The below post was cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Labor blog. See the original post here.
In my line of work, it’s important to make house calls. More often than not, good ideas come to Washington, rather than from Washington. But this week, I was able to bring what I learned in Washington state to an important discussion in Washington, D.C., when I sat down with stakeholders and partners to discuss the benefits of Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs, in large-scale federal construction projects.
PLAs are used to negotiate a contract between project managers and labor unions before workers are hired for a job. They foster labor-management stability and they ensure compliance with worker protection laws. We have known for years that PLAs are a good model. That’s why President Obama signed an executive order encouraging agencies to require PLAs during his first month in office. He understood that PLAs promote economy and efficiency in contracting.
Last year, I got to see a PLA in action in Bremerton, Washington, when I traveled to Naval Base Kitsap with Representative Derek Kilmer. The Bangor Explosive Handling Wharf at the naval base was the first time the U.S. Department of Defense used a PLA, but I suspect it won’t be the last – the project came in significantly under budget. I saw firsthand how the PLA helped hundreds of local construction workers punch their ticket to the middle class. PLAs can also spur the growth of apprenticeships, which President Obama and I believe are one of the best ways to train and build a first-class workforce.
On Monday in Washington, D.C., I met with colleagues from the administration, members of Congress, business leaders and labor representatives to discuss PLAs. I told them what I saw in Washington state, and they each shared their experiences with other successful PLAs. It was further proof that PLAs are good for taxpayers and for workers, but importantly, we also heard helpful feedback on ongoing challenges and where we need to do more. We reaffirmed our commitment to encouraging agencies to utilize PLAs in federal projects.
It’s simple: PLAs help provide a good return on investment for the American people. When we ensure the people building our nation’s infrastructure have a voice on the job, and when we make sure the jobs they do on our behalf are good jobs that pay family-sustaining wages, we know we’re spending our dollars wisely.
I thank Representatives Kilmer, Rice and Norcross, and Senator Murray for playing such an important role in this conversation. We must continue this dialogue across this country –from Washington, D.C. to Washington state and everywhere in between.