Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union 40
100-A Old Forge Road
Rocky Hill, CT 06067 p 1-860-529-2616. 1-800-201-5840 (CT Only)
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Labor Agreement Myths

The Answer: 268. What's the question???

How many Stop Work Orders did the state issue on CT Projects that did NOT have a Labor Standards Agreement since 2011.

On any topic involving contracts and projects, there is always bound to be a lot of talk, a lot of pros and cons. Of course everybody "wants the work."  We feel no one firm should have the advantage just because it chooses to use non-affiliated or unorganized workers. We are not blaming any worker for wanting or taking the work. It's understandable in this economy that people need to work and look out for themselves and their families. But when certain interests  of firms try to "gain the advantage" by employing a sub-standard workforce, this hurts everyone, workers and the community alike.

Over the last few years we have upped our efforts to address the town and city council meetings in Connecticut, to answer questions and clear up certain myths that are always brought up around certain projects and votes.

These are just a few misperceptions about Community Workforce Agreements (CWA's) and Project Labor Agreements (PLA's) supported by our and other CT Building Trade Locals. Commonly you will hear (and read) the following about labor-management agreements on Connecticut Projects :

They prevent "non-union workers from working"

Contractors "are forced to decide not to bid"

They result in "drastic increase in price

That projects without these labor-management agreements actually result in  more employment of local workers

Myth 1 : labor agreements increase costs and decrease competition by excluding contractors

Project Labor Agreements and the Cost of Construction in Massachusetts (Published 2003)

“PLA projects add an estimated $18.83 per square foot to the bid cost of construction (in 2001 prices), representing an almost 14% increase in costs over the average non-PLA project.

The Reality…
Labor costs on a project are typically only 30% of a project with material making up the other 70%. Therefore Labor costs need to be reduced by 33% to cause a 10% total project decrease

Since large scale municipal projects are all prevailing rate projects, If 40-60% of a projects labor cost is responsible for a 14% overall project increase, then those bids would have to be doubled

“Our research on bidding behavior and costs finds that PLA neither decrease the number  of bidders on a project nor increase or decrease a project cost when other important variables are taken into account.”

Also : Public-sector PLAs are not ‘union-only’ agreements

the San Diego Unified School District Project Stabilization Agreement: A Review of Construction Contractor and Labor Considerations (Published 2011) reached the following conclusions :

“There has been no increase in the cost of the winning bids for school construction projects…” 

“Project completion time is faster…”

“…allows the district to experience less overhead…”

“…PLAs are cost neutral: they do not lower construction costs nor do they raise such costs.”


"Our research on bidding behavior and costs finds that PLA neither decrease the number of bidders on a project nor increase or decrease a project cost when other important variables are taken into account.”

Myth 2:  PLA’s and CWA’s require workers to join a union


Project Labor Agreements “…permit a reasonable number of key men to be brought with a contractor…referred through the Union halls in a non-discriminatory manner as required by law…”

Myth 3 :  Non-union contractors make up 80%+ of the industry and their workers are just as well trained

Reality :

Dept. of Administrative Services pre-qualifies contractors to do large state projects like public schoolsThere are over 425 DAS pre-qualified contractors who are Union affiliates or have worked on PLA’s. By contrast, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Connecitcut (the organization that fights against PLAs for the non-union business) represent only 71 DAS pre-qualified contractors. Any of these contractors may bid on these projects if they comply with the bid requirements.

Regarding Qualified Labor Source,  the following is the  National Average of Apprenticeship Completion Rates (2005-2010) comparing non-union to union apprenticeship programs :

Non-Union :
Completion Rate:

Termination Rate:

By Contrast, here are the Completion Rates for the CT Building Trades (All 13 of the Connecticut Building Trades have an apprentice program covering their contractors) :

Glaziers - 91.5%
Painters - 86%
Drywall Finishers - 50%
Ironworkers - 60% (LU 15)  68% (LU 424)
Sheet Metal Workers - 54%
Boilermakers 41%
Operating Engineers60%
Electricians 88% (LU #35) 86% (LU 90)

While statistics are only part of the story (many workers actually want to join unions and are held back through intimidation and disinformation campaigns), they suggest that many of the favorite "talking points" of the Connecticut ABC are not accurate or based in fact.