U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said that the Department of Labor (DOL) has officially changed course and today formally lifted its Project Labor Agreement (PLA) requirement for the construction of the long-planned Manchester Job Corps Center. Despite widespread opposition from many of New Hampshire's non-union contractors, the Obama administration continued its push to put in place a PLA for the proposed Manchester facility - which would give out-of-state union shops an advantage over non-union New Hampshire contractors in the bidding process.
Ayotte has repeatedly urged the administration to drop the onerous federal PLA requirement. In June, when DOL withdrew its second attempt to force a PLA on the Job Corps Center, Ayotte called on the department to officially reissue the solicitation without a PLA - which it did today. The original solicitation for the Job Corps Center was issued in October 2009.
"Federal rules shouldn't force local workers to sit on the sidelines. Removing this requirement will help level the playing field for New Hampshire contractors who want to bid for the work," said Senator Ayotte.
"This news means open competition for all qualified contractors," said Mark Holden, President, Associated Builders and Contractors NH/VT. "It's also an opportunity for New Hampshire contractors and their employees to compete for and work on a project that is right here in their state."
When a PLA requires contractors to hire workers through a union hiring hall, contractors may not be able to use their own workers. To satisfy the PLA, a non-union contractor's workers would have to join a union and pay union dues. If a contractor has to pay into a union pension plan, employees may not be on the project long enough to vest in the plan. Under such an agreement, New Hampshire's non-union contractors would likely be discouraged from bidding on the Job Corps Center.
Senator Ayotte raised concerns about the PLA in summer 2011, noting that a PLA has the potential to drive up the overall cost of construction. She wrote to the president in February in opposition to the PLA mandate, conveying her concerns that the directive favors out-of-state unionized contractors, rather than New Hampshire companies that employ non-union Granite State workers. And at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in April, Senator Ayotte questioned Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates about the PLA requirement - expressing her understanding that only three companies bid on the work, all from out of state.
An Executive Order issued in 2009 by President Obama encouraged federal agencies to consider requiring the use of PLAs on large-scale construction projects. In November 2009, DOL canceled its original solicitation for the Manchester Job Corps Center after a New Hampshire contractor challenged the PLA requirement.
DOL included a PLA requirement when it reissued the solicitation for the Manchester Job Corps Center in January of 2012. Subsequently, in March, DOL announced that a bid protest against the PLA mandate had been filed with the Government Accountability Office. In June 2012, DOL indicated that it was withdrawing the PLA for the Manchester project. Today, DOL reissued the solicitation without a PLA.