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Ensuring economic and jobsite efficiencies for project owners are not the only thing project labor agreements do. In addition, PLAs permit public and private owners to leverage capital facility investments, through what are known as Community Workforce Agreements (CWAs), in order to generate significant and substantial benefits for local communities.
Over the past decade, Community Workforce Agreements (CWAs) have emerged as one of the best vehicles for establishing strong job quality standards on publicly-funded or subsidized construction projects, and for outlining a plan to recruit and hire low-income workers onto those projects.
CWAs build well defined career opportunities for underrepresented communities by establishing apprenticeship utilization requirements and targeted hiring practices.
CWAs are powerful and effective tools for a number of reasons. Negotiating a CWA provision brings building trades unions together with the project user/owner, the general contractor, government officials and community organizations to jointly develop the terms of the project.
Local governments in New York, Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland, to name just a few, have pioneered efforts to negotiate and implement CWAs that provide employment and career training opportunities for local residents.
In Washington, DC, a PLA for the construction of the Washington Nationals baseball stadium included a CWA that yielded fantastic results.
According to the DC Stadium PLA Task Force, the project achieved for the District of Columbia more than it bargained for with respect to the important goal of local workforce development. During the time at which the PLA was negotiated, one of the District's stated goals – which many critics of the PLA laughably thought was unachievable – was to ensure that 50% of all apprentice hours worked on Nationals Stadium would be applicable to DC residents who were enrolled in formal, registered apprenticeship programs maintained by joint labor-management apprenticeship and training trusts in the DC Metro area.
In fact, that goal was exceeded.
Roughly 600 District of Columbia residents were hired to work on the Nationals Stadium project – equating to 50% of all new hires on the project. In addition, almost 80% of all apprentice hours were worked by DC residents – easily exceeding the original goal of 50% of such hours. New DC Resident apprentices comprised 91% of the total for new apprentices.
What these numbers demonstrate, and this is most important to remember when calculating the true value of a Project Labor Agreement, is that the District of Columbia was been able to successfully leverage its construction dollars into building the city’s skilled construction workforce of the future.
This experience, as well as those in major metropolitan areas across the nation, point to clear lessons in how CWAs can make construction projects better for government, workers, contractors and communities.