WASHINGTON – The United States is stepping up its efforts to combat climate change, according to the White House. United States President Joe Biden will sign an executive order on Friday requiring “project labour agreements” in federal construction projects over $35 million.
This will be a potential boon to workers and labour unions who negotiate these agreements, and it will also be a shift that the administration claims will speed up construction times.
In a statement late on Thursday, the White House confirmed that the directive would apply to $262 billion in federal construction contracting and would affect roughly 200,000 workers. The news was initially reported by the news agency Reuters.
Building trade unions and contractors enter into collective bargaining agreements on specific projects, which establish salaries, work conditions, and dispute resolution procedures for both parties. In the past, Democratic presidents have generally supported the application of such agreements to the vast government contracting budget of the United States, whilst Republican presidents have generally opposed them.
In addition to the order, which will take effect immediately, Vice President Joe Biden signed into law a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which invests in the nation’s roads, ports, and bridges.
Federal agencies will channel a large portion of the money to state and local governments for distribution. According to a senior administration official, the new executive order excludes projects supported through grants to non-federal organizations, which will make up for a large portion of the projects authorized under the law.
The new executive order will take effect immediately. In addition to rivers, military bases, and other locations, it will apply to billions of dollars in additional government investment.
Deputy Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh are expected to accompany Biden when he signs the new executive order on Friday in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, according to the White House.
Workers, owners, developers, and contractors in the construction industry in the United States have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, which has resulted in a shortage of accessible materials and labour, as well as project cancellations on a broad scale.
Mr. Biden has vowed to promote labour unions and expand membership in the United States after years of steady decline. He has also committed to raising wages for hourly employees in construction, health care and other industries.
According to a draught of the order seen by Reuters, “contractors who provide cheaper wages or recruit less qualified personnel will be required to enhance their standards in order to compete with other high-wage, high-quality businesses.
” An earlier executive action by Biden compels government contractors with new or extended contracts to pay a minimum wage of $15 per hour to employees on federal contracts. A number of contractors applauded Biden’s decision.
Daniel Hogan, chief executive of the Association of Union Constructors, which represents 1800 contractor companies, told Reuters that the move “simplifies the bargaining process and provides employers with access to a highly qualified pool of craftworkers.”
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