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House sends Onder’s PLA bill to governor’s desk


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Another labor reform measure is heading to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk, this time targeting project labor agreements.

The House third read and passed Sen. Bob Onder’s SB 182, a bill which would end the current mandate for parties bidding on public works projects to make agreements with labor organizations and unions. Rep. Rob Vescovo handled the bill in the House, and he said the legislation would make the bidding process on public projects more fair for all interested parties.

Rep. Rob Vescovo
Rep. Rob Vescovo

“Some would say it’s an anti-union legislation, and I disagree,” Vescovo said after the House adjourned for the week. “I would say it’s pro-worker and it allows the other 86 percent of the workforce to bid on projects and work on projects without being signatory. That’s very important.”

The law does not merely repeal that provision, but it also bans state agencies and municipalities from requiring bidders from entering into those agreements with labor unions. However, if a party still desires to make an agreement with a labor organization, they are still free to do so.

While the bill ideally would open up competition for various public works projects, union leaders in the House had few kind words for the idea.

“PLAs are a valuable tool to keep jobs on budget with no work stoppages with quality work,” Rep. Bob Burns said, referring to his time on the Missouri School District Board of Education.

During debate on the floor, supporters of project labor agreements in their current form in Missouri said they ensure quality work, but opponents of the state’s current statute – and supporters of Onder’s bill – believe they inflate costs and create an unfair advantage for unions.

For Speaker Todd Richardson, the passage of the legislation was another bill sent to Greitens’ desk aimed at his and most of the Republican caucus’ session-long priority of labor reform.

“Everybody ought to have the opportunity to compete and bid for those public works projects,” Richardson said. “I think to the extent that we’re opening up those projects to union shops and non-union shops and letting everyone have the opportunity to bid on it is the right policy for the state of Missouri.”

Vescovo said in his conversations with the governor that Greitens supported the measure.