Dear State and Local Building Trades Leaders:

It’s no secret that the war on unions has begun, and no sector of the labor movement is immune to these attacks.  Collective bargaining rights for public employees are under assault, and right-to-work initiatives are popping up in many states.  For the building trades, we are facing unrelenting attacks on prevailing wage laws and public sector project labor agreements.  And it is upon the issue of PLAs that I am communicating with you today.

We are all familiar with the fact the the Obama Administration has instituted an Executive Order encouraging the use of PLAs on federal construction projects in excess of $25 million.  Several federal agencies have been slow to align their construction procurement policies in accordance with this Executive Order, but we are making progress.  Unfortunately, one agency – the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – has been institutionally resistant to using PLAs for any of their construction work. It now appears that that decision is now causing untold amounts of embarrassment for that agency.

Last week, federal immigration agents raided the $600 million VA Hospital construction site in Orlando, Florida and were able to detain 9 undocumented workers on the site.  This week, a police report revealed that the general contractor for the project – Brasfield and Gorrie – not only knew that illegals were working on the site, but that they actively assisted these workers in hiding from federal immigration agents (six of them were found hiding in ceilings).

The report shows someone called police claiming an employee used a forklift to conceal the men with scaffolding, and a manager may have also been involved.

As U.S. Senator Ben Nelson (D-FL) put it:  “It’s one thing to take away American jobs on a commercial project, that’s bad enough. But it’s adding insult to injury when you take away American jobs on a project paid for by American taxpayers.”

The upside to this situation is that it provides us with a compelling example of the “dark underside” of the U.S. construction industry as it exists today, and how PLAs are an effective tool that can prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to supplement these abhorrent employment practices.

I have a draft op-ed on this subject that I can customize for any state or city that is facing a contentious battle over the use of public-sector PLAs.  Just contact me via email ( I will get one customized for your council right away.  With the issue of PLAs receiving widespread attention, I believe you would have little difficulty in getting a local newspaper to run such a piece.

Sincerely and fraternally,

Tom Owens
Director of Marketing & Communications