As Beacon Hill shows overwhelming bipartisan support for Project Labor Agreements, new report demonstrates how PLAs can transform Massachusetts’ infrastructure and workforce

Read the report here

BOSTON – On the heels of a 150-2 vote by the Massachusetts House of Representatives approving legislation that would ensure Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) expedite critical green infrastructure, equity, and family-sustaining careers, a comprehensive new report released today underscores their value. The report demonstrates that requiring PLAs in essential infrastructure projects will allow Massachusetts to build equity from the ground up and create family-sustaining jobs for thousands of Massachusetts residents, including women and people of color.

As the state faces increasing demand to rebuild and modernize its aging infrastructure and reduce harmful carbon emissions and air pollution, the Green Justice Coalition’s report, Building Strong Careers and Lasting Infrastructure: Project Labor Agreements Now for a cleaner, greener, and more equitable Massachusetts, reveals that PLAs are an integral part of creating the green infrastructure and the inclusive, thriving workforce that Massachusetts needs now. Key findings from the report include:

  • PLAs increase pathways to strong careers for women, people of color, and low-income residents through apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, targeted hiring goals on projects, and outreach to historically underrepresented groups in construction. 
  • PLAs strengthen proven “earn while you learn” registered apprenticeship training programs by setting apprenticeship utilization requirements on projects and funding pre-apprenticeship programs.
  • PLAs protect all workers on a project by setting safety standards and protecting workers from wage theft, misclassification, and discrimination.
  • PLAs simplify and expedite projects by covering all workers under one overall agreement drawing from proven high standards for specific crafts and disciplines.
  • PLAs eliminate the chance of any labor stoppages by creating a legally-binding and contractually established resolution process.
  • PLAs ensure cost-effective completion of projects by creating a reliable supply of skilled labor with no-strike, no-lockout clauses.
  • PLAs promote the use of minority business enterprises (MBEs) and women business enterprises (WBEs), codifying and often exceeding meaningful goals around contractor hiring practices on projects in order to uplift minority– and women-owned businesses who might otherwise be overlooked by developers or end users.

“My career started from a project labor agreement, as did many of the workers across the Commonwealth,” said Sprinklerfitters 550 member and Greater Boston Building Trades Union representative Chaton Green. “Project labor agreements ensure family-sustaining wages.” 

What are project labor agreements? 

PLAs are used primarily in the construction industry to establish the terms of employment for all workers on a project. They are collectively bargained labor contracts negotiated between property owners and building trades unions, which provide enhanced worker security, health benefits, and collectively bargained wages. “According to one study of 1550 large projects, union construction labor is 14 percent more productive, reduces project costs by 4 percent, uses higher skilled labor than nonunion construction labor, and reduces the risk of project delays and cost overruns,” states the report.

Federal support: maximizing $9.5 billion in funding 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) include major infrastructure investments and billions of dollars in grants allocated for underserved environmental justice communities, including $27 billion for greenhouse gas reduction projects in communities, $3 billion for Environmental and Climate Justice grants to support community efforts to address persistent pollution, $3 billion to reduce pollution from ports, $5 billion to decarbonize the nation’s school bus fleet and $50 billion for clean water and drinking water projects. The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently updated its guidance which specifies how states may use federal funds they receive, and this new version greenlights the use of PLAs and community benefits agreements on all federally funded projects.

“PLAs are key to fostering “environmental justice and a more sustainable green economy,” said Ziquelle Smalls, Senior Organizer, Green Justice Coalition and Community Labor United. “Now is the time to make our state cleaner, greener, and more equitable. PLAs will allow Massachusetts to maximize essential federal funding from the Biden Administration, which means at least $9 billion to invest in needed infrastructure, including climate mitigation, pollution reduction, transit, public buildings, water and sanitation, and other projects.

PLAs establish equity in the workplace
PLAs offer pathways to good careers for women and people of color by contractually requiring that employers:

  • Invest in training the next generation of skilled trades workers with apprenticeship utilization requirements on projects, creating jobs and training opportunities for new workers.
  • Include equity provisions and hiring goals for people of color and women.
  • Fund and support pre-apprenticeship programs designed to train and help underrepresented workers enter well-paying construction jobs.
  • Address barriers to workforce entry, like child care.
  • Include hiring goals and other measures to promote equitable opportunity. 

The Encore Boston Harbor PLA included mandated recruitment initiatives to increase gender equity in the construction industry, and these PLA-mandated initiatives led to the project employing the most women construction workers of any project in modern history. 

Massachusetts can be a leader on PLAs

To ensure racial, economic, and environmental justice across the Commonwealth, and build the infrastructure the state needs to meet its pollution reduction goals, PLAs can play an invaluable role. Now is the moment for Massachusetts to join nine states, the District of Columbia, and numerous cities to incorporate PLAs into its infrastructure planning and into the next phase of public projects throughout the Commonwealth. There are two pathways to action:

  • Governor Healey can issue an Executive Order ensuring the next wave of critically needed infrastructure in Massachusetts is built with experienced workers, contractually guaranteed pay equity for women and for people of color, and fair labor standards, while also promoting equity in state contracting for M/WBEs and expanding access to strong construction careers for low-income residents, women, and people of color.
  • The Massachusetts House passed an amendment to the Economic Development bill, An Act relative to strengthening Massachusetts’ economic leadership, which would further empower public agencies to utilize PLAs to better serve the public interest on new infrastructure projects. Now, the Senate must act to retain the strong PLA language in the final bill. 

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About The Green Justice Coalition:

The Green Justice Coalition is a partnership of community-based, environmental, and labor allies convened by Community Labor United, who lead campaigns that have a meaningful impact on working-class people and communities of color. Together, our members organize and advocate for a just transition to a sustainable economy that allows our communities to achieve environmental and economic justice.

About Community Labor United:Community Labor United empowers community-based organizations and labor unions to build strategic campaigns that protect and promote the interests of low and middle-income working families in the Greater Boston Area. Through a program of coalition building, research and policy development, public education, and grassroots mobilization, we advance policies that promote quality jobs, secure healthcare, affordable housing, and environmental justice for all.