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Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC




S. 1597. A bill to preserve open competition and Federal Government neutrality towards the labor relations of Federal Government contractors on Federal and federally funded construction projects; to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I am pleased to introduce today a bill that would go a long way toward ensuring that Federal contracting remains a process of equal opportunity and open competition. Specifically, my legislation would prohibit the practice of attaching restrictive union-only project labor agreements, or PLAs, to Federal contracts.

In short, any contractor or subcontractor who is bidding on a construction project that includes a union-only PLA must agree to recognize unions as the representatives of the employees on that job; use the union hiring hall to obtain workers and apprentices; pay union wages and benefits; and follow the union's restrictive rules, job classifications, and arbitration procedures.

These restrictions would apply at the expense of a contractor's or subcontractor's usual team of workers. They would apply in States that may have low numbers of unionized construction workers, even if it meant denying jobs to local, in-State workers and required bringing in employees from out of State. Finally, the restrictions in a union-only PLA would apply even though only 13 percent of our private construction workforce belongs to a construction labor union, and therefore effectively locking out almost nine of every 10 able, qualified workers.

In my home State of Louisiana, just 7.4 percent of private construction workers belong to a construction labor union. Yet, for example, if union-only PLAs are attached to the Federal construction projects helping rebuild Louisiana after the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisianans will be locked out of this important rebuilding process, making it difficult to find work and earn a decent wage; the same jobs and wages that would enable Louisiana families to return to the hurricane-affected areas and rebuild their lives in these communities. Yet, instead of enabling local folks and businesses to come together and participate in their community's renewal, PLAs will ensure that these valuable jobs will go to just a select few, mostly out-of-State union workers. It is inexcusable that local Louisiana firms and their workers would be barred from freely bidding on construction projects in their own town or parish. And this is just one example of the harmful consequences associated with PLAs.

In sum, the Federal Government should not be in the business of taking taxpayers' money to fund projects that exclude more than four out of five workers, making these projects discriminatory, anticompetitive, and unnecessarily expensive. At the very least, taxpayers should be able to bid and work on projects that they are funding with their own hard-earned dollars. Construction workers should have the opportunity to work on projects that benefit their own communities regardless of their union affiliation. The Federal Government should maintain a neutral position and encourage full and open competition in the Federal contracting process.

Contracts should be awarded based on sound, commonsense criteria, such as quality of work, experience, and cost. Union affiliation has no place within the criteria for considering a contract bid. The best bid, by the most qualified contractor or subcontractor, should always be the winning bid.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation and to oppose attempts to attach union-only project labor agreements to Federal projects.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record


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