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Florida builders sue Biden administration over labor union favoritism

Associated Builders and Contractors and a Florida chapter say President Joe Biden's labor agreements policy makes a mockery of competitive bidding.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. March 30, 2024
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Builders at work. A Florida chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors sued the Biden administration in the Middle District of Florida.
Builders at work. A Florida chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors sued the Biden administration in the Middle District of Florida.
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Associated Builders and Contractors and its Florida First Coast chapter filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court to stop what it calls the Biden administration's "unlawful scheme to mandate project labor agreements on construction contracts procured by federal agencies."

The builders' complaint asserts that President Joe Biden lacks the legal and constitutional authority to impose a new federal regulation "injuring economy and efficiency in federal contracting and illegally steering construction contracts to certain unionized contractors, which employ roughly 10% of the U.S. construction workforce," the organizations say in a news release. Associated Builders and Contractors is a national trade association. 

The builders say they estimate that Biden's labor agreements policy will affect at least 180 federal construction contracts valued at $16 billion across America, on an annual basis.

Many of those projects include several federal construction contracts in Jacksonville and dozens of projects in Florida and the Southeast, the builders say.

The builders say Biden's policy makes a mockery of competitive bidding.

"ABC has heard from large and small federal contractors — including firms signatory to union agreements — and concerned federal agency contracting officers that the Biden administration's controversial (project labor agreement) policy has already stifled competition and raised costs on federal construction contracts in Florida and across the country," says Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs in the statement. "This policy will continue to do so absent a successful legal challenge."

Brubeck says such mandated agreements increase construction costs by 12% to 20%, reduce opportunities for qualified large and small contractors and exacerbate the construction industry's worker shortage of more than 500,000 people by discriminating against the nearly 90% of the industry workforce that is not unionized.

The agreements "discourage competition by forcing contractors to sign union collective bargaining agreements, which require them to follow inefficient and cumbersome union work rules, hire most or all workers from union halls and apprenticeship programs, accept compulsory union representation on behalf of any remaining members of its existing workforce and expose them to union wage theft of up to 34% of their compensation unless they join a union and vest in union benefits plans," says Brubeck.

ABC and its Florida First Coast chapter filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in response to the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council's final rule — issued in December — and the related Dec. 18 memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Those memos implemented Biden's Executive Order 14063, which mandates planned labor agreements on federal construction projects of $35 million or more.

In its legal filing, the builders asserted that the Biden administration's rule is beyond the scope of executive authority and violates the Constitution, the First Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act, among many other federal laws.

Of federal contracts worth more than $35 million, ABC members won 54% of the $205.56 billion in federal contracts from 2009 to 2023. The builders say they built award-winning projects "safely, on time and on budget, without unnecessary government-mandated (planned labor agreements)."

In Florida, ABC's Florida Gulf Coast chapter, based in Tampa, says the various state ABC chapters represent over 2,500 member firms and hundreds of thousands of employees throughout Florida. They note 89.3% of builders and contractors are not unionized.

Their website also highlights its national maxim: "Get into Politics or Get out of Business."


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