A brief history of Project Labor Agreements in Clark County

Victor Joecks

Mike Chamberlin with the Nevada Business Coalition wrote a really terrific explanation of Project Labor Agreements this morning on the NBC blog.

And why should something as bland-sounding as a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) matter to you? Because, as the Right to Work Foundation notes, those PLA’s can cost you and I, as taxpayers, millions of dollars.

A project labor agreement requires all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, to subject themselves and their employees to unionization in order to work on a government-funded construction project. This is done by including a union collective bargaining agreement in a public construction project’s bid specifications. In order to receive a contract, a contractor must sign the agreement and subject its employees to union control. …

The use of a project labor agreement usually results in cost overruns and higher construction costs for taxpayers. Qualified non-union contractors who wish to make lower-cost bids, and employees who wish to work non-union, are locked out of the project. However, politicians and government officials continue to impose project labor agreements to reward the union officials that fund their political campaigns and keep them in power.

As Chamberlin describes, this is exactly what the Clark County Commission is trying to do.

The unions’ only hope remaining was to use their political influence to force contractors to use union workers on public works projects. In 2009, a few months after unions spent more than $200,000 on just the four winning candidates in Clark County Commission races, the Commission took up a proposal to impose a PLA on every County construction project.

Only through the action of groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors, which were able to quickly mobilize a strong showing of opposition, was this attempt to impose the will of unions on the public stopped.

But that didn’t stop the unions, or their favorite politicians. Rather than a blanket PLA, they’ve been working on imposing PLA’s on individual projects, with the same ultimate effect.

There’s a lot more good information at the NBC blog, so read the whole thing.