On Oct. 17, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed comments opposing a Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council proposed rule to block non-union workers from working on federal contracts. The rule, which implements President Biden’s Executive Order 14063, requires federal agencies to impose Project Labor Agreements on contractors and employees who work on federal construction projects that will cost $35 million or more.

PLAs mandate that, to work on a construction project, contractors’ workers must be under union monopoly control. Given that around 80 percent of construction workers and contractors have opted against unionization, this union-only requirement discriminates against the vast majority of America’s construction workers. This also drives up the costs to taxpayers due to inefficient union work rules that union officials insist on.

Foundation attorneys note in the comments that “[t]here is no legitimate legal or policy basis for forcing employees and contractors to abide by union-only PLAs to work on major federal construction projects,” and that the executive order “is simply naked political payback by the current administration to its union supporters.”

The comments explain six ways in which the proposed rule violates federal law, particularly noting that the PLA requirement “will serve only to harm construction workers who reject union representation,” arguing they will be “subjected to unwanted union representation; forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment in non-Right to Work states…and will have large portions of their compensation diverted to union pension plans from which they will receive no benefits,” among other things.

Comments: Discriminating Against Majority of Construction Workers Violates Federal Law

The Foundation’s comments also point out that the proposed rule violates the Competition in Contracting Act, a federal law intended to improve costs by increasing competition for federal contracts. The comments state that shrinking the pool of contractors to only those that are willing to give into union boss demands “will inevitably lead to increased contracting costs for the federal government,” making the executive order and the rule it promulgates inconsistent with CICA.

In fact, as the comments explain, the proposed rule itself acknowledges that “between 2009 and 2021, federal contracting officers—who are trained to award contract to bidders that provide the best value to the government —required the use of PLAs in only 12 out of the approximately 2,000 instances where a federal construction project cost $25 million or more.” This statistic underscores the inefficiency of PLAs.

The Foundation’s comments also argue that the proposed rule violates the Regulatory Flexibility Act because it doesn’t analyze how small non-union contractors unwilling to submit to PLAs will be affected by the rule. The rule is also “arbitrary and capricious,” according to the comments, because of the rule’s failure to consider its cost impacts.

“So-called ‘Project Labor Agreements’ simultaneously discriminate against the over eight in 10 American construction workers who exercise their right not to associate with a labor union, while forcing taxpayers to shoulder the extra cost of wasteful union work rules,” commented Mark Mix, National Right to Work Foundation President. “Once again, the Biden Administration shows its willingness to throw rank-and-file workers under the bus just to enrich their special interest allies in Big Labor.”