Biden-Harris administration finalizes executive order requiring PLAs on large federal projects

May 16, 2024

On December 18, 2023, the Biden-Harris administration announced regulations that will implement President Biden’s executive order requiring project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects costing $35 million or more. The executive order is expected to create jobs for SMART members and provide life-changing pay and benefits to workers nationwide.

Local 33 journeyperson Tori Wilson (center, holding sign) with Secretary Julie Su and fellow tradeswomen

“The finalizing of President Biden’s executive order requiring project labor agreements on large-scale federal projects is a lifechanging win for union members and construction workers across the country,” SMART General President Michael Coleman said in response. “PLAs have been lifting working families into the middle class for generations — extending union-won, family-sustaining pay and benefits to local communities while bringing complex jobs to completion on time (and saving taxpayers’ money).”

The regulations and finalization of the executive order — initially signed in 2022 — were unveiled during an event in Cleveland, Ohio, where Local 33 members took center stage alongside Acting United States Labor Secretary Julie Su, General Services Administration Administrator Robin Carnahan, Congresswoman Shontel Brown and others. Local 33 journeyperson and owner of signatory contractor WTD Mechanical Fatima Ware introduced Secretary Su at the event.

“Project labor agreements employ highly skilled workers,” Su said in her remarks. “Contractors, subcontractors and unions know what they’re getting into from the outset. And these agreements help guarantee a consistent supply of well-trained workers. All of that helps ensure the work gets done right — and it prevents delays and disruptions. So this new rule is going to save taxpayer money.”

In a video shared to social media after the event, Su and Local 33’s Ware discussed the importance of PLAs — for workers and contractors alike.

“PLAs help because of the amount of money you pay your workers, right?” Ware said. “If there’s no PLA in place and you get a contractor that doesn’t have union workers, then they may be paying their workers $10, $15 an hour, maybe $20–30, and what skill level are you getting?

“You know that if you are going through the union, you are getting skilled workers that have craftsmanship, quality, and the knowledge and education to be able to complete a project on time, on task, the right way.”

Secretary Su converses with union tradeswomen

The finalizing of the executive order comes on the heels of a string of PLAs won by local unions spanning the nation, from San Diego, California, to Baltimore, Maryland. As federal funding is funneled towards improving government facilities, infrastructure and more, the presence of PLAs on complex projects will be especially vital.

“SMART applauds the Biden- Harris administration for fulfilling its promise to our members, and for prioritizing the working men and women who are building our nation,” Coleman concluded. “We look forward to taking on the core infrastructure projects of the future.”