U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced today that Eckman Construction Company of Bedford has been awarded a competitive Department of Labor contract to build a long-delayed federal Job Corps Center in Manchester.
The original solicitation for the Job Corps Center was issued in September 2009, but several New Hampshire contractors protested an Obama administration labor policy encouraging the use of a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for construction of the 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, which it did last fall.
"My priority has been to ensure that a New Hampshire company could compete for this work on a level playing field. By removing an onerous federal requirement from this project, a local contractor has been able to successfully submit the most competitive bid," said Senator Ayotte. "Federal government-mandated PLAs needlessly increase construction costs and limit competition, and I am pleased that its removal in this case helped clear the way for a New Hampshire company."
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 2012 in opposition to the PLA mandate, conveying her concerns that the directive favors out-of-state unionized contractors, rather than New Hampshire companies that mostly employ non-union Granite State workers.
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.
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 2012, 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. In October 2012, DOL reissued the solicitation without a PLA.