Back in February 2009, one of the first actions Barack Obama took after settling in at the White House was to issue Executive Order 13502, which promotes union-only “project labor agreements” (PLAs) on federally funded public works.
President Trump pledged to Right to Work supporters last year that he would oppose such anti-competitive PLAs if elected. At this point, E.O.13502 remains on the books. Consequently, it continues to pressure federal agencies to acquiesce to PLAs on all large public works.
In practice, E.O.13502 is designed to force nonunion companies wishing to participate in public works using $25 million or more in federal funds to impose union monopoly bargaining on their employees and hire new workers through union boss-controlled hiring halls. Under union-only PLAs, independent workers who already have their own retirement funds are nevertheless forced to contribute to Big Labor-manipulated retirement funds.
Rather than compromise the freedom of their employees and the efficiency of their operation, most independent construction firms simply refuse to submit bids on PLA projects.
Fortunately, over the past eight years taxpayers and other freedom-loving citizens have mounted a strong counterattack against the E.O.13502 power grab.
As of February 2009, just four states had prohibited union-only PLAs for any kind of taxpayer-funded projects. But as this blog item is posted, Wisconsin is on the verge of becoming the 23rd state to ban or sharply curtail PLAs on state and local tax-funded public works.
A.B.23/S.B.3, which has already been adopted by the Badger State Assembly and Senate, and only awaits pro-Right to Work Gov Scott Walker’s signature to become law, will prohibit municipalities from forcing employers to acquiesce to PLAs in order to submit bids on public construction. (See the news account linked below for more information.)
Roughly 70% of Wisconsin hardhats are union-free. Once it becomes law, A.B.23/S.B.23 will finally enable them as well as their employers to compete on a level playing field with regard to contracts for tax-funded buildings, from schools to sports stadiums. Taxpayers will also benefit. Research by the nonpartisan, Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute shows that PLAs inflate construction costs by 12% to 18%.
Union bosses who are used to having bidding rules on public works rigged in their favor are complaining bitterly about the PLA rollback, but the fact is the overwhelming majority of Wisconsites will benefit. As lead Assembly sponsor Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) has said, “This is pro-Wisconsin, this is pro-worker, this is pro-community.”
Of course, although the rapid spread of state legislation rolling back abusive PLAs has mitigated the harmful impact of E.O.13502, it continues to do substantial harm to independent-minded hardhats and federal taxpayers. President Trump can follow the leadership of states like Wisconsin by keeping his campaign promise to rescind the eight-year-old Obama power grab.