Can Open (nonunion) Shops Bid on PLAs

Project labor agreements (PLAs) include language that prevents nonunion craftsman from working on projects they cover. That is the primary reason why nonunion contractors are forced to decide not to bid projects with PLAs.

Even the few PLAs that CT ABC has read that allow an open shop firm to use some of their employees – no more than 30 percent of their craftspeople – require that those workers apply to the union, and if they are accepted, pay union dues.

Under such an agreement, not only would employers have to force those employees to join a union, they would also not be able to use 90 percent of their regular workforce, perhaps having to lay them off. For the 30 percent of the now unionized workers, the construction company would have to pay double benefits.

Most open shop firms offer benefits such health insurance, vacation and 401K benefits, which they already pay on behalf of their employees. Nearly all PLAs require them to also pay into the various union benefit funds, thus requiring the contractor to pay that employees benefits twice. In those cases, you would see nonunion firms paying $15 or more per hour than unions firms, making it impossible to competitively bid the job.

As a result of PLAs, over 80 percent of the industry is strategically blocked from competing for projects funded by their own tax dollars. Limited competition equals higher project costs at the expense of the taxpayer.