would create good union jobs.

“As president of the United States, I award contracts … unless the project I’m purchasing for the American people was made in America and all of its component parts were made in America, we’re not buying it,” he said, “Every single project that we’re talking about is paid for with federal dollars, is a federal project, is going to be union jobs.” 

The executive order builds on an order issued by former President Obama in 2009 to use project labor agreements for federal construction projects. 

Biden said this executive order will “ensure that major projects are handled by well-trained, well-prepared, highly skilled workers.”

“We don’t talk about how y’all save the American taxpayers money,” Biden added, referring to the iron workers in the crowd. 

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh called PLAs “powerful tools,” saying they protect taxpayer’s investments, bring projects in on time and guarantee high quality results. 

Vice President Harris, before the president’s remarks, spoke about the unexpectedly strong January jobs report released on Friday, saying “our nations’ economic recovery continues to be, let there be no doubt, the strongest in the world.”

The U.S. gained 467,000 jobs in January, despite warnings from economists of a likely decline in employment, and Biden spoke to the strong jobs report earlier on Friday.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Susan Fox, senior vice president at the Walt Disney Company, were also in attendance for the executive order signing.

Tags Barack Obama Jennifer Granholm Joe Biden Kathleen Hicks Marty Walsh

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