Useful resources, reports, testimonials and studies about the positive impact of Project Labor Agreements:

Further evidence that PLAs make good business sense, Cornell University follows up an earlier report

This is a follow-up to the earlier Cornell ILR report, (click here for the report) Project Labor Agreements in New York State: In the Public Interest, issued in March 2009. There has been a significant increase in the authorization and use of PLAs for both public and private sector work during the intervening two years – particularly for New York City and, generally, throughout New York State. PLAs now govern the labor relations for a broad scope of projects involving tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure, new construction, and renovation work. The current report details how and why these agreements are serving the interests of taxpayers, businesses, communities, as well as the construction industry and workforce.

Massachusetts Building Trades Council Testifies Before A Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight

Read the report here.

Watch a video of the Testimony

2 Different Studies on Massachusetts Construction Labor Finds Unions Have Bigger Socio-Economic Impact and Superior Apprenticeship Programs

A Cornell University Report finds that "unionization in this key industry (construction) not only increases the incomes of union workers but also yields economic benefits that ripple through the economy of the state (Massachusetts) and that unions represent 62% of the construction workforce.  This was compared union to non-union construction in the state.

In a separate study, conducted by UMass, union and non-union training programs were
analyzed over a 10 year period and found that union training programs in Massachusetts "are more successful at enrolling apprentices and producing journey-level workers than are non-union programs.  Specifically, we find that: the apprentice completion rates from union programs is higher than from non-union programs and that the majority of non-union programs fail to produce even a single journey-level worker."  Furthermore, the Building Trades are responsible for training 81% of all registered apprentices in the state of Massachusetts.

June 2011 Testimony of Dr. Peter Phillips (University of Utah) Before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Procurement Policy  (along with Questions and Answers re: PLAs)

Dr. Peter Philips is a labor economist specializing in the construction labor market. He is the nation's recognized expert on the economics of prevailing wage laws and one of the foremost experts on the construction labor market, generally. Philips has related interests in construction worker safety, health economics and economic history. His most recent books are Building Chaos: An International Comparison of the Effects of Deregulation on the Construction Industry, (with Gerhard Bosch, 2003) and The Economics of Prevailing Wage Laws, (with Hamid Azari-Rad and Mark Prus, 2005).

Philips has received many awards including the prestigious University of Utah Presidential Teaching Scholar, and the University of Utah, Graduate Student & Postdoctoral Scholar Distinguished Mentor. Philips was the only economist on the National Academies panel reviewing NIOSH's construction safety research (2007-08) resulting in the National Academy Press co-authored publication, Construction Research at NIOSH (2009). Philips has qualified as an expert on labor economics in construction and has testified on construction issues in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (written testimony), as well as various state legislatures including California, Connecticut, Hawaii (written), Indiana, Kentucky, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania (administrative hearing).

So widely respected is Dr. Philips that the Republican Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Technology Information Policy, Intergovernmental Affairs, and Procurement Policy actually refused to allow Dr. Phillips to testify at the June 3, 2011 hearing on PLAs.  Click here to read the testimony. Click here to read the questions and answers.

Victory for San Diego United School District PLA - California Court of Appeal Case Notification for: D056530

The California Court of Appeals issued a decision upholding a lower court's decision saying it was lawful for a PLA for the San Diego Schools to specify the use of particular apprenticeship programs (union) rather than any apprenticeship program approved by the State. 
Read the report here.

Kentuckianaworks: Construction Pipeline Project - the Louisville Arena and Beyond

The dazzling new KFC Yum! Center is one of the most impressive buildings erected in Louisville in decades. The 22,000-seat arena will showcase sporting events, concerts, conventions and more in world-class style and comfort. The $238 million facility will turbo-charge a downtown that was already undergoing a strong rebirth. 

Equally impressive is what’s being built behind this magnificent edifice: a landmark program to recruit, train and employ local minorities and women in construction jobs – not just on the arena, but on major projects all over the metro area well into the future. The program is also building better relations among groups and individuals with vastly different viewpoints. And for those individuals who seize this unique opportunity, the program is building careers as well.

The program, called the KentuckianaWorks Construction Pipeline Project, is the result of an unprecedented public-private partnership led by the Louisville Urban League.  The Pipeline so far has trained 293 candidates on construction skills and placed 111 of them in jobs, including 35 on the arena. The average wage for these placements is $15.25 per hour, more than double the minimum wage. Men and women who might otherwise be bouncing from one dead-end job to another, or drawing unemployment, are now finding hope, providing for their families, and discovering new meaning in their lives.



The Los Angeles Experience

The Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles makes strategic investments to create opportunity and improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in their neighborhoods.  CRA/LA Strategic Plan is to Strengthen the Los Angeles Economy; Create Middle Class Jobs; Support and Attract Business; Grow Key Sectors.

By employing innovative Economic Development Strategies, they are ensuring that these local investments benefit targeted populations.  And they achieve their goals largely through the use of Community Workforce Agreements.  CWAs provide opportunities for people who traditionally have confronted barriers to

Employment.  With a CWA, many previously disadvantaged populations now have structured and fruitful career pathways.

Under the CRA/LA Strategic Plan, CWAs are structured to ensure that at least 30% of total work hours are worked by people from the surrounding community or high-unemployment area residents.  They commit to having 30-40% apprentice hours worked by community or high-unemployment area residents; and they set a goal of having 10% of total work hours be done by disadvantaged workers.

It’s just one more example of how Community Workforce Agreements demonstrate “Value on Display…Every Day”

Click here to read the PDF.

Toyota Says “Yes” to PLAs for All of Its North American Manufacturing Facilities

2011 represents the 25th anniversary of the construction of Toyota Motor Corporation’s first manufacturing plant in the United States.  That plant, located in Georgetown, Kentucky, was built on-time and on-budget with a Project Labor Agreement.  In fact, every single one of Toyota’s North American manufacturing plants has been built under a PLA.

Read this letter from Toyota President Tetsuo Agata, whereby he praises the value and efficiencies of PLAs that have enabled Toyota to achieve construction costs that are 1/3 less than their competitors who eschew the use of PLAs.

Building Better: A Look at Best Practices for the Design of Project Labor Agreements

Project labor agreements (PLAs) are a type of contract used in the construction industry to set the terms and conditions of employment on large projects of long duration and design complexity. PLAs allow the expeditious resolution of disputes that can arise in the course of the project, thereby helping to ensure that the project is delivered on time and that quality standards are maintained. Recently, PLAs have begun to include provisions that seek to improve conditions on the worksite (e.g., health and safety rules) and provide benefits to the community by including jobs and training opportunities for disadvantaged workers and carve-outs for small or minority-owned businesses.

Although PLAs have been around for years and used on some of the most famous construction projects in American history, their use has become controversial as the nonunion sector of the construction industry has grown and as PLAs have been applied to relatively small projects. Critics argue that PLAs place nonunion contractors at a disadvantage in bidding on projects and raise overall project costs. PLA opponents are particularly critical of the use of PLAs on public projects. They argue that such usage violates the spirit of public bidding statutes by requiring the adherence to collectively bargained terms and conditions of employment as a prerequisite for winning a contract.

This report from Dr. Dale Belman of Michigan State University shows that, if designed properly, PLAs can help projects meet deadlines by guaranteeing a steady supply of highly skilled labor through the building and construction trades unions’ nationwide network of referral systems and by reconciling the various work routines of the many trades. PLAs also help to assure timely completion by keeping projects free from disruptions resulting from local labor disputes, grievances, or jurisdictional issues; and PLAs can improve efficiency and promote innovation by prohibiting restrictive work.

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) findings on PLAs

Read how the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) views PLAs as an efficient means of meeting construction quality standards, owner deadlines and unique project demands.  The over 5,000 contractors of SMACNA see PLAs as a necessity on public private projects where budget and scheduling decisions are highly scrutinized. Click here to read the report.

Washington Nationals Stadium – Construction’s Grand Slam

With only 23 months to complete all the bases, the Washington Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC was construction's equivalent of a grand slam off a 100-

mph pitch. When it opened in 2008 the $611 million stadium smashed the speed record for major-league ballpark construction.  Oh yeah…it was built under a Project Labor Agreement.  Click here to read more.

WalMart Sees the Value in PLAs and the Quality of Unionized Skilled Craft Professionals

Long considered to be the poster child for corporate cost containment and efficiencies, WalMart is now increasingly turning to Project Labor Agreements for their construction needs. 

Read a letter
from a WalMart executive to the President of the New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council stating WalMart’s preference for the value and quality work that union skilled craft professionals provide the world’s largest retailer.

PLA Presentations
A Win-Win Proposition for Construction Owners, Contractors, Workers & Communities - PLA PowerPoint
For anyone seeking to educate lawmakers, state and local agencies, or the media, on the wide array of benefits associated with Project Labor Agreements, this PowerPoint Presentation is designed to offer a fact-based explanation, while also refuting the many bogus claims that are continually launched by critics of these agreements, as well as offering up a stark portrayal of the alternative business model of PLAs – known as the “open-shop” business model.  WHEN VIEWING, PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE ARE EXTENSIVE PRESENTATION NOTES INCLUDED FOR EVERY SLIDE.

Click here to download the PLA Powerpoint.

PLA Guidelines and Forms
For guidelines on how to negotiate a Community Workforce Agreement/PLA or access a PLA Approval Request form and other useful PLA related resources, visit the Building and Construction Trades Department website.

California Municipal Labor Project Website
The California Building Trades built this website to tell the good news of PLAs in the Golden State.  Click here to visit:

CWA/PLA Studies and Reports
Project Labor Agreements’ Effect on School Construction Costs in Massachusetts
In their on-going, mostly futile, attempts to discredit and tarnish the value of Community Workforce Agreements, opponents of these agreements almost universally cite one specific study concerning school construction costs that was conducted by the widely discredited Beacon Hill Institute. 

Now comes a research paper from experts at Michigan State University, the College of Wooster, and the University of Tennessee that concludes that the Beacon Hill study’s claim that Community Workforce Agreements raise construction costs by 14-17 percent are effectively bogus because the study was based on overly simplistic models.  When a more complex model is used, those cost increases are not evident.

Download the Project Labor Agreements’ Effect on School Construction Costs in Massachusetts Report

The Value of High-Road Construction at the Cherokee-Gates Redevelopment Project Report
"The Value of High-Road Construction at the Cherokee-Gates Redevelopment Project", September 2005,
Issue Brief No. 3 from the Campaign for Responsible Development (CRD)

Construction is not just about putting up buildings.  In projects that are funded with tax dollars, construction jobs are the first form of “economic development” flowing from our public investment.  Whether local contractors win the work, the wages and benefits workers receive, and the kind of skills and safety training workers get will significantly impact our local economy and communities.  This white-paper by the Campaign for Responsible Development in Denver, CO examined the difference between “low-road” and “high-road” construction and the effects that each can have on costs, jobsite productivity, and community at large.

Download the The Value of High-Road Construction at the Cherokee-Gates Redevelopment Project Report.

Jacobs, Ronconi and Graham-Squire
, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education
"Health Coverage Proposals in California: Impact on Businesses" Ken Jacobs, Lucas Ronconi and Dave Graham-Squire. UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. July 2007

This study focuses on California  legislation aimed at expanding health care coverage in the state. The study analyzes both the proposals; the Governor's Health Care Proposal and Assembly Bill 8.

To read the full study,

Graham-Squire, Jacobs and Dube, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education
"California Healthcare: Firm Spending and Worker Coverage" Dave Graham-Squire, Ken Jacobs and Arindrajit Dube. UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education. March 2007

This study focuses on each of the major new health reform proposals in California in order to understand the impacts of these policies as a percent of payroll in California. Of particular interest are those workers without any health coverage and the healthcare spending patterns of their employers.

To read the full study,

Wilson, Center on Policy
"Construction Apprenticeship Programs: Career Training for California’s recovery" Corinne Wilson. Center on Policy Initiatives. September 2009

This report demonstrates, building trades apprenticeship programs provide the best model to keep the construction industry on the high road and provide high-quality jobs, to the benefit of the industry, the workers and the greater community.

Kotler, Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations

”Project Labor Agreements in New York State: In the Public Interest”.  Fred B. Kotler, J.D.  Associate Director, Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.  March, 2009.

A 2009 study by Fred B. Kotler, J.D., Associate Director of the [School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University] finds that PLAs do not discriminate against employers and workers, do not limit the pool of bidders, and do not raise construction costs,

"There is no evidence to support claims that project labor agreements either limit the pool of bidders or drive up actual construction costs. Such claims by opponents are based on inadequate data and faulty methodology. PLAs – in New York City and State and elsewhere – have instead proven very successful at saving costs while respecting fair labor standards.”

Belman, Bodah & Philips
“Project Labor Agreeements.” Dale Belman, Ph.D. Michigan State University; Matthew M. Bodah, University of Rhode Island; Peter Philips, University of Utah.  Electri International (2007).

In a report entitled Project Labor Agreements, Professors Belman, Bodah and found that there is no evidence that PLAs decrease the number of bidders or change the cost of construction projects. Rather than increase cost, the agreements provide benefits to the community. Indeed, the study shows that project cost is directly related to the complexity of a project, not the existence of an agreement. Cost is strongly correlated with size, location, whether the school is an elementary school, and the amenities provided such as cafeterias and swimming pools.

UCLA Labor Center
UCLA Labor Center, "Construction Careers for our Communities.”, 2008

This report explores one potential benefit that sometimes emerges from the innovative bargaining structure of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) —local hiring goals—through an assessment of projects developed by three public agencies in Los Angeles County: the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and the City of Los Angeles.” (Quoted from

Los Angeles Port Construction Careers Policy
“Building Opportunity:  Investing in Our Future through a Port Construction Careers Policy.”  Jackie Cornejo, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, June 2009. 

This meticulously researched report by Jackie Cornejo compiles relevant research to lay out the best case for a Project Labor Agreement on the Port of Los Angeles.  The report also features a foreword from leading scholar Peter Philips, who is Professor and Chair of the University of Utah Department of Economics.

California State Library Study
“Constructing California, A Review of Project Labor Agreements'' Johnson-Dodds, Kimberly.  California State Library.  Prepared at the request of California State Senator John Burton. (2002).

PLAs are arguably the most important change in labor-management relations in the construction industry in recent years. They have become a fairly common part of the organization of major construction projects in California. This California State Library report, compiled for California State Senate recounts the history of PLAs in California, surveys the features found in California PLAs for both public and private projects, includes case studies of recent PLAs that are breaking new ground, and reviews the state of the President's PLA executive orders. Kimberly Johnston-Dodds, Prepared at the request of Senator John L. Burton, President Pro Tempore of the California State Senate, October 2001.

Not available online.

United States Government Accountability Office report
Project Labor Agreements: The Extent of Their Use and Related Information. U.S. General Accounting Office, GAO/GGD-98-82, May 1998.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on PLAs noting an overall lack of data but reporting that both “proponents and opponents of the use of PLAs said it would be difficult to compare contractor performance on federal projects with and without PLAs because it is highly unlikely that two such projects could be found that were sufficiently similar in cost, size, scope, and timing.” In conclusion, the GAO said, “drawing any definitive conclusions on whether or not the PLA was the cause of any performance differences would be difficult.”

Jolie Siegel, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law
Jolie M. Siegel, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law, Volume 3, No. 2, Winter 2001, pp. 295-331. 

In the landmark 1993 Boston Harbor Case, the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld the use of Project Labor Agreements on public projects. In the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law comment entitled "Project Labor Agreements and Competitive Bidding Statutes", Jolie Siegel outlines the arguments on either side of PLAs and evaluates the state of the law since this decision. Through her analysis, she shows that Project Labor Agreements are valid and often desirable under competitive bidding statutes because of the benefits they confer. However, she finds that PLAs present risks and should only be allowed on projects where they will further the goals of competitive bidding statutes, namely timely, efficient, high quality, and inexpensive construction. She also discusses how PLAs actually allow non-union contractors to bid freely on public construction projects and identifies the public benefits that the agreements confer.

Not available online.  Please contact your local library.

Daniel Rounds, UCLA
Project Labor Agreements: An Exploratory Study, Daniel Rounds, UCLA Institute for Labor and Employment (2001).

“To assess the claims of PLA proponents and opponents, project managers involved with these three projects were interviewed about their experiences working under the terms of a PLA.  The information they provided tends to support the arguments advanced by PLA proponents.  PLAs on each of these projects facilitated labor peace, fostered workplace cooperation, and insured an adequate supply of skilled labor.  The arguments offered by opponents of PLAs, on the other hand, were not well supported by the interviews with managers.  Claims that PLAs reduce competition and increase labor costs were roundly rejected by those who were interviewed.

Full text unavailable.  For a summary, see:

The Benefits of Unions for Low-Wage Workers, Center for Economic and Policy Research
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) finds that unionization raises wages, health care and pension coverage for all workers, and provides the most benefits by far to the lowest-paid workers.

The Beacon Hill Institute
Three reports by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts concluded that PLAs increase school construction costs in Massachusetts, New England, and Connecticut. Beacon Hill, a “free-market-oriented think-tank” founded in 1991 by Massachusetts Republican politician and millionaire Ray Shamie, is categorically opposed to the use of PLAs.
Subsequent studies criticize Beacon Hill’s study for faulty methodology and conclusionary assertions.  See, for example: the two Belman, Ormiston et al studies below, and the Belman, Bodah and Philips and the Cornell studies, above.

Belman, Ormiston et al, PLA Effect on School Construction Costs in Massachusetts

“Project Labor Agreements’ Effect on School Construction Costs in Massachusetts”. Dale Belman, Michigan State University School of Labor and Industrial Relations; Russell Ormiston, College of Wooster Department of Economics; Richard Kelso, University of Tennessee, Knoxville School of Architecture, William Schriver, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Construction Industry Policy and Research Center; and Kenneth A. Frank, MIchigan State University College of Education.

This paper re-examines the impact of Project Labor Agreements on school construction cost in Massachusetts, after the Beacon Hill Institute published a study concluding that PLAs raise construction costs.  They find that while the simple models, such as those used by BHI, show a large correlation between PLA use and cost, this was absent from more completely-specified models.  The schools built with and without PLAs were too dissimilar to distinguish cost effects of PLAs from the cost effects of factors that underlie use of PLAs, such as increased project complexity and local conditions, and availability of labor and materials.

Bradford W. Coupe
Legal Considerations Affecting the Use of Public Sector Project Labor Agreements: A Proponent’s View.  Bradford W. Coupe, Esq., Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, New York.

Coupe makes the case the PLAs are an effective tool for labor relations:  “There is nothing inherently wrong with PLAs in the public sector. They have a well-established place in the law and in the effective performance of the projects to which they have been applied. The use of legal process should be saved for the bona fide abuses of the competitive bidding laws and not become the vehicle for waging a campaign rooted in the wholesale elimination of public sector PLAs.”

PLAs in Iowa
Project Labor Agreements in Iowa: An Important Tool for Managing Complex Public Construction Projects, Ralph Scharnau & Michael F. Sheehan, The Iowa Policy Project (2004);

“Public-sector construction projects in Iowa serve three important public functions. They provide direct services through the building of schools, hospitals, police stations, highways and similar projects. Second, spending on these projects stimulates economic development and creates jobs. And third, they improve the ability of the public infrastructure to deliver services that help to generate income for other Iowa producers. This makes those producers more productive and competitive.”

Center on Policy Initiatives
“[CWAs] guarantee: Good jobs with healthcare, Local hiring—for jobs and paid apprenticeship programs, Career ladders for disadvantaged workers—that target at-risk groups to paid apprenticeship programs, Uniform terms and conditions of employment for all contractors and craft workers on the construction project, [and] a plan for project workflow and coordination between the various construction crafts to be sure the projects are completed on-time, on-budget, safely and with a properly trained workforce”

Construction Careers Project Stabilization Agreement Q&A

CPI Memorandum: Project Stabilization Agreements provide community benefits
John Dunlop, Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies
Project Labor Agreements, John T. Dunlop, Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies (2002). 

In this academic paper, Dunlop lays out the history, extent, features, and public policy issues surrounding Project Labor Agreements.

Cockshaws:  Evaluating PLA Performance
Cockshaw, Peter. 2001. Evaluating PLA Performance? Studies find project labor agreements offer many benefits supporters claim.’ Cockshaw’s Construction Labor News+Opinion 31(11): 1

Cockshaw’s Construction Labor News notes the controversy in the PLA debate and summarizes studies addressing the issue, including Daniel Rounds’ UCLA study.

Powers & Waites
"Project Labor Agreements: The State of the Law", December 1999, by Brian A. Powers and Gerald M. Waites.  Lists PLAs, surveys and studies that prove the benefits of PLA built construction projects.

“Given the substantial benefits PLAs provide, the failure of their opponents to articulate or prove any sustainable challenges, and current market conditions driving an increased reliance on prudent, common-sensed based project planning – PLAs will continue to serve as a productive and stabilizing force in the construction industry.”