- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 08 Aug 2018
Project labor agreement (PLA)
In the United States, a project labor agreement (PLA), also known as a community workforce agreement, is a pre-hire agreement that can be used on both public and private construction projects. PLAs are authorised under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The purpose of a PLA is to establish in advance the terms and conditions of employment for a construction project, and specific provisions can be agreed according to the particular project requirements and those of the signatory parties. A PLA takes precedence over any pre-existing collective bargaining agreements that may have been set by trade unions (or labor organisations), and applies to all contractors and subcontractors who successfully bid to work on the project.
Typically, a PLA enables non-union workers to work on union-controlled construction projects, with the parties (usually the project owner and trade union/s) agreeing working conditions, labour rates, benefits, and so on. Right-to-work laws mean that PLAs cannot limit project participation just to union contractors. Unions have to advocate on behalf of non-union member workers on the project as well.
- Provisions to prevent strikes, lockouts, slow-downs or other work stoppages.
- Trade union procedures for hiring workers.
- Requirement for non-union workers to pay union dues.
- Schedules, wage rates, benefits and dispute resolution methods.
- Safety requirements and compliance measures.
- Trade union rules to apply to pensions and work conditions.
In the US, PLAs were first used on construction projects in the 1930s but became more contentious during the 1980s; particularly in relation to their use on publicly-funded projects. Their use and non-use has been the subject of several executive orders, most recently one signed by President Obama in 2009 which encouraged the use of PLAs by federal agencies on federal construction projects costing over $25 million.
The use of PLAs is supported by construction trade unions and other bodies who argue that they can help large and complex projects complete on time and to budget by helping project owners control costs and reduce the likelihood of disruptions. It is also argued that the use of PLAs provides an assurance of quality and better working conditions.
However, the use of PLAs is opposed by some on the grounds that they can discriminate against non-union workers and contractors and discourage open trade and fair competition. In addition, opponents dislike the fact that the use of PLAs means that that non-union contractors must pay dues to the union and obey their rules while working on a project. It is also argued that they increase costs for project owners and are unfair for the majority of workers in the construction industry who are non-unionised (recent estimates suggest around 86%).
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Construction contractor.
- Construction organisations and strategy.
- Exploring the impact of the ageing population on the workforce and built environment.
- Open shop construction.
- Recruiting and retaining talent in the construction industry.
- Relationship management in construction.
- Right-to-work legislation and construction.
- Tackling the construction skills shortage.
- Umbrella companies.
Featured articles and news
28 leading bodies set out their vision for the future.
Chancellor announces latest Winter Support packages.
Tapping technology to boost infrastructure and create jobs.
4 ways to ensure certificates are valid.
White elephant construction projects.
How Paul Williams bent over backwards to overcome racial barriers.
Organisation revises actions around dealing with COVID-19.
CIOB, NFCC, RIBA, RICS call for changes ahead of Building Safety Bill.
Developments in the Future Homes Standard.
An American chimney feature with a colourful past.
Homes based on need, not ability to pay.
Historic England adds 216 entries to the 'at risk' register.
Will cycling and walking provisions be preserved?
Assembly point levels range from relative to ultimate.