This spring, advocates for the merit shop construction industry scored some important wins for fair and open competition for taxpayer-funded construction projects. The beneficiaries are American taxpayers and the vast majority of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor organization.

At the federal level, in late March, the U.S. Senate voted 51-49 to approve legislative language to curtail the use of project labor agreement (PLA) mandates on taxpayer-funded construction. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) offered an amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution (S.Con.Res.11) that would prohibit the use of government-mandated PLAs on federal or federally funded construction projects authorized by this bill.

While the budget resolution cannot become law and does not go to the president’s desk, it reflects the will of the Senate. This is the first time the Senate has approved language restricting or prohibiting government-mandated PLAs on taxpayer-funded construction projects—spelling a huge win for the merit shop community and demonstrating that a majority of U.S. senators support fair and open competition in construction. In addition, this language was contained in the budget that passed the Senate May 5 and the House April 30.

In other recent activity on Capitol Hill, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced the Government Neutrality in Contracting Act (H.R. 1671/S. 71) in late March. If enacted, these bills would prohibit the use of government-mandated PLAs on all construction projects supported by the federal government—including both federal and federally assisted construction projects.

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and other merit shop advocates will continue to educate members of Congress and executive branch officials about the negative impact PLA mandates have on taxpayers, the contracting community and the 86 percent of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union.

In addition to ABC’s work with the federal government, merit shop advocates are continuing their efforts to ban PLA mandates on state and local construction. While Washington, D.C., remains mired in partisan gridlock, this spring a bipartisan coalition of state elected officials showed its support for fair and open competition for work on taxpayer-funded construction projects.

In March, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed legislation to become the 22nd state to ban PLA mandates on taxpayer-funded construction projects. The West Virginia legislature passed this bill with bipartisan support, and Gov. Tomblin is the first Democrat to sign a PLA reform bill into law.

The Arkansas legislature unanimously passed legislation to codify a 2005 executive order issued by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) that bans PLA mandates on state-funded construction projects. Arkansas lawmakers modeled their legislation on a 2012 bill passed by the Michigan legislature and upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. The new law will ensure government neutrality with regard to PLA mandates on all state, local and publicly assisted construction projects in the state.

Elected officials throughout the country are rejecting unnecessary, wasteful and discriminatory mandates on taxpayer-funded construction. Merit shop advocates will continue to spread the message that taxpayers deserve the best construction at the best price when they are picking up the tab.

Andy Conlin is director of state and local affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors. For more information, email or visit