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Advocates for the recession-battered construction industry are lining up to challenge President Obama's new policy backing the use of union labor for large-scale federal construction projects.
The policy, which went into effect Tuesday, encourages federal agencies to have construction contractors
and subcontractors enter project labor agreements (PLAs) for all construction projects larger than $25 million. Those agreements require contractors to negotiate with union officials, recognize union wages and benefits and generally abide by collective-bargaining agreements.
Opponents of the policy are calling it a payoff to unions. They say it will unfairly steer federal construction contracts to unions even though the bulk of U.S. construction workers are not unionized.
"Anti-competitive project labor agreements are special interest kickback schemes that end open, fair and competitive bidding on public projects," Jim Elmer, national chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., said in a written statement. "Government-mandated PLAs are a handout to a politically connected special interest group and come at the taxpayers' expense."
Elmer said the agreements can drive up the cost for public construction by nearly 20 percent while "unfairly discriminating against the more than 85 percent of the U.S. construction workforce that chooses not to join a union."