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Project Labor Agreements Create a More Inclusive Workforce
Lou Coletti

A recent opinion piece by a representative from the Associated Builders and Contractors claimed that economically disadvantaged New Yorkers, particularly people of color, will not benefit from the project labor agreements Mayor Bill de Blasio signed weeks ago. The author must take lessons from President Donald Trump in distorting facts.

The author’s assertion that project labor agreements leave open-shop workers in the cold is totally off base. All labor agreement projects can be bid both by union and nonunion contractors. If a nonunion contractor is the lowest responsible bidder, it is awarded the contract and signs a labor agreement for that specific project. Even so, all city construction projects pay workers prevailing wages whether they are union or nonunion. For the association’s nonunion workforce, working under a labor agreement means a raise over their usual pay.

The author does not seem to understand that one of the primary functions of project labor agreements is to open pathways for local residents into apprenticeships, which lead to careers in the trades.

The PLA the mayor just signed provides some of the strongest provisions in this regard while also creating greater opportunities for minority- and woman-owned firms to win jobs, grow and succeed.

Project labor agreements also lead to cost savings—which in this economic environment is more important than ever.

But the author failed to acknowledge those truths and conveniently neglected to include data in his opinion piece to back up his phony assertions. I challenge him to offer facts and not a bunch of undocumented generalities about what Associated Builders and Contractors members are doing for New York City. But I am not holding out hope.

I should point out that data show nonunion contractors are far less safe for their workers. According to the Department of Buildings, 83% of all fatalities during the past five years occurred on nonunion construction sites and 81% of all accidents occurred on nonunion sites. Almost two-thirds of all stop-work orders occurred on nonunion sites, and 64% of accident-related violations were issued to nonunion contractors. Rather than advocate against initiatives that will expand career opportunities for New Yorkers, perhaps the Association of Builders and Contractors should work on keeping people safe on the job.

Two things we can agree on are that construction is the path to the middle class and that equality and opportunity are important values the city should pursue. But I challenge the Associated Builders and Contractors to show us the facts about how their contractors are contributing to these goals and providing opportunities for the city’s women and residents of color.

De Blasio deserves our thanks for signing PLAs and taking meaningful steps toward a more inclusive construction workforce.

Lou Coletti is president and chief executive of the Building Trades Employers Association, which represents 26 contractor groups and 1,200 contractors doing $60 billion of construction in the city.

Crain's New York, https://www.crainsnewyork.com/op-ed/project-labor-agreements-create-more-inclusive-workforce

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