Survey: Overwhelming majority of state voters oppose a key feature
of Project Labor Agreements
A new survey conducted by the Suffolk University Political
Research Center for the Beacon Hill Institute shows that 69% of
Massachusetts voters oppose a requirement under which private contractors
who perform public projects must hire workers through union hiring
halls. The finding is important because the requirement is a key
feature of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), which are strongly favored
by construction unions for conducting public projects.
year, President Obama issued an executive order encouraging the
use of PLAs on federal construction projects. The order is controversial
in part because PLAs require contractors to use labor provided by
the unions, whether or not their own workers are union members.
argue that PLAs guarantee the availability of a skilled workforce
and labor peace. Opponents argue that nonunion workers
are just as a skilled as union workers and that the requirement
puts nonunion contractors at a competitive disadvantage, penalizes
the vast majority of construction
workers, who do not belong to unions, and increases construction
costs. Worries about labor peace, say opponents, are an empty threat.
to the idea of requiring construction contractors to hire through
union hiring halls runs counter to voters otherwise sympathetic
attitudes to unions. The same survey showed that a majority (52%)
of Massachusetts voters have a favorable opinion of unions. It also
found that only 19% of voters believe that public sector union workers
requirement that construction contractors hire their workers through
union hiring halls is opposed by almost every segment of the electorate.
Eighty-eight percent (88%) of Republicans, 76% of Independents and
52% of Democrats oppose the requirement. Even among households with
members, 59% are opposed. Opposition is consistent across voters
segmented according to age, gender, race and attitudes toward candidates
for governor and the U.S. Senate. Only the 15% of voters who have
a very favorable view of unions support the requirement.
survey suggests that public opinion of project labor agreements
may be sensitive to perceptions about the degree to which construction
workers are unionized. Seventy-three percent (73%) of the respondents
estimated that the fraction belonging to unions is 40% or more.
In fact, only about 20% of private construction workers in Massachusetts
belong to unions. Respondents were given this fact before they were
asked about hiring through union hiring halls.
G. Tuerck, Executive Director of the Institute said that elected
officials who must decide whether to enter into PLAs on public construction
projects should be interested in the results of the survey. Apparently,
when voters are informed of the facts concerning union membership,
they do not support a key feature of PLAs.
statewide survey of 500 Massachusetts registered voters was conducted
Feb. 21-24, 2010.
The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of
confidence. The results summarized have been posted at www.beaconhill.org.
more survey-related information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310,
Beacon Hill Institute has conducted research on PLAs and other issues
concerning the construction unions. The results of this research
can be found at www.beaconhill.org or by calling BHI at 617-573-8750.
and Response in PDF