Critics of project labor agreements typically limit their complaints to issues of cost (“UMass didn’t heed warnings on construction costs,” Opinion, April 12). While cost savings are in dispute, there is solid evidence that PLAs bring many additional economic and social advantages in addition to family-sustaining wages. Diversity among the construction workforce, and the economic opportunities that holds for women and minorities, is one of the most important benefits of PLAs.
The University of Massachusetts Boston PLA is a nationally recognized model for diversity. Governor Patrick and the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council made a pact, in writing, that this PLA would leverage opportunities for women and people of color to enter good-paying jobs in the construction trades.
When UMass construction began in 2011, women accounted for less than 3 percent of construction workers in Boston, and people of color were at around 20 percent. Six years later, women have worked 8 percent of the construction hours at UMass Boston, and people of color more than 40 percent. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has adopted many of this PLA’s proven best practices to ensure diversity in casino construction.
Only unions can supply the diverse workforce. In Massachusetts today, there are more than 400 female union apprentices, as compared with 40 nonunion. There are more than 1,500 minority union apprentices, as compared with under 200 nonunion. PLAs are proven partnerships for promoting economic equality for women and people of color.
The writer is director of research at the Labor Resource Center at UMass Boston and a co-convener of the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues.