February 15, 2019

What are PLAs?


A Project Labor Agreement (PLA), also sometimes called a Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA), is a type of contract. The contract is between the owner or managing entity of a construction project or a collection of associated projects, and a set of labor unions. Both parties use PLAs to established predictable and agreeable terms regarding labor/management issues and to resolve any labor disputes without needing to resort to labor strikes and employer lock-outs.2


The difference between a PLA and traditional collective bargaining agreements is that the collective bargaining agreements are between individual craft unions and contractors/contractor organizations, while a PLA is a collective bargaining agreement between a consortium of different craft unions and the owner/managing entity of a project. The PLA’s inclusion of the project owner in the agreement and not the individual contractors who will bid for the project owner’s work is one of the most significant differences. This way, the owner and the consortium of unions will negotiate the PLA, and any contractor/subcontractor that works on projects that are under the jurisdiction of the PLA will become signatories to the PLA and will be bound by all of its policies. The value of this type of agreement, especially on large complicated projects that involve many different types of construction craft unions, is that it helps to streamline and standardize expectations, logistics, wages & benefits, policies, and processes for all labor issues instead of having individual agreements that may create confusion and slow down efficiency.3


Project Labor Agreements have existed in the United States for decades, with the first PLA for the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. The construction for the Grand Coulee Dam started in 1933 and it remains the largest cement structure ever built.4 Far from being a tool just for public works projects, however, Both publicly funded projects and private construction projects use PLAs. As a matter of fact, a 2001 study done of 82 PLAs in California found that 72% of the projects studied were private.5 PLAs can also be used for large or small projects, in urban or rural settings, and on highly technical projects as well as standard construction projects.6


Since PLAs can be used in so many different types on settings on different types of projects, the PLAs themselves are also very different from each other. However, there are two main characteristics that all PLAs have in common. First, there is a “no-strike” clause that lasts for the length of the contract and an agreed-upon arbitration process that is used to handle disputes instead. This provides the project owner/managing entity with predictable work cycles, rates, and timelines, therefore greatly reducing the project risks and costs. Second, all PLAs are voluntary agreements between the owners and the unions, so there is always a negotiation process that precedes a PLA where the parties meet to determine common interests and PLA components.7


Another significant characteristic of many PLAs is the existence of a targeted community workforce policy, which are diversity goals or local hiring goals to increase employment of historically under-represented groups, namely women, people of color, veterans, and others.8 Some PLAs contain language regarding targeted percentages of under-represented workers and small/disadvantaged business enterprises (S/DBEs), while others contain language regarding the zip codes or neighborhoods from which these workers/businesses should come from. Many refer to this as the Community Workforce Agreement (CWA) components of a PLA. These characteristics are not common to all PLAs, but they are often the ones that community groups and public agencies cite as some of the most attractive aspects of PLAs.


2 Philips, Peter. “Construction Careers for Our Communities.” UCLA Labor Center. 2008.

3 Belman, Dale and Bodah, Matthew M. “Building Better: A Look at Best Practices for the Design of Project Labor

Agreements.” Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #274. August 2010.

4 Garland, Liam and Suafai, Susie. “Getting to the Table: A Project Labor Agreement Primer” National Economic

Development and Law Center. 2002.

5 Philips, Peter. “Construction Careers for Our Communities.” UCLA Labor Center. 2008.

6 Dunlop, John T. “Project Labor Agreements.” Joint Center for Housing Studies. Harvard University. 2002

7 Philips, Peter. “Construction Careers for Our Communities.” UCLA Labor Center. 2008.

8 Belman, Dale and Bodah, Matthew M. “Building Better: A Look at Best Practices for the Design of Project Labor

Agreements.” Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #274. August 2010.

9 Garland, Liam and Suafai, Susie. “Getting to the Table: A Project Labor Agreement Primer” National Economic

Development and Law Center. 2002.


Dec 07, 2011

Dec 07, 2011

This is from the last page of the study.



The Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), which represents nonunion contractors, has long opposed Project Labor Agreements. Directly addressing the ABC, a litigant in the Boston Harbor case, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear that


…those contractors who do not normally enter into such agreements [PLAs] are faced with a choice. They may alter their usual mode of operation to secure the business opportunity at hand, or seek business from purchasers whose perceived needs do not include a project labor agreement.


The New York Court of Appeals later echoed the U.S. Supreme Court. Answering charges that PLAs are “anti-competitive” – meaning that they unfairly favor the union sector and cut into the business of open shop contractors – the Court of Appeals stated:


The fact that certain non-union contractors may be disinclined to submit bids does not amount to the preclusion of competition…


The ABC has chosen not to accept these court endorsed marketplace rules. It has instead conducted a relentless misinformation campaign designed to confuse the general public and government officials about the actual nature and purpose of Project Labor Agreements. The ABC hopes to bring about an ill-conceived retreat from the sound public policy that PLAs represent. No one should be confused. When public entities enter the marketplace as owners, users, and/or purchasers of construction services, they have a responsibility to protect and promote the public interest by spending funds wisely, judiciously

and efficiently. Project Labor Agreements are a vital instrument to fulfill that responsibility.


Dec 07, 2011

LAUSD Construction Projects Create Huge Benefit for Small Businesses

48% of LAUSD Construction Dollars Went to Small and Disadvantaged Businesses

Hi all,


We are pleased to release a new report, Project Labor Agreements: Pathways to Business Ownership and Workforce Development in Los Angeles.  California Construction Academy at the UCLA Labor Center evaluated construction projects under Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) (2003-2011).  Our research found that LAUSD's construction projects had remarkable outcomes for small business contractors.


Some key findings:

·  48% of construction project dollars went to small and disadvantaged businesses, far surpassing LAUSD’s 25% goal. 

·  Out of a total of $8.68 billion that LAUSD spent on construction projects, $4.15 billion went to small and disadvantaged businesses.

·  Out of 496 total prime contractors, 219 prime contractors were small business enterprises (SBEs). 1,194 subcontractors were SBEs out of 4,773 total subcontractors.

·  These projects also created large numbers of local jobs with family sustaining wages and benefits.  Construction projects under the LAUSD PSA employed a total of 96,000 workers who gained an aggregate of $1.46 billion in wages. 41% of these workers live in target zip codes local to LAUSD districts, and 68% of these workers live in Los Angeles County.

Feel free to contact us with questions and media inquiries at 213-375-4841.


Daniel Villao
Statewide Director
California Construction Academy
UCLA Downtown Labor Center

Page Last Updated: Dec 07, 2011 (14:23:46)
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