Citing Trump’s Experience as a Builder, U.S. Reps Ask Him To Back Project Labor Agreements

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Citing Republican President Donald Trump’s experience as a builder – and his knowledge of construction unions as well as the industry – six representa-tives, three from each party, asked Trump to back the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on federally funded construction.  

Rep. Donald Norcross, D-N.J., an Electrical Worker and former president of the Southern New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council, authored the letter to Trump. He asked Trump to “keep all contracting options in consideration,” including PLAs.  

The letter was particularly timely: It came just a week after a House committee heard testimony on federal funding for infrastructure. There, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pushed infrastructure spending. PLAs did not come up in that hearing’s prepared statements.  

“Federal construction projects are massive undertakings and can often take years just to be authorized. Given the cost and complications of these projects, no construction management tool, such as PLAs, should be prohibited,” the solons wrote Trump on Feb. 8.

“Several of your company’s projects in New York and New Jersey have used PLAs, including the Trump National Club House in Briarcliff, N.Y., Trump Plaza in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City,” they noted.

“Many other companies in the private sector, including Disney, Toyota, and General Motors, utilize PLAs. The federal government should not be barred from using such a popular instrument of construction management,” their letter says.

The Obama administration encouraged – but did not mandate -- use of PLAs on all federally funded construction. Anti-union low-ball contractors, led by the Associated Builders and Contractors, hate PLAs, as well as prevailing wages for federally funded construction.

“Having worked as an IBEW electrician, I saw firsthand how project labor agreements benefit workers and contractors,” Norcross explained. “The best developers use PLAs to save money and increase efficiency. The federal government should have access to the same tools. PLAs will save taxpayer funds and help American workers by creating greater opportunities, increasing job security and raising wages.”

Whether Trump agrees may set up a conflict with his own party in Congress, as right wing House Republicans have repeatedly tried to ban PLAs. Their latest attempt, last May, lost 209-216, as 33 Republicans, plus all the Democrats, listened to construction workers and bucked the anti-PLA line. That was “a high water mark” for Republican PLA support, said Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades.

Trumka told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Feb. 1 that “we need to be the America that can, not the America that can’t.” He said Congress should consider all possible funding sources for what Trump seeks: $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements, spread over a period of years. Business witnesses also backed infrastructure. 

“Our failing infrastructure may be an obstacle and a challenge, but fixing it is a powerful opportunity,” Trumka said. He called $1 trillion “the right scale” and pledged unions would campaign for that, since unionists can provide “the most highly skilled and well-trained workforce to get the job done.” Trumka added: “We want investments that create good jobs and meet the real needs of our economy.”     

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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