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Forty-three GOP senators on Monday pushed back on President Biden's executive order to require collective bargaining agreements between contractors and workers for federal construction projects.
In a letter to Biden led by Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), lawmakers said the order, which requires project labor agreements (PLA) for federal construction contracts exceeding $35 million, would hurt the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed last year. They noted that 87 percent of the private construction industry is not unionized.
"Mandating PLAs will prevent qualified contractors from fairly competing for contracts on taxpayer-funded projects," the senators wrote. "A fair and open bidding process for federal construction projects would guarantee the best value for hardworking taxpayers located in all geographies and regions across the United States."
Biden signed the order last month at the Ironworkers Local 5, located in Upper Marlboro, Md. He said that it would boost wages and working conditions for construction workers and increase the overall quality of federal projects.
"[PLAs] ensure that major projects are handled by well-trained, well-prepared, highly-skilled workers, and they ward off problems," Biden said. "They resolve disputes ahead of time, ensuring safer work sites, avoiding disruptions and work stoppages that can cause expensive delays down the line."
GOP senators on Monday noted President Obama signed an order to encourage - but not mandate - PLAs for federal construction contracts exceeding $25 million, and federal agencies only opted to use PLAs for a small number of projects.
The Republican lawmakers are in lockstep with construction lobbying groups that represent non-union contractors, including the Associated Builders and Contractors, which announced its opposition to Biden's order last month. Both argue that existing federal laws do enough to ensure high wages and quality projects without the need for required PLAs.