(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – In a case with similarities to one pursued by business groups in Nevada, a federal judge in Iowa threw out a challengeto the ban on union-favoring Project Labor Agreements enacted in that state by Governor Terry Branstad. Branstad had issued an executive order prohibiting any projects that received funding from the state from being constructed under PLA’s.
PLA’s are agreements between unions and project owners that discriminate against non-union workers and contractors and cost taxpayers additional money on construction projects. Contractors are required to agree to the terms of PLA’s as a condition of receiving contracts on projects governed by these agreements.
A local group of AFL-CIO trade unions had sued to overturn the governor’s ban on PLA’s. The Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council claimed federal law superseded the state prohibition.
Federal District Court Judge John A. Jarvey disagreed, ruling that it was up to the state to determine whether or not PLA’s could be used on state-owned or state-funded projects. Judge Jarvey dismissed the lawsuit, declaring Governor Branstad’s order
establishes funding conditions that serve the State’s proprietary interest in projects. In prohibiting PLAs, the State of Iowa has made a decision that PLAs detract from a competitive bidding environment and that state funds and state projects will benefit from eliminating coercive union tactics. The State, as the proprietor of its construction projects, can make the decision not to pay union wages or operate under union conditions. This is a business decision that does not come into conflict with the NLRA because it is not designed to have a broad social impact, rather, the stated purpose is to administer proprietary projects more efficiently.
In Nevada the Nevada Business Coalition and the Associated Builders and Contractors have filed a lawsuit challenging a PLA on the Clark County Detention Center Phase 1 Remodel. District Court Judge Jerry Wiese ruled in that case the PLA in question violates Nevada state law by unfairly favoring unions over non-union contractors and workers.
The Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, a local group of AFL-CIO trade unions, along with Clark County has appealed Judge Wiese’s decision to the Nevada Supreme Court. The County has also ordered the four finalists on the project to submit new bids, pricing it out both with and without the PLA.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)