The Obama administration has proposed rules that would encourage agencies to consider project labor agreements (PLAs) on large projects, including economic-stimulus work. The proposed Federal Acquisition Regulation change, published on July 14, says agencies should consider requiring PLAs on jobs of $25 million or more. It follows President Obama’s Feb. 6 directive overturning the Bush administration’s ban on federal PLAs.

Labor unions lobbied for the rule change in the 2008 presidential campaign. AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Dept. spokesman Tom Owens says the rule will “be a great opportunity for us to demonstrate our value in certain regions of the country where we haven’t been as successful in the private markets.”

Although the rule is not yet final, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag sent a memo calling on agencies to begin to consider “the value of PLAs on a project-by-project basis and to require the use of PLAs in appropriate circumstances and to the extent permitted by law.”

Associated Builders and Contractors Chairman Jerry Gorski says the proposed rule violates procurement laws and regulations. “Any agency that issues an unlawful union-only PLA should expect to face a legal challenge,” he warns.

The Associated General Contractors also opposes government-mandated PLAs. AGC hopes agencies “will leave the decision of whether to perform construction work under a collective bargaining agreement up to the contractor employers and employees as provided under federal labor law,” says Denise Gold, general counsel for labor and employment law. She says AGC is pleased that under the proposal, the government would not take part in PLA negotiations. AGC hopes the policy will apply to companies that act as contract managers for the agencies.