Project Labor Agreement Reform On the Horizon

by Brent Sailhamer

A central Pennsylvania lawmaker is using a new position to take aim at project labor agreements, targeting publicly-funded projects that utilize union-only construction contracts.

Sen. Ryan Aument, first elected to the Senate in 2014, has championed ABC issues for years, first as a member of the state House of Representatives and now as a state Senator.  But throughout 2015, many bills have stalled in the Senate Labor & Industry Committee, including large-scale policy issues like right-to-work, Prevailing Wage reform, and State Apprenticeship Council reform. 

Earlier this year, Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) was elected to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, triggering his resignation from the state Senate and his full assignment of committees. Of those assignments was a spot on the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster).  To round out the committee, Senate President Pro Temp Joe Scarnati appointed Sen. Aument to fulfill Pileggi’s term.  Weeks after his appointment, Aument took a creative approach to combatting project labor agreements (PLAs).  “I plan to introduce legislation prohibiting discriminatory project labor agreements on school construction projects,” Aument said in a recent cosponsorship memo.  “The Department of Education (PDE) currently lists 58 school construction projects that have received Part H approval for funding under the Planning & Construction Workbook (PlanCon), with another 84 projects awaiting funding approval.  In all, these 142 projects represent hundreds of millions of dollars in public, taxpayer funding that will be dedicated to new school construction.  By ensuring that the bidding for those projects is as competitive and efficient as possible, we can not only reduce project costs and promote greater fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers that fund these projects.  In addition, under the act, it is an unlawful practice for a school district to consider the union/nonunion status of an employer’s workforce in its selection criterion for awarding a construction project.”

While there has been no commitment to run the bill in the near future, Aument’s bill already has several cosponsors and will be under review by the Senate Education Committee soon.