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June 29, 2024

Pressley in Hearing: Project Labor Agreements are Essential to Economic and Racial Justice

Highlights Massachusetts’ Leadership in Using PLAs to Increase Diversity in Trades

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – In a House Oversight Committee hearing, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), discussed the importance of Project Labor Agreements (PLA) in addressing racial and economic injustices, and highlighted Massachusetts’ leadership in using PLAs to increase diversity in the trades while cutting project costs.

PLAs are collective bargaining agreements for individual construction projects that are negotiated pre-hire between project managers and workers who set wages, benefits, health and safety provisions, and other work conditions.

A full transcript of her exchange with witnesses is below and video is available here.

Transcript: Pressley in Hearing: Project Labor Agreements are Essential to Economic and Racial Justice
House Committee on Oversight and Accountability
June 27, 2024

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you and thank you to our witnesses for being here today.

I represent the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District – that’s a district that is vibrant, diverse and also deeply inequitable. 

As we leverage federal funding flowing from the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure, we must do so in a way that addresses longstanding inequities.

In my district, from Cambridge to Roxbury, household median income drops by $50,000 dollars. 

Project labor agreements – or PLAs – will help us to address these longstanding inequities, opening the door for women, people of color, and veterans to enter the trades. 

Mr. Snyder, can you discuss how PLAs have been used successfully to increase the participation of women and workers of color in large-scale construction projects, specifically?

MR. SNYDER: Sure. So, again, the uniqueness of a PLA is that it gives the ability to tailor that agreement for the community, an area that’s going to be entertaining that project and that investment. And so you’ll see lots of different vehicles to do that. 

Some of them may be around how subcontracts get let to different types of underrepresented businesses. One of the things that every PLA does is it sets a standard for classifications, whether that’s a journey person, an apprentice, a foreman, et cetera. 

Whether they’re a woman, a minority, any underrepresented population, if they’re a journeyman, they make the same as every other journeyman on that job site makes. And so from a pay equity standpoint, it’s almost a perfect mechanism to address those issues. 

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you. You know, these opportunities hit close to home. 

Massachusetts is really leading the way in opening career paths for women in the trades, with the Commonwealth achieving greater gender diversity and inclusion in the construction industry than anywhere else in the nation. 

At the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 in Dorchester, for example, 51 percent of apprentices are women and people of color. 

These achievements are no accident. They are the results of state and company officials, union leaders, contractors, and community organizers coming together to actively recruit women, veterans, and people of color. 

I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record this report titled “Building Strong Careers and Lasting Infrastructure” from Community Labor United and the Green Justice Coalition in Massachusetts.

CHAIR: Without objection.

REP. PRESSLEY: This report clearly outlines the transformative impact of essential community benefits like childcare and training in PLAs, and they have enabled Massachusetts to make strides in its equity goals.

At the heart of this data, however, are people. Lives that have been changed and families with a chance to finally build generational wealth. 

Mr. Snyder, how have PLAs helped ensure that your workers feel valued and productive?

MR. SNYDER: So  workforce development is part of almost every PLA I’ve ever seen. A lot of times that includes things that are apprenticeship programs to bring folks in. But they also set the standards for wages that help build the middle class, but also benefit packages that help to do that as well. Those are retirement vehicles, health and welfare contributions, that allow people to take care of their families and grow that wealth. 

There are also a number of vehicles that occur through that process that help those people get the skills necessary to advance through the classification system and the growth in the industry. We see many, many small businesses that are grown out of the trades that develop as a result of PLA s that bring underrepresented populations into the workforce, teach them how to do it. And then there are additional vehicles that help them even start businesses. And so those opportunities are pretty significant in the workforce development front. 

REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you. Valuing and affirming workers does not have to come at the expense of profits. In fact, a study found that projects with PLAs reduce costs compared to projects without such agreements.

At the same time, these agreements can serve as economic justice documents, gender equity documents, and racial equity documents by investing in our most valuable infrastructure, which is our people. 

Massachusetts is making it plain: PLAs are the mechanism for finishing projects on time and on budget while increasing diversity in the trades, and I look forward to continuing this progress. 

Thank you and I yield back.