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Labor Secretary, Bipartisan Lawmakers Demand More Project Labor Agreements on Federal Work

Ohio Rep. Joyce is among Republicans calling for more PLAs

Ohio Rep. Joyce is among Republicans calling for more PLAs

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez toured the $345 million wharf project at Naval Base Kitsap this week, which is being built primarily with local labor thanks to a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). Some lawmakers now want to see such agreements become the standard for similar Department of Defense projects.  

After touring the facility, Perez and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) met with the heads of a dozen local trades unions to learn more about what makes these agreements tick.  Labor leaders report that the project has come in on time and under budget while enhancinf the region’s economy by creating apprenticeship opportunities and providing jobs to local women and minorities.  

Speaking to, Rep. Kilmer explained why he believes PLAs should become the federal model:

“When the federal government’s going to spend a whole lot of money, making sure it’s actually using a local workforce for the project and making sure the benefits accrue to the local community is a really big deal.”

Lee Whetham, Executive Secretary of the Olympic Peninsula Building and Construction Trades Council, told KPLU that before the PLA he had seen workers come from as far as Guam to work on projects.  The PLA has ensured that, of the workers, “99.9 percent came from Western Washington.”

Currently, 14.5 percent of the project workforce are apprentices with the goal of 15 percent expected to be met before the project is complete.  Wheltham told the Kitsap Sun that these apprenticeship positions “translate into local success stories.”  

Secretary Perez reflected on the trip, saying he would use examples such as Naval Base Kitsap to promote the use of PLAs during his remaining tenure.  Although President Obama signed a 2009 Executive Order promoting the use of PLAs on Defense Department projects, the project at Kitsap is the only one that has come to fruition.  According to Perez:

“I have 427 days to go to figure out how do we create the foundation so this is not a rare exception.  We need to tell the story of this lesson conspicuously. It’s really proving to be a great model for how to spend tax dollars efficiently, build the middle class and enhance our national security.”

In a letter sent to Perez prior to his tour, Rep. Kilmer and Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) called on the Obama Administration to increase the number of PLAs on federal construction projects.  In the letter, Kilmer provided details of the success of the Kitsap project as evidence that PLAs work not only for the government, but for communities:

“Federal construction projects need skilled local workers on the job so they can stay on budget and on schedule.  By using Project Labor Agreements we can ensure sites at places like Naval Base Kitsap are putting local people to work and paying them a good wage. It’s why I’m leading a bipartisan call for the White House to increase their use so we can better support quality jobs at our federal construction projects.”


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