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Project Labor Agreements

Project labor agreements (PLAs) benefit working men and women, contractors, communities, and taxpayers by ensuring projects are completed on time and on budget. They also require employee training and encourage public investments to benefit local communities. PLAs helped build the Hoover Dam, Disney World, and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, and are used by big-name companies—even Walmart—to get the job done. But legislators are gearing up to pass anti-PLA laws in states across the country – yet another underhanded effort to undo progress for America’s hardworking women and men.

Community Workforce Provisions: A Tool for Building Middle Class Careers Print

When it comes to creating jobs to jump-start our nation’s economy, we have to ensure they are good, family-sustaining jobs that offer career advancement. Construction projects have the opportunity to do just that—especially when they utilize opportunities to employ traditionally disadvantaged communities and local workers.

A new study by Cornell University finds that public and private construction projects across the United States that utilize Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are increasingly implementing community workforce agreements (CWAs) to ensure that local residents – particularly women, people of color, and military veterans – have a path to a brighter economic future. Nationwide, the utilization of these workforce development provisions is on the rise because they are effective tools for maximizing the benefits of job creation strategies and creating prosperous career paths for the communities that need them most.

Among the key findings:

  • Of the 185 PLAs analyzed for the report, 97 percent incorporated one or more community workforce provisions – most often including goals for hiring local area residents and utilizing apprenticeship programs. 
  • 139 PLAs included Helmets-to-Hardhats provisions to promote the entry of veterans into the construction industry.
  • 103 PLAs included provisions to encourage hiring of women and minorities
  • 45 PLAs included provisions for employment and career opportunities for economically disadvantaged populations

One such agreement in New York City established a direct entry system for women, minorities, and low-income individuals to access apprenticeship training and employment opportunities under several government projects covered by PLAs. If the $105 billion dedicated to construction projects in President Obama’s jobs plan was spent on projects with CWAs identical to the New York City agreement, approximately 525,000 good jobs could be created—including 114,000 apprenticeships so workers could earn while they learned. And you could expect to see up to 70,000 workers of color fill those apprentice slots, along with thousands of women, veterans, and low-income residents.

» Download the report (PDF)

» Press Release

Maria Figueroa, Labor and Industry Research Director; Jeff Grabelsky, Construction Industry Program Director; and Ryan Lamare, Research Associate; Cornell University ILR School. October 2011.

Literature on Project Labor Agreements Print

An annotated bibliography of the existing research on PLAs, including their effect on labor costs, bidding price, and the number of bidders on a project.

 Download the full review.

Maria Figueroa and Jeffrey Grabelsky, Cornell University, Jan. 2011

Building Better: A Look at Best Practices for the Design of Project Labor Agreements Print

Project labor agreements (PLAs) are a type of contract used in the construction industry to set the terms and conditions of employment on large projects of long duration and design complexity. PLAs allow the expeditious resolution of disputes that can arise in the course of the project, thereby helping to ensure that the project is delivered on time and that quality standards are maintained. Recently, PLAs have begun to include provisions that seek to improve conditions on the worksite and provide benefits to the community by including jobs and training opportunities for disadvantaged workers and carve-outs for small or minority-owned businesses.

This report hopes to move the PLA discussion beyond a debate about whether PLAs are good or bad and toward a more constructive discussion regarding how to create PLAs that help deliver better projects for owners, contractors, workers, and communities. It explains how PLAs increase project efficiency, timeliness, and innovation; provides two case studies of PLA provisions and outcomes of employment of disadvantaged communities; and reviews safety and health provisions and best practices to demonstrate how PLAs can improve safety performance on construction sites. It also discusses how PLAs can improve dispute settlements, which may lead to potential cost savings.

» Summary

» Download the report (PDF)

Dale Belman, Michigan State University, and Matthew M. Bodadah, University of Rhode Island; Economic Policy Institute, Aug. 2010


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