Underground Construction - July 2022 - 22

INSIDEINFRASTRUCTURE
Eben Wyman | Wyman Associates
Labor Policy Must Recognize
Workforce Capacity Challenges
EDITOR'S NOTE
Eben Wyman is a veteran advocate
for key underground utility and
pipeline associations. He points out
that maintaining an effective advocacy
program is fundamental to the
success of any organization interested
in the happenings of the federal
government. He can be contacted at
eben@wymanassociates.net.
Last year, passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs
Act (IIJA) provided unprecedent funding in a wide range of
markets. From deploying broadband systems to hardening the
electric grid, replacing gas distribution systems to building and
repairing America's interstate pipeline network, to upgrading
sewer and water systems, the federal investment provided in
IIJA reflects a federal commitment we haven't seen before.
While the $550 billion bill in new federal investment is
promising, the construction industry continues to face stubborn
challenges related to job capacity. Over the past several
years we have seen a " greying workforce, " where older, seasoned
workers are retiring, and the industry has struggled to
replace them. These problems are already formidable, and the
last thing the country needs is for the federal government to
makes things worse.
When then President-elect Biden indicated that he would
support and encourage policy that favors organized labor and
create countless " union jobs, " many industry groups cautioned
against overzealous favoritism for union work, especially with
regard to mandated project labor agreements (PLAs). Despite
the president's promises to provide hundreds of thousands
of union jobs, more than 85 percent of construction workers
across the country come from merit-shop entities. Now is not
the time to enact policy that would cut out the majority of the
workers needed to meet the demand coming our way.
PLA requirements essentially exclude many construction
firms from the opportunity to compete on contracts that include
federal financing assistance. While this language was
proposed as guidance and not as a mandate, the construction
industry is concerned that encouragement of PLAs and relat22
JULY 2022 | UCONonline.com
ed reporting requirements could lead to confusion. Further, it
would discourage state and local governments from contracting
with qualified nonunion contractors and local workers who
could provide the best quality and cost for taxpayers.
Agency hurdles present formidable challenges
One of the biggest challenges facing the construction industry
is the lack of enough workers in the market to meet the ever-increasing
demand for the construction of American infrastructure.
Mandating union labor while cutting out valuable
nonunion workers though mandated PLAs exacerbates our
workforce capacity challenges at a time when demand for construction
workers is only rising. These policies will unquestionably
delay the construction of the infrastructure needed.
While the Biden administration's executive actions have not
mandated PLA, they certainly encourage them as well as other
biased policies. A few examples include:
* U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service
(RUS) " ReConnect " Program - A recent announcement
regarding funding to the RUS ReConnect program
indicates that it is " important that necessary investments
in broadband infrastructure be carried out in ways that
produce high-quality infrastructure, avert disruptive and
costly delays, and promote efficiency. "
RUS then indicated that applicants should describe
how they will incorporate strong labor standards,
including " whether the project will be covered by a
project labor agreement. "
* " Guidance " from U.S. Department of Treasury - In 2021,
industry weighed in with the U.S. Department of Treasury
concerning guidance related to federally assisted state and
local infrastructure projects, including those related to
water infrastructure and broadband deployment. PLAs are
clearly encouraged in this guidance.
* Department of Labor's proposed rule on expansion of
prevailing wage requirements - DOL has proposed to
change the definition of " prevailing wage " and to the
scope of data to be considered in its wage surveys to set
prevailing wages. Under current law, a single wage and
benefit rate may be identified as prevailing in the area " only
if it is paid to a majority of workers in a classification on
the wage survey. Otherwise, a weighted average is used. "
DOL proposes to return to the " 30 percent rule, " where
in the absence of a wage rate paid to a majority of workers
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Underground Construction - July 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Underground Construction - July 2022

Contents
Underground Construction - July 2022 - Cover1
Underground Construction - July 2022 - Cover2
Underground Construction - July 2022 - Contents
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 4
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 5
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 6
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 7
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 8
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 9
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 10
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 11
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 12
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 13
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 14
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 15
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 16
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 17
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 18
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 19
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 20
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 21
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 22
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 23
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 24
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 25
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 26
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 27
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 28
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 29
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 30
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 31
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Underground Construction - July 2022 - 35
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 36
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Underground Construction - July 2022 - 38
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 39
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 40
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 41
Underground Construction - July 2022 - 42
Underground Construction - July 2022 - Cover3
Underground Construction - July 2022 - Cover4
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