The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 08, 2012

Legislature OKs stopgap to ban PLAs

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – The Michigan House on May 31 adopted a “fix-it” bill that would once again ban the state government and local municipalities from entering into construction project labor agreements. The bill was adopted along party lines, with one Republican lawmaker voting along with Democrats against it.

A nearly identical version of the bill previously passed the Senate, also along party lines, and it will likely be resolved and made into law with Gov. Snyder’s signature by the time you read this. The bill basically is what Republican lawmakers hope is an end-around to a February ruling by a federal judge, who overturned the first state GOP law adopted last summer that attempted to outlaw PLAs. U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts ruled that the federal National Labor Relations Act, which spells out the rights of workers and unions, preempts Michigan’s attempts to kill PLAs.

As we reported when the fix-it legislation was introduced last month, state Republicans have a high legal mountain to climb to outlaw PLAs, because their law conflicts with federal labor law. “The bottom line with this new bill is that they’re trying to fix what the federal judge found wrong, by making technical changes,” Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council attorney John Canzano said last month. “But in my opinion, they can’t find a fix for what they’re trying to do, which is to prevent all government units in Michigan from employing PLAs.”

Gov. Rick Snyder signed Public Act 98 into law last summer, which ended the public use of PLAs in Michigan. PLAs have been successfully been used for years on public and private construction projects. They generally establish wage rates, hours, and usually prohibit strikes or lockouts.   The agreements can also include language that spells out required standards for safety or skills training for workers, as well as drug and alcohol testing requirements.

They generally allow the hiring of nonunion contractors, even though most require contractors to be signatory to, or adhere to, a collective bargaining agreement for the term of the project.

The Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council appealed the new Michigan law in federal court, and won, with the law being struck down in February. Michigan Attorney General William Schuette then appealed Roberts’ ruling, requesting that a stay be placed on the her ruling until the appeal is decided. At press time, there has been no stay issued on the original ruling, nor any rulings on the appeal.