PLAs Offer Accountability, Efficiencies On Large-Scale SUNY Building Projects

By BILL BANFIELD – April 2024

With the annual-budget negotiations in Albany now in overtime, blue collar workers are calling on policymakers to pass legislation that will restore accountability and bring effective labor standards to the public university development process. This idea is based on a simple principle: when New York taxpayer funds are used on a project, that investment should go back into New York communities.

Both the Senate and Assembly have included language in their budget proposals that would require project labor agreements (PLA) for largescale SUNY construction projects. A PLA is an agreement that defines wages and work rules for a project and is approved by labor and the awarding public body before the project begins. The purpose of a PLA is to ensure that all construction work is performed efficiently and economically without interruption.

The main rationale for PLAs in the construction industry is stability. By clearly and transparently defining a framework at the start of a project, PLAs prevent work stoppages and establish dispute resolution procedures.

Private construction projects have utilized PLAs for decades. The $265-million Legoland theme park in Goshen was built with union labor under a PLA. So, too, was the $200-million renovation of Morgan Stanley headquarters in Harrison, NY in Westchester County. These are just two recent examples of successful large projects that were built on time and on budget thanks to the efficiencies of PLAs.

Bill Banfield

On publicly-funded projects, PLAs protect taxpayers the same way. They ensure that a project is built on budget and on schedule, by and for New Yorkers. PLAs often include local hiring provisions that ensure local residents have job opportunities and recycle public monies into the local economy. They can be used to promote diversity in the workforce and expand opportunities to more New Yorkers.

PLAs also encourage higherquality contractors to compete on projects. Without hidden costs, contractors can make specific bids without worrying about being undercut by lessscrupulous contractors who cut corners. PLAs are used to maintain safe work sites by requiring workers to have safety training and meet advanced OSHA standards. This reduces costs associated with work-site injuries.

PLAs ensure that when our tax dollars are an investment on a large project, that investment drives economic growth for the state’s economy and for real New Yorkers. By ensuring contractors meet basic labor standards, this commonsense approach protects construction workers, taxpayers and the broader economies of the construction industry. With the Legislature on board, the next step is now up to Gov. Kathy Hochul.

About the author: Bill Banfield is assistant executive secretary-treasurer for the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Scroll to Top