PLA Reform Bill Gets First Hearing in Assembly, Senate

January 26, 2017

[Madison, Wis…] Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) were center stage in the Assembly and Senate this week as both bodies held hearings on a bill that would prohibit governments from requiring the union-friendly agreements as a condition to bid on public projects.

The bill, Assembly Bill 24 (AB 24), was introduced by Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) in the Assembly and Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) in the Senate. It would essentially forbid state and local governments from requiring that a contractor employ union labor as a prerequisite for being awarded the contract on a taxpayer funded project. Instead, bidding would be open to all contractors, both union and non-union shops.

Rep. Hutton testified before the Assembly Committee on Labor on Tuesday morning. He made the case that his bill wouldn’t forbid the use of PLAs, but that it would level the playing field between union and non-union shops when bidding on publicly funded projects.

Democrats on the committee continued asking Hutton if he was opposed to local workers and veterans working on projects, good paying jobs, retirement, and even workers being able to put bread on the table, all of which they claimed Hutton’s bill threatened.

A speaker testifying for the state AFL-CIO made the claim that without union labor, Wisconsin’s infrastructure could end up looking like the infrastructure in Bangladesh, a claim Rep. Dan Knodl pushed back against.

John Mielke, testifying for Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of Wisconsin, said government should spend taxpayer dollars prudently and fairly. He said it’s unfair for non-union workers to pay taxes, yet have no opportunity to work on their local taxpayer-funded projects because of a PLA.

A representative from ABC’s national organization made the case that PLAs are essentially a government-enforced monopoly for union shops, paid for by the taxpayers.

While Dane County Executive Joe Parisi testified against the PLA reform bill, he agreed with committee chairman Rep. Bob Kulp on one point.

The companion bill, Senate Bill 3 (SB 3) was heard before the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform Wednesday. Arguments for and against the bill were much the same as in the Assembly, except one senator who took a different view on special interests getting favors from government.