LILLY LEDBETTER FAIR PAY ACT OF 2009--Continued -- (Senate - January 22, 2009)
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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, this is my amendment, No. 34 the Government neutrality in contracting amendment. It is very simple; it is very straight forward. It would provide true equal opportunity and open competition in national contracting.
Congress has a duty to ensure that infrastructure projects paid for by taxpayers are free from favoritism, and these interests would not be served if Congress were to require union-only Project Labor Agreements or PLAs for construction projects in the 111th Congress.
According to a January 2008 report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13.9 percent of America's private construction work force belongs to a labor union. So this means that union-only PLAs discriminate against well over 8 out of 10 construction workers in America who would otherwise be able to work on those projects.
Given the debate on the current legislation, I believe this amendment is particularly important for the following reasons: Minorities are part icularly negatively impacted by union-only PLAs. This discrimination is harmful to women and minority-owned construction businesses whose workers have traditionally been underrepresented in unions, mainly due to artificial and societal barriers to union apprenticeship and training programs.
Requirements under a PLA can be so burdensome that many women and minority-owned businesses are deterred from even bidding on construction projects. A PLA could force these employers to have to abandon their own empl oyees in favor of union workers, to pay into union and pension health plans, even if they already have their own plans.
Not being able to bid on a public project because of a PLA is very detrimental to small disadvantaged companies who rely on these contracts for much of their growth.
Again, this amendment would provide equal opportunity and open competition in Federal contracting. It would codify the status quo right now, which is to bar Federal agencies from requiring union-only PLAs on Federal co nstruction projects. This sort of equal opportunity nondiscrimination is important and certainly is consistent with the spirit of this underlying bill.
Let me also mention in closing that this amendment has the full support of many national groups such as Associated Builders and Contractors, The Associated General Contractors of America, the National Association of Minority Contractors, Independent Electrical Contractors, the National Association of Disadvantaged Businesses, the National Black Chamber o f Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, Women Construction Owners and Executives, and others.
I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter making clear that support from a broad-based group of organizations.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, let me again underscore that it has been clearly demonstrated that project labor agreements, union-only project labor agreements, do hurt women and minorities and also hurt women- and minority-owned businesses. They are often shut out or disadvantaged through those agreements because of historical factors. That is one rea son, among many, why all of those organizations I cited, including organizations representing minority- and women-owned businesses, strongly support my stand-alone bill and strongly support my amendment.
In addition, the distinguished Senator from Maryland talked about cost. PLAs do impact cost. They push up cost. If they make cost reliable, they only make them reliably high. A good example is the $2.4 billion project right here to replace the Wilson Bridge between suburban Maryland and Virginia. When a union-only PLA requirement was pushed by former Maryland Governor Glendening, that threw a wrench into the project and drove costs up 78 percent. After that, President Bush issued an Executive order to do away with those PLAs, and phase 1 of the bridge project was rebid. Multiple bids were received, and the winning bids came in significantly below engineering estimates. Today, with that rule against the PLA requirement, the project is almost complete and substantially under budget. I have example after exa mple such as that, where union-only PLAs do jack up the cost to the taxpayer.
In addition, since we are talking about discrimination issues, PLAs do cut out and harm and put at a disadvantage many women and minorities, certainly including women- and minority-owned businesses.
With that, I urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment.
I yield back the remainder of my time.
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