The power of Project Labor Agreements: Two more win-win deals for workers and communities
This week, the Prince George’s County Board of Education voted to require a Project Labor Agreement for the second phase of an ambitious school construction program.
And just a few weeks ago, the Brick Township Council voted to assure all public construction projects valued at $5 million or more will be governed by a Project Labor Agreement.
The news from Maryland and New Jersey could not be better.
Both are huge victories for workers, taxpayers, students, and residents who will use these facilities. Their local leaders just guaranteed they will benefit from the quality, efficiency, and equity that PLAs provide.
Mayor Lisa Crate of Brick said it best: “What we’re really talking about is knowing that these projects will be done by skilled laborers who will do quality work and take pride in their work because this is their township.”
A PLA is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement that sets the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project. These agreements typically cover issues such as wages, benefits, hours, safety, dispute resolution, and hiring practices. By establishing a uniform and predictable labor environment, PLAs help ensure projects are completed on time and on budget, while avoiding costly disruptions caused by labor disputes or shortages.
It's also important to note that PLAs promote fair and inclusive hiring practices that benefit local workers and communities. They often include provisions that set goals or requirements for the participation of local residents, small businesses, minority contractors, women, veterans, and other underrepresented groups. They also provide opportunities for training and apprenticeship programs that create pathways to careers in the construction industry for young people and low-income workers.
The benefits of PLAs are well documented by numerous studies.
For example, a 2021 Economic Policy Institute report found that PLAs on federal construction projects increased wages, improved health and retirement benefits, enhances productivity and safety, and expanded access and opportunity for workers of color and women.
Take a minute to let that soak in: Wages, benefits, productivity, safety and equity. We are seeing a powerful and important tool take root in our communities.
The Prince George’s County Board of Education recognized those benefits when it decided to adopt a PLA for the second phase of its Blueprint Schools Program, which aims to build six public schools to replace outdated and overcrowded ones.
The PLA will ensure the project is completed with high standards of workmanship and safety, while creating jobs and training opportunities for county residents. The agreement also aims to address allegations of wage theft and worker misclassification that marred the first phase of the project, which involved four construction companies now facing a lawsuit from five workers who claim they were underpaid and denied overtime pay.
The Prince George’s County Board of Education should be applauded for its leadership and vision in adopting a PLA for its school construction program. The same goes from Brick Township, and the others who are soon to follow.
These leaders have set an example for other public entities that are planning or undertaking large-scale infrastructure projects. PLAs are not only good for workers; they are also good for communities. They are a win-win solution that delivers quality, efficiency, and equity for all stakeholders.
Carpenter Contractor Trust