Construction workers walk on scaffolding at US Capitol

Construction workers walk on scaffolding surrounding the U.S. Capitol Building on October 16, 2023 in Washington, DC.

(Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Biden Rule Mandates Collective Bargaining for Major Federal Building Projects

"The labor movement is putting high-wage, high-road labor standards into action and workers are rebuilding America, union strong," said the AFL-CIO.

About 200,000 U.S. construction workers will benefit from new collective bargaining requirements announced by President Joe Biden and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su on Monday, as the administration unveiled a final rule implementing an executive order that was introduced last year.

Under the new rule, federal agencies will be required to enact project labor agreements (PLAs) for large-scale federal construction projects that cost $35 million or more.

The General Services Administration (GSA) officially has amended federal regulations under Executive Order 14063, and the new rule will go into effect 30 days from this coming Friday, when it is set to be published in the Federal Register.

With the PLA requirement in place, contractors, subcontractors, and unions will have to negotiate set terms for project construction, giving nearly 200,000 construction workers collectively bargained wages, benefits, and safety protections, regardless of their union membership status.

"In President Biden's America," said Su on Monday, "'union' is not a bad word. It's the reason America is strong."

Biden said that under the new rule, projects funded by his Investing in America jobs plan "will move faster and without delays."

"Workers will have the security and peace of mind that collectively bargained wages and benefits bring, better pathways to good-paying jobs, and stronger health and safety protections," said the president.

The announcement was made Monday at the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Building in Cleveland, Ohio, where the GSA is working to modernize the building to ensure veterans can receive support services.

"Contractors and unions at this site have entered into a PLA that helps the parties address the unique coordination challenges posed by large projects," said the White House in a fact sheet about the new rule. "The PLA covering the Celebrezze Federal Building project also supports equitable workforce development pathways into the trades and registered apprenticeship."

Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions, said the new rule "is welcome news for the responsible use of taxpayer dollars" and the protection of workers who help complete federal projects.

"Project labor agreements ensure that large-scale projects are completed on time, with the highest quality, efficiency, and safety," said McGarvey. "Time and again, PLAs have proven to address labor supply issues, prevent work stoppages, protect workers' classification, strengthen health and safety standards, and achieve substantial, direct cost savings by standardizing contract terms for highly skilled craft workers."

"PLAs also boost community economies through local hiring goals and recruitment of workers into apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship job training programs," McGarvey added, "that uplift historically marginalized communities into middle-class construction careers."

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