- The Port of Los Angeles has signed a 10-year project labor agreement (PLA) with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, according to American Shipper. The Los Angeles City Council must now approve the deal, which extends the previous five-year PLA.
- The latest PLA includes 38 infrastructure projects, worth $780 million, in the planning or proposal stages. The council represents more than 100,000 workers in Southern California.
- The deal requires nearly one-third of the jobs created for those projects go to locals in the immediate vicinity of the port as well as in areas of the city with high unemployment.
PLAs are a form of collective bargaining used to establish terms for labor, and they are common with unions on large construction projects. States are beginning to push back on such agreements, however, saying they make participation difficult for non-union workers, even though their involvement is not expressly prohibited.
So far, more than 20 states have signed legislation preventing mandatory PLAs for state and local projects, with Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri the latest to pass such laws. Associations, too, are pushing back. Earlier this year, a group of 12 construction industry and business groups sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking for the repeal of an Obama-era rule requiring government projects over $25 million to use PLAs.
One major sticking point of PLAs is the prevailing wage agreements negotiated between unions and managers on some projects that receive federal funds. Private-sector partners contend that the resulting rates put them at a competitive disadvantage because those rates can be higher than what they’d typically pay.
The open-shop model is gaining traction, with more than half of U.S. states having signed right-to-work legislation. Those rules prohibit workers on union projects and sites from having to pay dues or join the organization itself, and advocates say they make the state more attractive to investment from companies wanting to add or expand their footprint there.
Open-shop critics are concerned that the rise of the model will see unions’ influence diminish, and with it stringent training requirements and collective bargaining power. However, advocates say open-shop job sites are comparable on safety.
Recent data, too, point to growth in union membership. An analysis of government data by the Associated General Contractors earlier this year found that construction union membership grew by 0.7% from 2015 to 2016to 13.9% of the industry’s workforce.