Project Labor Agreements
Project labor agreements (PLAs) are prehire collective bargaining agreements that establish the terms and conditions of employment on one or more construction projects. PLAs are typically the product of negotiations between a group of unions, usually represented by a building, construction trades’ council and the representative of a construction user, most often a construction management firm. Unlike local construction collective bargaining, contractors and contractor associations have little or no role in such negotiations. PLAs require all contractors working on a project to adhere to collectively bargained terms and conditions of employment, whether they are normally union or nonunion contractors. PLAs have undergone considerable evolution over the years. Once used almost exclusively on very large projects that were either extremely isolated or that overwhelmed the capacity of the local construction labor market, PLAs are now used on a variety of private and public projects.
The use of PLAs in the public sector has raised questions about possible conflicts with state or local bidding regulations. As a result, all branches and levels of government have become involved in the controversy, which, in turn, has drawn both media attention and spurred a fair amount of research. However, as our review shows, most of the research is of low quality and little use in determining whether PLAs actually affect bidding behavior, wages, construction costs, etc.
The current report is possibly the broadest ranging and most detailed study of PLAs conducted to date. While prior studies have focused on a particular PLA project and addressed one or two narrowly defined issues, in this study we examine a large number of projects using a variety of techniques, including archival research, interviews, case studies and the statistical analysis of original data.