With a PLA, pay rates and benefits are negotiated up front to ensure that all workers have a fair local wage, health and welfare benefits, and access to training and job security. Because of their higher rates of skill and productivity, union construction workers earn 52% more than non-union construction workers. Approximately 80% of union construction workers have job-based health care coverage, compared to only 46% of their non-union counterparts. A PLA guarantees that every worker, regardless of union status, will have access to union-quality benefits and a fair local wage.
PLAs do more for than just offer family-supporting wages and benefits. Just-cause provisions ensure that workers have job security for the length of the project, which can extend as long as a decade or more for large projects like the Port of Oakland. With a PLA, workers can access the industry-standard union apprenticeship programs to turn their job into a career. Despite high unemployment, the construction industry is still experiencing a historical shortage of skilled craftsmen, so that those who are able to hone their craft through rigid and comprehensive training programs will be in high demand.
Construction work can also be extremely dangerous, and inadequate training can lead to increased injuries in the workplace. Project Labor Agreements help make jobsites safer for everyone. PLAs often include specialized safety programs that are agreed to by all trades, and the cooperative environment facilitates greater adherence to safety procedures. They also often establish special committees to respond dynamically to safety & health issues, and the costs of safety equipment are built into the bid process to ensure use. And of course, well-paying jobs attract more highly trained workers--including union-trained workers whose safety instruction is top notch—which results in a safer workplace.
The results have been impressive. After completing over 2 million man hours on Bechtel’s Shell Clean Fuels Project PLA, no worker had suffered any injury serious enough to warrant missing a single day’s work, compared with the statewide average at the time of 6.46 lost day injuries per every 200,000 hours of work. On the Boston Harbor project, the lost-time accident rate was one third lower than the BLS national data for heavy construction. By implementing a PLA, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s East Side Reservoir project was able to document savings in Workers Compensation premiums alone of $20 to $35 million over the life of the project.