When work on public infrastructure is performed by union labor there are many benefits for workers, communities, and the economy as a whole. However, too many infrastructure workers are denied union representation. And many devices—such as subcontracting, performing work off-site, and public-private partnerships—make it possible to evade employer responsibilities for allowing workers to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.
One vehicle for ensuring labor rights is the Project Labor Agreement (PLA). Public policy can require contractors to include such agreements in their proposals. For example, Connecticut’s recent Public Act 19-71 for purchase of energy from offshore wind requires developers to pay prevailing wages, negotiate project labor agreements and include plans for using skilled labor and approved apprenticeship programs. (While NY included similar provisions in its initial request for proposals, this is the first time they have been codified in statute). The legislation states:
In developing any solicitations pursuant to this section, the commissioner shall include requirements for contract commitments in selected bids that (A) require payment of not less than the prevailing wage, as described in section 31-53 of the general statutes, for laborers, workmen and mechanics performing construction activities within the United States with respect to the project, and (B) require selected bidders to engage in a good faith negotiation of a project labor agreement. Any solicitation issued pursuant to this section shall specify the minimum terms that such project labor agreements shall address.
The act also encourages use of apprenticeship training programs:
In responding to any solicitations issued pursuant to this section, a bidder may include such bidder’s plans for the use of skilled labor, including, but not limited to, for any construction and manufacturing components of the proposal including any outreach, hiring and referral systems, or any combination thereof, that are affiliated with an apprenticeship training program registered with the Connecticut State Apprenticeship Council established pursuant to section 31-22n of the general statutes.
Construction trade unions in other states: Take Notice!