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State Law & PLAs Do Not Stop Union Strikes

Massachusetts state law makes it illegal for public school teacher unions to strike, and yet it still happens.

Meanwhile, trade unions would have you believe that a project labor agreement will prevent a strike on a construction project. In exchange for agreeing to use only union labor on a project, trade unions claim they will not strike and hold up the project.  Some have called it blackmail.

If state law cannot prevent a teachers’ union strike, how can a mere contract prevent a trade union strike? The answer is it cannot.

There are numerous cases of unions striking in violation of the PLA. To cite just a few:

·         Teamsters engaged in a 2021 work stoppage despite a PLA in Washington state.

·         Carpenters walked off 20 jobsites, including the World Trade Center 3 in 2015, reported the New York Post.

·         Carpenters also shut down the World Trade Center 4 project in 2013, and issued a press release.

The reality is trade union strikes are relatively rare. They are all bark and no bite, because they are a mere 16% of the construction workforce in Massachusetts. Merit shop workers do not strike, and because they are permanent employees of the contractors, they share the incentive to please the customer.

The Truth About Project Labor Agreements, published by the Associated Builders and Contractors in Washington, D.C., cited some interesting data on trade union strikes:

“According to the the Labor Action Tracker by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, there were only nine labor actions in 12 locations since the beginning of 2021 to February 2023 specific to the construction industry [sic].


“In addition, according to the most recent data available from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, there were just 45 construction industry work stoppages from 2015-2019 and 101 work stoppages from 2010 to 2014.”


The threat of a potential strike and then offering a PLA to prevent it sounds like the old protection racket. The glass in your storefront might get broken or the building might be torched, so pay the locals to prevent it.

Only the data shows the threats are hollow. Not only should project owners stand up to these types of threats and refuse to succumb, they can do so knowing the union protests are all bark.



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