SMACNA is cheering - and ABC is booing - an executive order repealing a policy that banned federal projects from requiring unionized workers.

SMACNA is cheering - and ABC is booing - President Barack Obama’s executive order repealing a Bush administration policy that banned federal projects from requiring unionized workers.

“On behalf of SMACNA, I want to express our enthusiastic appreciation to you for signing the executive order encouraging executive agencies to consider requiring the use of PLAs (project labor agreements) on all federally funded construction projects,” John Ilten, president of the Sheet Metal and Air-Conditioning Contractors’ National Association, said in a letter to the president. “The administration’s action to reverse the last eight-year period of hostility toward PLA-managed projects is a great source of optimism to our leadership and the thousands of contractors we represent.”

The order asks the Office of Management and Budget to study whether broader use of PLAs would make federal projects more efficient and cost effective, which SMACNA said could benefit its members.

SMACNA companies generally employ workers who belong to the Sheet Metal Workers union. 

The Associated Builders and Contractors, however, which urges the use of nonunion or “merit shop” companies, strongly criticized the president’s decision.

“Today’s decision … opens the door to waste and discrimination in federal and federally funded construction contracts,” said ABC President and CEO Kirk Pickerel. “This action removes the safeguards that prohibited discrimination based upon union affiliation in the awarding of federal contracts. “

Pickerel estimated that projects costs could rise between 10 percent and 20 percent under the new order.

“All taxpayers should have the opportunity to compete fairly on any project funded by the federal government,” he added.