PLAs guarantee against work stoppages provided only unionemployees are hired on the job. On large jobs--such as the BigDig--a PLA is considered crucial to the management of theconstruction project. But PLAs are increasingly being used onsmaller projects to prevent delays. "PLAs are winning a lot offriends," Joe Nigro, secretary treasurer of the Building andConstruction Trades Council/Metro District, tells"They are being used on more and more projects."

This past February, President George W. Bush issued an executiveorder preventing the use of PLAs on new construction projects thatare federally financed. The Big Dig received a waiver for theremainder of its work but the Building and Construction TradesDepartment of the AFL-CIO recently successfully challenged Bush'sorder when a judge issued a preliminary injunction againstenforcing the order on a bridge project near WashingtonD.C.<PCritics complain that PLAs limit competition and drive upthe costs of a project. The Associated Builders and ContractorsInc. did not return calls by press time but the organization hasreportedly stated that the increase in competition that occurs inthe absence of PLAs can save a project 5% to 7% in costs. ABCreportedly asked the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority toreexamine the proposed new convention center's PLA toensure that costs are being kept down. It is reportedly unlikelythat the MCCA will not use its PLA.

Nigro contends that if those critics paid their constructionworkers the right amount of money, gave them a pension and healthinsurance, "we wouldn't have to worry about PLAs. They don't wanttheir employees to be members of a union." According to Nigro, anycontractor can bid on a PLA project and his organization canprovide union members to work on the job.

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