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ABC is glad to see investments included in the state budget proposals to revamp and improve our infrastructure, build 800,000 affordable housing units, and construct more climate/green projects. This funding will create hundreds of thousands of construction jobs in our state. It will also accomplish essential projects that will improve the quality of life of all New Yorkers.

What we don't agree with is the near-constant calls to attach Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) to these projects. PLAs make construction too expensive and exclude most construction workers and their families from benefiting from these taxpayer-funded projects. In addition, New York doesn't have the workforce to complete all this work on time and within budget when PLAs are attached.

While any contractor can bid on projects that have PLAs attached. Most choose not to. That's because a typical PLA mandates that 2 out of 3 or 3 out of 4 workers must come from the local union hiring hall. Imagine owning a company and being awarded a bid for a large state project. Then having to go and tell your employees that you've trained and worked with on countless projects that some must be replaced with unknown workers from the union hall. It shouldn't matter if they're in a union or not. You shouldn't be forced to replace your employees if you are a qualified contractor. Instead, why not remove the PLA and allow all skilled union and nonunion contractors the same opportunity to bid on the work, and whichever company offers the most competitive bid be awarded that project?

We must stop here and say that this is not an anti-union blog. Some great contractors choose to be in a union. Some great contractors also decide not to be in a union. We don't take issue with union companies being awarded projects that don't have PLA mandates. That's the industry. We take issue with the fact that PLAs never acknowledge that (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) over 70% of the construction workforce in New York chooses not to be part of a union. Therefore, the 30% of the workforce that is union tends to be busy with PLA work. And trust us, they're going to be very busy.

New York State has mandated PLAs on over $100B of work over the next several years. The union workforce will be unable to handle more projects as they will be wrapped up in the signature PLA projects already going on in the state, including:

  • Buffalo Bills Stadium $1.4b
  • Kensington Expressway $1b
  • I-81 Reconstruction $2b
  • Rochester Interloop $100m
  • Skyway Reconstruction $30m
  • Micron $40b
  • All renewable energy projects over 1 megawatt $35b
  • JFK Airport $14.2b
  • LaGuardia Airport $8b
  • 2nd Avenue Subway Project $6.3b
  • East Side Access Project $11b
  • Brooklyn-Queens Expressway $11b
  • The Gateway Project $29.1b
  • Penn Station $7b
  • Livingston Avenue Bridge $400m
  • Bridge-NY Projects $1b
  • Reconstruction of Bruckner Sheridan Interchange $550m
  • Reconfiguring the Oakdale Merge $30m
  • Route 17 Corridor $1b
  • Replacing Livingston Avenue Railroad bridge $400m
  • Capital District airport improvement projects $1.6m
  • Central New York airport improvement projects $2.4m
  • Finger Lakes airport improvement projects $2.9m
  • Mid-Hudson region airport improvement projects $2.9m
  • North Country airport improvement projects $5.2m
  • Southern Tier airport improvement projects $3.1m
  • Western New York airport improvement projects $1.5m

A massive amount of additional construction must be done in the state. Workers are needed to construct thousands of projects to help NY meet its renewable energy goals, rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, build 800,000 new affordable housing units, modernize and update our schools and universities, upgrade and improve our airports, and more. Aren't we all sick of potholes?

Our leaders in Albany cannot continue to shrink the available workforce even further by mandating policies that cater to only 30% of the industry.

If they continue the status quo, NY will never complete the critical projects that our state desperately needs. There are more than enough local, qualified workers to complete this work. In addition, great union and nonunion contractors should be allowed an equal opportunity to bid and win this work. Attaching PLAs to these projects does nothing but restrict the workforce and wastes taxpayers' dollars while achieving muted benefits.

ABC and our members want these critical infrastructure projects done without delay. That's why we're fighting these policies that will be hugely detrimental to these projects and our state. It makes no sense to exclude thousands of capable workers across the state from these projects simply because they choose not to be part of a union. Let all qualified workers, regardless of their labor affiliation, have the chance to build a better New York.