In a decision that will have massively positive implications for the state, its workers and construction owners alike, a Federal judge has ruled that Michigan’s recent ban of Project Labor Agreements is unconstitutional:
U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts of the Eastern District of Michigan ruled in favor of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council and the Genesee, Lapeer, Shiawassee Building and Construction trades Council in their suit against Snyder.
Roberts ruled that the ban violated federal law, which “explicitly allows for PLAs in the construction industry.”
PLAs are collective bargaining agreements with one or more labor unions that establish the wages and benefits for workers on a particular project. Unions say the agreements provide a standardization of work rules, hours and other factors, giving contractors more control over the project.
A similar conclusion was reached in Idaho last year:
Idaho witnessed a monster victory yesterday, not only for the unions whose lawsuit sought to protect contractors interested in Project Labor Agreements, but for the workers hoping their shops will be able to bid more competitively through job-targeting programs.
The state’s construction unions were outraged when anti-union legislators took aim at Project Labor Agreements, the pre-hire construction contracts that aim to set wage, benefit and safety standards as well as minority, female and veteran hiring goals. Their lawsuit, which led to a judge blocking the anti-worker laws in July, yesterday came to fruition.
In Michigan, the court recognized that by effectively prohibiting the use of PLAs on public works projects, the Act interfered with the Section 7 rights of employees to engage in concerted activity to convince public entities to use PLAs, and the rights of employees and their unions to enter into the kinds of agreements authorized by Sections 8(e) and (f) of the Act. The court went on to find that this across-the-board rule is a regulation, not proprietary conduct, which is preempted under both Garmon and Machinists preemption principles.
But Judge Roberts did not stop at simply striking down the law, she went on to question the motives of those who put it in place, suggesting that anti-union sentiment was at the root of the legislation:
In her ruling, Roberts disputed that the laws intent was to level the playing field.
“The problem with the Michigan Legislature’s attempt to impose its own definition of fairness on labor relations is that Congress already decided what the proper balance of power should be between unions and employers when it amended the (National Labor Relations Act) in 1959,” Roberts wrote. “Here, ‘fairness’ is a disguised way for the State to upset the balance of power established by Congress.”