President Joe Biden, visiting Syracuse to tout the planned Micron fab in Onondaga County, dropped a big detail: the plant’s construction will be governed by a project labor agreement, excluding non-union companies that employ most upstate construction workers from bidding on it.

“That’s a fancy of way of saying ‘union,’” Biden told the crowd.

A project labor agreement is an agreement with construction unions that sets work schedules and other project parameters. They also tend to include a requirement that certain work be performed only by members of the signatory unions. The president’s comments indicate the PLA on the Micron project will do just that.

Recounting the development of the federal incentives backing the Micron plant, Senator Chuck Schumer was even more direct: “We’re not going to do it unless we do it all with union labor.”

Biden said the agreements keep projects “on-time, on-task, and on-budget,” but PLAs tend to increase construction costs because they bar a large swath of contractors from bidding. That has the effect of disenfranchising most construction workers: in New York, just under 30 percent of construction workers belong to a union.

The use of a PLA on the Micron project means roughly two-thirds of Central New York construction workers (and a comparable share of contractors) will be excluded.

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