EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans Call Out Union Requirements Driving Up Cost Of Federal Projects

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Republicans in the House of Representatives are pushing back against a Biden administration policy that they say is increasing the costs of federal infrastructure projects.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order in February that requires all federal agencies to enter into project labor agreements (PLAs) with unions for projects that will cost more than $35 million. As defined by the executive order, a PLA is a “pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project.”

Executive Order 14063 “will undermine taxpayer investment in public works projects financed by the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, and other recent infrastructure legislation passed by Congress,” 59 Republicans wrote to Biden in a letter obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller. “Mandating PLAs will prevent qualified contractors from fairly competing for contracts on taxpayer-funded projects.

Read the letter here:

Budd Letter Biden by Michael Ginsberg

The Republicans argue that project labor agreements distort labor markets and note that 87% of American construction workers do not belong to unions. They also advocate for the Fair and Open Competition Act, a bill introduced by Republican North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd that would prohibit federal construction projects from requiring or prohibiting a project labor agreement.

“Government mandates favoring Big Labor are both unfair and extremely costly to taxpayers. More than 87% of the private construction workforce does not belong to a union, and these workers should not be blocked from doing work on government projects through PLAs. These mandates also needlessly increase the cost of government construction projects. Bottom line: federal contracts should be open to the company that makes the best bid,” Budd, who spearheaded the letter, told the Caller.

Most major unions, including the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, endorsed Biden during the 2020 presidential election cycle. However, the administration angered union chiefs, as well as rank-and-file members, with several moves intended to placate environmental activists, most notably the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. (RELATED: Biden Loosens Trump Tariffs On Solar Panels Despite Labor Unions’ Pleas)

“PLA mandates are bad public policy because they increase construction costs by 12% to 20% because they effectively exclude the nearly 9 out of 10 U.S. construction workers who choose not to join a union from building taxpayer-funded construction projects. These controversial agreements hold a third of employees’ compensation for ransom unless they join a union, pay union fees and prop up struggling union pension plans. PLAs also create excessive cost burdens and risks for high-performing nonunion contractors, which built more than half of the federal government’s large-scale construction projects from FY2009 to FY2021 and are more likely to be small, women- and/or minority-owned businesses. ABC applauds Rep. Budd., and his 58 Republican colleagues for their efforts in pushing back on the administration’s efforts to impose restrictive labor requirements on taxpayer-funded construction projects throughout the country,” Associated Builders and Contractors Vice President of Regulatory, Labor, and State Affairs Ben Brubeck told the Caller.

Congress allocated more than $2.4 trillion in new spending in 2021 through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).  Large portions of the funds in both bills will be directed towards new infrastructure projects, particularly in the states of key senators who voted to support the IIJA.