Article Date: 07/26/2013

Will Construction Labor Representatives Challenge North Carolina’s New Government Contracts Law?

By Steve Rizer


Should state government entities be prohibited from compelling contractors to sign agreements with labor unions as a condition of performing work on public construction projects? North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) believes so, signing a bill (H.B. 110) to this effect last week. But will the new law (Session Law 2013-267) hold up?


In pursuit of an answer to this question, ConstructionPro Week (CPW) asked Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO spokesperson Tom Owens, “What options (such as litigation or supporting new legislation), if any, might your organization pursue to overturn Session Law 2013-267?”


“Possible litigation” could be in the offing, Owens said. “We have been successful in overturning similar laws in other states.”


Owens reported that his organization is “displeased that lawmakers in [North Carolina] and other states have bought into the misleading and non-factual arguments put forth by opponents of PLAs [project labor agreements]…. It simply makes sense for all states and the federal government to have at their disposal any and all tools that would benefit construction procurement, including PLAs.”


Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC) is singing a different tune.


“This new law will ensure that public construction contracts will be awarded to firms that provide taxpayers the best construction at the best price,” ABC Carolinas Chapter President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Carlson said. “There is no question that construction labor union bosses in other states are using these types of mandates to steer public construction projects to contractors who are willing to accept their onerous demands, and this new law will protect North Carolina taxpayers from this kind of abuse.”


ABC believes the new law will “protect taxpayers and the vast majority of the construction industry workforce from wasteful and discriminatory PLA mandates…. PLA and other union-only mandates have been found to increase construction costs by an average of 12-18 percent --and much more in some cases.”


North Carolina is believed to be the 18th state to take action of this sort and the 14th state to enact such reform since President Obama (D) issued Executive Order 13502 in February 2009, which encourages federal agencies to require PLAs on federal construction projects costing more than $25 million and allows state and local governments to require PLAs on federally assisted projects.


When asked to predict the effect, if any, this new law will have on other states -- and when -- Owens said, “The states where these laws gain traction are where there is strong right-wing, anti-worker conservative philosophies among public officials.”


The ConstructionPro Network member version of this article contains the transcript of an interview that CPW conducted with a representative from Laborers’ International Union of North America on this topic and the text of the new law. To sign up for a membership, click here.



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