House Infrastructure Bill Includes Significant Labor Law Mandates

March 19, 2021

House Democrats unveiled a mass infrastructure package that includes several provisions impacting labor and employment policy, including a requirement that companies receiving contracts remain neutral during union organizing efforts.

The Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act (LIFT Act) (H.R. 2741) was introduced last week by Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill aims to “modernize the nation’s infrastructure, rebuild the economy, combat climate change, and protect public health and the environment” at a cost of trillions of dollars.  Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) said, “As our nation combats COVID-19 and a severe economic downturn, the LIFT America Act fulfills President Biden’s promise to Build Back Better.”

Tucked within billion-dollar investments in clean energy, broadband, and health infrastructure, however, are several labor and employment policy provisions that could have significant implications for employers receiving federal contracts or funding through the bill’s various programs:

  • Neutrality:  Employers receiving funding or contracts through the bill would be required to remain neutral—i.e., refrain from opposing—union organizing campaigns involving their employees.

  • Immediate collective bargaining:  Employers receiving funding or contracts through the bill would be required to begin collective bargaining with a union within 10 days after receiving a request from a newly certified union. 

  • Forced arbitration: If the employer and union fail to reach an agreement within 90 days, either party may request mediation.  If mediation fails, an arbitration panel would impose a CBA on the parties that is binding for up to two years. 

  • Subcontracting ban:  Employers receiving funding or contracts under certain provisions of the bill would be prohibited from using subcontractors “for the purpose of circumventing the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with respect to wages, benefits, or working conditions.”

  • Prevailing Wages:  An employer receiving funding under certain provisions of the bill would be required to submit written assurances that all its workers—including those of its contractors and subcontractors—are paid wages at a level at least as high as the local rate for similarly performed work. 

  • Violation Disclosures:  Employers receiving funding under certain provisions of the bill would be required to disclose any labor, employment, civil rights, or health and safety law violations within the last three years. 

Outlook:  Some of the above provisions are also included in the PRO Act, a major labor policy rewrite that is another priority of the Biden administration, and which passed the House earlier this month.  Similar provisions could also be imposed on all federal contractors through executive order.  HR Policy will be publishing a more comprehensive and detailed look at the LIFT Act and what it means for employers next week.