President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order that would require large-scale, federal construction projects to implement labor agreements, a move that could impact nearly 200,000 workers, according to the White House.
The order requires collective bargaining agreements for any project above $35 million and comes as the Biden administration begins to roll out funds from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law for things like roads, bridges and public transit.
All contractors and subcontractors on qualified federal projects will be required to sign on to the project labor agreement (PLA), something the White House said would make construction more economical and efficient by preventing disruptions like strikes and lockouts.
Biden, who has fiercely supported pro-union policies throughout his presidency, said on Friday that the order would both support U.S. workers and make federal construction as streamlined as possible.
“[When] American workers are given just half a chance, they never ever ever ever ever let their country down and [have] gotten the job done,” he said at the Ironworkers Local 5 union hall in Maryland. “That’s what this day is all about in my mind: getting the job done for the American taxpayers.”
The executive order points to delays in projects that can happen when a labor dispute occurs under just one employer, impacting the others’ ability to continue work.
The order will “bind all contractors and subcontractors on the construction project” and require PLAs to include guarantees “against strikes, lockouts and similar job disruptions.”
It could impact as much as $262 billion in government construction, according to a White House fact sheet.
As of Jan. 30, federal contractors must pay workers a $15/hour minimum wage, based on another Biden executive order signed last April.
“When folks are getting paid a decent wage, everybody in the community does better,” the president said Friday. “It’s a job you can raise a family on.”
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Friday also reflected on how he oversaw project labor agreements as mayor of Boston.
“They protect taxpayers’ investments, bringing projects in on time and on budget,” Walsh said.
Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke at the ironworkers’ hall, calling President Biden “one of the greatest friends of union labor workers.”
“Our administration will always stand in solidarity with you and organized labor,” Harris said. “It comes from our heart. It comes from our soul.”