On March 9, the Wisconsin State Assembly approved SB3, which prohibits government-mandated project agreements (PLA) on state and local construction contracts.  The Assembly voted 64-25 to concur on the bill, following the Wisconsin State Senate’s passage of the measure by a vote of 19-13  in February. Both votes occurred along party lines.  

“On behalf of our 850-member firms, I would like to thank the Wisconsin Assembly for concurring on Senate Bill 3, the pro-worker, Project Labor Agreement Neutrality bill. Our association stands with any measure that encourages open competition for contractors and workers,” said ABC of Wisconsin Chapter President John Mielke.  “It’s important to point out that the measure does not preclude the state or local governments from using project labor agreements to meet the highest of construction standards. It simply prohibits governmental officials from mandating workers on publicly-funded projects be represented by organized labor. The free-enterprise measure prohibits discrimination against 8 in 10 skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen who choose not to belong to unions. This includes veterans and minorities who will be able to apply their skills on public works projects funded with their own tax dollars.”

The action follows significant labor reforms that have occurred in the state in recent years. In 2015, Wisconsin became a Right to Work state and repealed prevailing wage requirements on all Wisconsin public works projects, except those built by the state of Wisconsin and state highway projects. Governor Walker is expected to SB3  bill into law later this month, which will make Wisconsin the 23rd state to enact a measure ensuring government neutrality in contracting. Twenty other states have taken action since 2009, when President Obama issued his pro-PLA Executive Order 13502. EO 13502 encourages federal agencies to mandate the use of PLAs on large-scale federal construction projects and federally assisted contracts procured by state and local governments.  

In November 2016, ABC released its latest Merit Shop Scorecard rankings;  plagued in part by its failure to adopt a government neutrality in contracting law to date, Wisconsin’s business environment ranked 21st in the country. The meritshopscorecard.org website reviews state-specific policies and information significant to the success of the commercial and industrial construction industry. Specifically, the scorecard grades states on their Right to Work status, policies on prevailing wage and PLA mandates, their construction job growth rate, commitment to developing a well-trained workforce, career and technical education (CTE) opportunities and results, and use of public-private partnerships (P3s).