Project labor agreements make sense for everyone: David Wondolowski and Matthew A. Szollosi (Opinion)

By Guest Columnist
on September 09, 2015 at 3:29 PM


Recently, Baylor Myers, director of the ultra-conservative Americans for Prosperity group, in an op-ed for the Cleveland-area Sun newspapers, called for passage in Ohio of legislation that would effectively prohibit public-sector project labor agreements. His proposal, and the reasoning for it, demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the construction industry.

In the course of governmental efficiency arguments at all levels, we often hear “government needs to operate more like a business!” Project labor agreements have been commonly used in the private sector as a means of project delivery for decades.

Yet, in this instance, proponents in Ohio — who earlier this year were unsuccessful in prohibiting PLAs but added a provision to the state budget, House Bill 64, that requires a public hearing by state agencies whenever PLAs are contemplated — seek to take a proven, successful tool off the table for all public authorities and all state agencies.

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Productive, High-Skilled, and Well-Paid

March 1, 2015

Road and Bridge Construction Workers in the Midwest was co-authored by Frank Manzo, Policy Director of the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, and Professor Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations.  It  looks at the economic and construction-related benefits of skilled workers in the Great Lakes region, which the study defined as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Executive Summary

Construction workers who specialize in road and bridge infrastructure projects are productive, high-skilled, and well-paid in America’s “Great Lakes” region- which comprises Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Employment in construction jobs is expected to increase by 21.4 percent over the next decade, the second-fastest growing occupation. The majority of these new employment opportunities will require the completion of a three- to five-year apprenticeship program.
  • In 2013, three out of every five new construction jobs in the Great Lakes region were filled by a candidate with an associate’s or apprenticeship degree.
  •  Road and bridge construction workers each produce an average of $155,100 in economic value for the Great Lakes region, second only to their counterparts in the Far West states ($162,461 per worker). Wisconsin’s street, highway, and bridge construction workers were the most productive in the Great Lakes region, annually contributing an average of $184,592 to the economy.
  •  Construction workers in the Great Lakes region build highways in a cost-effective manner, constructing each lane-mile up to 43 percent cheaper than the national average.
  • The apprenticeship share- the ratio of active apprentices to total workers in construction occupations- is higher in states with a prevailing wage law (7.7 percent) than in states without a prevailing wage law (5.4 percent). Additionally, 10 percentage-point increase in a state’s construction industry unionization rate is associated with a 3.2 percentage-point average increase in its apprenticeship share.

Construction workers across the Great Lakes region are well-compensated and can support a middle-class family. Road and bridge construction workers receive significant training in the Great Lakes states and, in turn, translate their increased human capital into higher levels of productivity for employers. Unfortunately, there are threats across the Midwest to weaken the institutions that are statistically correlated with increased worker efficiency, including prevailing wage laws and trades unions. If the Great Lakes region is to remain one of the nation’s leaders in worker productivity on public construction projects, these institutions must be both defended and strengthened.

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HUD Tells Canton to Make Up Prevailing Wage Difference

If you’re a construction worker who helped build Goodwill’s Canton campus in 2009, you may be getting a small check from the city.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is forcing the city of Canton to pay $31,000 in wages to some workers who built Goodwill’s campus at 408 Ninth St. SW.
HUD, in an audit of the city’s federal spending of Community Development Block Grant funds, found that the city never enforced a requirement that construction workers be paid the prevailing wage. The prevailing wage is the hourly wage, plus overtime and benefits, paid to a majority of workers in a particular area. It is set by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Benefits of Lorain High School PLA start with bids 6% lower than estimates

You may recall last month’s ACT Ohio progress report where I detailed how the North Central Building Trades Council (“NCBT”), working in partnership with ACT Ohio, initiated suit to enforce the Project Labor Agreement on the $62 million Lorain High School project.

A favorable ruling by the judge overseeing the case on our request for injunctive relief led to positive negotiations with the Attorney General’s Office and significant discussion with the Kasich Administration. The result was a settlement agreement that allowed the PLA to stand for the project.

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