Worcester City Council Flirting with PLA, Residency Requirement

The Worcester City Council has asked the city manager to report back on the possibility of imposing a residency requirement and a union-only project labor agreement on $500 million in new school projects. As Yogi Bera might say, it's deja vu all over again in Worcester.


In 2002, a federal judge permanently enjoined the City of Worcester from imposing a residency requirement on construction projects. While politically popular, mandating local hiring on public construction violates the U.S. Constitution's Immunities and Privileges Clause.

A better approach to solving the lack of employment would be greater accessibility to programs that train the unemployed in the so-called soft skills needed to obtain and retain employment and then match them with job openings. There is no lack of employment opportunities with merit shop contractors for job applicants who meet even minimum requirements.


Despite the desire to hire local, the Council then expressed interest in imposing a PLA which would block from bidding and working many merit shops either in Worcester or who employee Worcester residents. In 1999, the state's Supreme Judical Court branded PLAs as "anticompetitive" and unjustified "in all or even most circumstances."

Legal arguments aside, PLAs are anti-competitive and unfair. A PLA will:

  • Deny merit shop contractors the opportunity to bid and work on a project they are paying for as the state plans to provide 55% of construction costs.
  • Lock out 83.2% of the construction workforce that is non-union in Massachusetts and severely limit competition and ultimately increase costs. You need to look no further than the research of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau to clearly see PLAs raise the cost of construction. And many other academic studies agree.
  • Provide no additional benefit to the taxpayers or the project beyond what is already guaranteed by state and federal laws regarding wages and safety, which render PLAs redundant and ineffectual.

Fair and Open Competition Wins the Day with GE Project

The Merit Construction Alliance applauds the decision by General Electric to open bidding on the publicly funded portions of its new headquarters project to all qualified contractors. Previously, GE's general contractor had restricted bidding to only union shops, which locks out 85 percent of the construction workforce in Massachusetts that is merit shop.

MCA objected to the PLA and brought it to the attention of state officials. While GE and its construction team are private entities, they are entrusted with public dollars to renovate publicly owned buildings that will be leased back to GE. As such, the project is public construction in all other respects, and MCA took the position that a PLA would be unlawful. PLAs restrict projects to using only union labor, which denies access to the qualified and skilled men and women who choose work for merit shops and outside of the union system. PLAs also restrict competition and increase projects costs, but are typically used under political pressure and threats by unions to strike or otherwise disrupt projects.

20 Years of Success Promoting Fair & Open Competition

Over $1 Billion Saved

  • MCA advocacy steered more than $1 billion in construction projects from union-only to open and competitive bidding by qualified contractors - regardless of union affiliation.
  • With more qualified bidders, prices tend to be lower. This is critical especially on public projects funded by taxpayers, but also important to private project owners.
  • Countless other projects never contemplated restricting bidding due to MCA's effective advocacy.

Merit shops employ 82.5% of construction workers in Mass.

The Merit Construction Alliance gives voice to the vast majority of the construction industry: merit shop contractors and their employees. Merit shops employed 82.5% of the Massachusetts construction workforce in 2015, according to data compiled by unionstats.com. MCA represents merit shops in advocating for fair and open competition and an end to policies that favor special interest groups at the expense of our members and the taxpayers.