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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LaTOURETTE. Mr. Chairman, I hadn't planned on speaking on this amendment--there are plenty of other voices to do it--but I argued against this amendment in committee. I repeatedly argue against this amendment. I really don't know why we have to repeat this exercise, other than it won by one vote the other time, and we're going to correct that mistake tonight, I will tell you.

But the author of the amendment--the amendment is a wolf in sheep's clothing in that the gentleman offering the amendment isn't in favor of project labor agreements. As a matter of fact, all the people who have spoken----

Are you in favor of project labor agreements? I don't want to slight you if you are.

I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. FLAKE. Wherever they make sense, that's fine. I just don't want a finger on the scale either way.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. I hear you. And if that was true, the wording of your amendment would be----

Mr. DICKS. Will the gentleman yield just briefly on that point?

Mr. LaTOURETTE. I yield to the gentleman from Washington.

Mr. DICKS. Just briefly, the President doesn't require that they use a project labor agreement. He just suggests that they might be able to use it. That's pretty neutral.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. Reclaiming my time, well, let me say this. You know, I do agree with the gentleman from Arizona, which I very rarely do, that, in fact, under this administration, there's sort of a feeling that we should have PLAs, which I happen to think is a good thing into my part of the world. However, this language is almost identical to the Bartlett amendment that was in the defense authorization.

To my belief, this was written by the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Associated Builders and Contractors are not in favor of project labor agreements. Neither are most of the people, including Mr. Culberson. He's very proud of the fact that they don't have any unions in Texas. Well, we've got them in Ohio.

And I'll tell you, here's the difficulty with this and why this is a wolf in sheep's clothing. What the problem is is, if an agency determines that they want to proceed with a project labor agreement, this language prohibits them from doing it because it prohibits any contractor or subcontractor who may bid a piece of that job to be required to enter into a union contract. And that's the difficulty, because if the agency, independent, without any thumbs on the scale, says, You know what--well, I've got to tell you, CRS is wrong. CRS is flat-out wrong. They're a great organization. They're flat-out wrong.

But what this does is say that if the agency, and let's just take one that's in the news here in Washington, D.C. So the Metropolitan Airport Authority that controls the three airports in this area decides they want to do a project labor agreement, the board votes that way to do a project labor agreement on the silver line which is going out to Dulles Airport and it's covered by this bill, they cannot do a project labor agreement because this language isn't neutrality. This language says you can't have a project labor agreement because nobody, subcontractors can't be required to the terms and conditions that would be in a project labor agreement.

So make no mistake about it, CRS notwithstanding, this is to kill project labor agreements. And if you have that position, that's a great position. You can have that position. Mr. Culberson, I believe, has that position.


Mr. LaTOURETTE. He does. I know he does, and we've talked about this. And you know what? He can have that position.

But what you can't do is bring an amendment to the floor that pretends to do one thing and, in fact, does another.

If you don't want project labor agreements to even be considered, vote against Mr. Grimm's amendment. If you think that they should be in the mix, you need to vote for it.

Mr. CULBERSON. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. LaTOURETTE. I am happy to yield to my friend from Texas.

Mr. CULBERSON. Our point was that in right-to-work States where we have virtually no labor unions, we don't want contractors to be required to adopt prevailing wages or adopt union guidelines in order to bid on a contract. And in States like yours, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, you should be free to do so.

And I think the way, truly, if I may, the way the amendment is written, we have obviously a difference of opinion, but it is written very clearly that the government cannot require or prohibit contractors from adopting these PLAs, so it leaves it really up to the local VA to decide whether they're going to bid it out to a nonunion shop or a union shop, depending on the State. In your State, fine. In Texas, you know, we're a nonunion State.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. Let me take back my time and say that I think it's unfortunate that Texas doesn't feel they have to pay living wages for construction jobs. But beyond that, let me say that, if the language said that, we wouldn't be having this discussion. But the language doesn't say that.

So let's say the VA down in Texas makes a determination that they want to do a project in Texas under a project labor agreement. They can't do it. They can't do it under this language. They are deprived of doing it because, to have a project labor agreement, they would be forced to require the contractors and subcontractors to abide by the terms and conditions of that agreement. I'm telling you that that's what it says, JOHN, honest to gosh. There is a better way to write this. This wasn't written by friends of PLAs, and it needs to be passed.

The Acting CHAIR. The time of the gentleman has expired.

(By unanimous consent, Mr. LaTourette was allowed to proceed for 2 additional minutes.)

Mr. LaTOURETTE. I yield to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Culberson).

Mr. CULBERSON. I think we're headed in the same place, which is that you'd like to preserve the ability to hire union contractors in Ohio, New York, and New Jersey. We share that. I have no objection. Under the 10th Amendment, if that's what you guys want to do, God bless you.

So what I would ask is that perhaps we could postpone the consideration of this amendment briefly. Would you guys come up with some language to amend Mr. Flake's language to make it even clearer in your mind; so let New Jersey run New Jersey and New York run New York and Ohio run New York, and let Texans run Texas?

Mr. LaTOURETTE. We don't want Ohio to run New York. I think the gentleman misspoke.

Mr. CULBERSON. I want Ohio to run Ohio.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. We've got enough stuff going on in Ohio.

Mr. CULBERSON. Will you offer an amendment, because you're a very capable legislator, and may we postpone the consideration of this amendment briefly so that you could amend his language to let Texans run Texas and Arizona run Arizona and Ohio run Ohio?

Mr. LaTOURETTE. And you're a gifted orator.

A couple of things. One, I appreciate the gentleman's invitation, but I don't want to postpone the consideration of the amendment.

Mr. CULBERSON. We've got other work.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. There is going to be a rolled vote, I assume. You're not going to take extra real time.

Mr. CULBERSON. No, but we could fix this, though.

Let's fix this.

Mr. LaTOURETTE. There is going to be a rolled vote, and I will be happy to work with the gentleman; but we're going to stand on the Grimm amendment in case we can't come to some accomodation, which I hope we can, not written by the ABC.


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