Construction Groups Ask Congress to Support Government Neutrality in Contracting

ABC and a diverse group of 15 construction industry associations April 16 sent a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate opposing government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) and asking them to cosponsor the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (H.R. 436/S. 109). 

Introduced by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act would ensure fair and open competition on federal and federally funded construction projects by prohibiting federal agencies from requiring contractors to execute PLAs as a condition of winning a contract. 

Issued in 2009, President Obama’s Executive Order 13502 promotes the use of government-mandated PLAs on a case-by-case basis on large-scale federal construction projects exceeding $25 million in total cost. If mandated by federal agencies, PLAs effectively would deny qualified merit shop contractors and their skilled employees a fair chance to build taxpayer-funded projects. 

In the letter, the groups pointed out that studies indicate government-mandated PLAs increase the cost of construction projects in numerous markets between 12 percent and 18 percent compared to similar non-PLA projects. In addition, recent government-mandated PLAs on federal projects have resulted in litigation, reduced competition and increased costs and needless delays.

The letter also called attention to the potential of E.O. 13502 and related regulations to expose agency procurement officials to intense political pressure from special interest groups and politicians to mandate PLAs on federal projects even when they are not appropriate. If the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act is passed, federal agencies will be unable to mandate PLAs and implement PLA preferences, but it also would allow those agencies to award contracts to businesses that voluntarily enter into PLAs. 

“H.R. 436/S. 109 will curb waste and favoritism in the procurement of construction projects and ensure taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly by letting the market determine if a PLA is appropriate,” the groups wrote in the letter. “We ask that you take a stand against discrimination and special interest carve-outs in government contracting by cosponsoring H.R. 436/S. 109.”

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