This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) that would allow federal agencies to enter into “project labor agreements” (PLAs) for federal construction projects costing more than $25 million. (PLAs refer to collective bargaining agreements between labor organizations and contractors that establish the terms of employment for construction projects.) This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for military construction projects and veterans programs.
Specifically, President Obama had signed an executive order encouraging but not requiring federal agencies to enter into project labor agreements for all federal construction projects costing more than $25 million. The underlying military construction and veterans bill, however, included language that prohibited the use of federal funds for PLAs. LaTourette’s amendment would reverse that prohibition, and allow federal agencies to enter into project labor agreements.
LaTourette urged support for his amendment: “…Project labor agreements are those agreements wherein someone who is doing a construction project determines that they want to have an all-encompassing universal agreement that covers the construction from start to finish. If union labor is involved, it denies unions the ability to strike. It denies the contractor the ability to lock out. Wages are set. Terms are set. Conditions are set. And, quite frankly, the project labor agreements have been resounding successes….We hear a lot about these are tough times and we have to tighten our belts. I agree with that. I voted for that consistently. But that [prohibition on PLAs] is just union bashing. This [prohibition on PLAs] is just saying we don't want to know whether a project labor agreement can develop a project that is cheaper, of better quality, and under time.”
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) opposed the amendment: “A project labor agreement, under the [Obama administration’s] executive order's own definition, means a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations. So the Obama administration through this Executive order is attempting to unionize any private company in America that wants to do business with the federal government. That's just an outrage….This is just a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to impose union collective bargaining on any private company in America that wants to do business with the federal government. If indeed the idea were to reduce the costs, that's fine. We are in an era of austerity unlike anything this nation has ever experienced. We confront record debt, record deficit, record public debt held by foreign nations. This is unlike anything we have ever seen before.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 204-203. Voting “yea” were 177 Democrats and 27 Republicans. 202 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would allow federal agencies to enter into project labor agreements for federal construction projects costing more than $25 million. House Republicans, however, could attempt to pass a prohibition on PLAs in other, subsequent bills. At the time the House passed this amendment, President Obama’s executive order remained intact, and federal agencies were still permitted to enter into project labor agreements.