Problem Language for Open (non-union) Shops in PLA


As typically drafted, open shop firms cannot comply with many terms of a project labor agreement (PLA), and therefore, many of them drop out of the bidding process. This limits the number of contractors bidding on a project, and decreases the value that could be achieved on publicly funded projects.

In a review of over 25 Connecticut PLAs, all of them proved to be problematic -- so much so that even contractors, who tend to embrace risk, are forced to forgo bidding on those projects.

To illustrate the exact issues with PLAs, we are referencing a 2010 PLA drafted by the Greater Hartford-New Britain Building and Construction Trades Council. It is a very typical PLA. Here are details of 13 of the most problematic sections for open shop companies.

Article 1, Section 1.3 requires all contractors to sign onto the Appendices and union Labor Rate Schedules. The language in the Schedules is problematic for open shop firms.

Section 2.1 this provision requires each employer to recognize the Union Council and its affiliated local unions as the exclusive bargaining representative. This basically unionizes the firm for the project.

Section 3.1 requires firms bidding on a project to have union association. It is unfair to require that all firms must to join the union in order to work on the project. This is the single biggest challenge for a non-union firm on a PLA.

Section 3.10 This Section mandates unions resolve human resource issues. Open shop firms would not need or want the unions resolving any of their HR issues.

Section 5.5 requires adherence to union work rules for the project. Open shop firms use more cross training in their work practices, this allows workers to learn a number of different trades and work to be completed more efficiently. Contractors in the open shop market establish their own work practices, standards, and rules within the guidelines of federal, state and local laws. This section would require all open shop firms to meet inefficient union work practices in order to work on the project.

Section 6.1 requires all new hires to come from union hiring halls. This limits all employees to unions and is an example of one of the larger challenges to the open shop and PLAs.

Sections within Article 7 cover work hours, and problematic requirements such as granting unions the authority to approve overtime for all workers on the job. This presents a challenge for a nonunion company, who would need union permission before their employees are allowed to work overtime.

Section 10.3 of Article 9 This language is extremely problematic. It requires open shop firms to pay into union health and benefits funds from which their employees will never see benefits unless they become vested in the union plans. So, on top of paying the health insurance, 401K benefits and other employee benefits that they already provide to their employees, under this contract employers would also have to pay up to $26.85 per hour into the various union funds that nonunion workers have no hope of getting back as benefits.

Article 10 requires each trade to participate in an apprenticeship program. Many open shop firms use apprenticeship training, but others use craft specific training not covered by this contract language. Under the wording of this section, nonunion shops would not qualify to bid on PLA projects and this would prevent many qualified, competent firms from competing for the project.

Article 13 Section 14.1 of Article 13 This Section requires all employees on the job to be in good standing with the union. This, of course, is the heart of why the open shop firms can't bid PLAs. Their employees are not part of the union.

Article 14 This section dictates how to resolve union jurisdictional disputes regarding which union should perform certain tasks. Open shop firms don't encounter those issues. They use a team approach and cross train employees. This is a key difference between how open shop and union shop firms differ. This section would prevent open shop firms from working and bidding with their established structure and makes it very difficult to develop accurate labor estimates.

Article 15 allows union’s access to the project working during work hours, allows union working stewards and protects the stewards from layoffs.

Section 19.4 requires an employee to notify the union if a jobsite condition is unsafe instead of OSHA.