AGC Asks President to Send ’Unmistakable and Public’ Message

Wed August 18, 2010 - National Edition

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) called on President Obama to send an “unmistakable and public” message that he expects his staff and political appointees to leave career contracting officers free to evaluate whether it is in the taxpayers’ interest to mandate project labor agreements for the construction of federal projects. Such agreements are typically between general construction contractors and the unions representing construction craft workers.

Government mandates for such agreements are controversial because they disadvantage contractors who work without union agreements. They also disrupt the collective bargaining over the area-wide agreements that would otherwise apply to work in a particular city, county or other area, according to AGC.

“We respectfully request that you remind all members of your administration that you expect them to adhere to both the letter and the spirit of your executive order on project labor agreements,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer in a letter to the President. “Every administration needs to repaint the line between politics and procurement.”

Last year, the President signed an executive order authorizing federal contracting officers to require such agreements, but only where they will “(i) advance the Federal Government’s interest in achieving economy and efficiency in Federal procurement and (ii) be consistent with the law.”

Sandherr noted that the association has long-opposed government mandates for project labor agreements because contractors and construction workers, and not government officials, are in a far better position to determine whether a project labor agreement would be advantageous. Sandherr said the association would closely monitor the administration to make sure political appointees do not force career officials to impose project labor agreements even in the absence of any evidence of any benefits for the American taxpayer.