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The Rational Center Strikes Back: House Votes to Support PLAs…Again.

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY)

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) in the House of Representatives. After 8 absent Democrats allowed a narrow initial 211-209 passage of language banning PLAs to sneak into the Department of Defense Authorization Bill despite 28 Republicans supporting labor’s position, another vote came up at the end of last week that yielded a different outcome:

In a vote that reflects the bipartisan strength of the building trades unions, the House this week, by a vote of 218 to 198, rejected a prohibition against project labor agreements (PLAs), which generally ensure the use of union construction, in military construction projects. Requirements by federal agencies that contractors use PLAs were banned during the Bush administration but their expansion is a key component of President Obama’s pro-labor agenda, including an executive order encouraging their use by federal agencies. The House Appropriations Committee had included a provision that prohibited PLAs in the military construction appropriations bill (H.R. 5854). The provision reflected a vote two weeks ago in which the House, by a narrow vote of 211 to 209, passed a ban on PLAs in the DOD Appropriations bill. However, a number of key Democrats were absent during that vote, setting the stage for the House to revisit the issue this week.

Discussion on the House floor leading up to these votes resulted in some resounding endorsements of PLAs, including this short statement by Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut:

Building and Construction Trades Department President, Sean McGarvey, supplied the following statement following Thursday night’s vote:

Last night, a growing and strong bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives delivered an emphatic and unmistakable message in support of community wage standards as well as the right of federal agencies to utilize project labor agreements (PLAs) for their construction procurement needs.

All Democrats were joined by 52 House Republicans in defeating an amendment, 237-180, offered by Rep. Franks that would have prohibited Davis-Bacon coverage on the FY 2013 Military Construction/VA appropriations bill. The overwhelming bipartisan majority demonstrated strong support for local community wage standards and cast aside ideological arguments advancing a race to the bottom business model that drains local communities and undermines the long term strength and viability of the construction industry.

Furthermore, nearly all House Democrats were joined by 34 of their Republican colleagues in delivering a 218-198 vote in favor of the amendment offered by Rep. Grimm to strike anti-PLA language contained in the FY 2013 Military Construction/VA appropriations bill. This tremendous display of bipartisan support and solidarity is the fourth such occurrence in the last two years on a PLA vote in the United States House of Representatives. That, combined with yet another affirmation of local prevailing standards in the construction industry should send a loud and clear message to opponents of common sense public policy that these politically motivated attacks on Davis-Bacon and PLAs are not only a distraction from addressing the real needs of working families seeking economic relief and opportunity, but they run counter to the overwhelming will of Congress.


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