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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WALBERG. I thank the gentleman from Arizona, and I thank him for his amendment. I support it, but I respectfully do not support the Grimm amendment.

I'm from Michigan. Michigan takes no backseat in this country to union labor. It is the returning auto capital of the world. It's a proud union State, and there is a proud, solid union workforce in Michigan. Just this past summer, the State legislature, in majority with the Governor's concurring and signing, signed into law a prohibition against the mandatory requirement of PLAs in government contracts. The State of Michigan, with its 10th Amendment responsibilities, did that.

Now, unlike what took place under the past Bush administration, as the gentleman from Arizona correctly pointed out, the Federal appellate court ruled in favor of doing away with the mandate and leaving neutrality there. That's all the provision of this section 517 does. It simply restores the neutrality. That's all we're asking: that when PLAs make sense and ultimately bring about a better project and an outcome, fine; but when they don't, for whatever reason that is, there should be no mandate, and there ought to be the opportunity within these contracts and within a State like Michigan to make a decision not to go with a PLA if that's the best outcome or result.

Again, this provision in the bill does not prohibit PLAs. It is neutrality. Studies have found that PLA mandates increase the cost of construction between 12 percent and 18 percent compared to non-PLA projects subject to prevailing wage laws. That's a decisionmaking process. That's a point that ought to be considered. It doesn't do away with PLAs, but it says it ought to be considered in the cost. Shouldn't taxpayers have that consideration? Shouldn't quality have that consideration?

PLA mandates typically restrict jobs to construction workers referred from union hiring halls, effectively shutting out in Michigan and other places 86 percent of the Nation's construction workforce. I don't think that's right. However, if it's necessary to have the union workforce with a PLA agreement and it will work better and be more efficient--contrary to these studies--if that's the case, then this provision in the act does not do anything except allow neutrality.

Mr. Chairman, that's what we're asking for, to continue what this Congress put in place by a vote last week in saying we believe that PLAs are good sometimes, may not be as good other times, and there ought to be neutrality and an opportunity for decisionmaking on the local level, at the State level, at the contract-construction level that meets the best of abilities. Federal agencies should not mandate that contractors enter into project labor agreements as a condition of winning Federal contracts.

Again, we're looking at nearly $16 trillion in debt. And when our construction industry still suffers--and I can tell you that's the case in Michigan in my district--from a 14 1/2 percent unemployment rate, we in Congress should not be tying the hands of taxpayers and construction workers by making requirements--with the thumb of the President of the United States on the scale--that really disregard the will and the opportunity of States like Michigan to make their own decisions here.

I thank the Chair for this opportunity, and I yield back.


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