In a decision that will have enormous impact nationwide a Federal judge has ruled that Michigan’s ban on Project labor Agreements is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Victoria 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 Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed the new law banning the agreements.

The court ruled yesterday that the Michigan ban violated federal law, which “explicitly allows for PLAs in the construction industry.”

PLA’s are collective bargaining agreements with labor unions that establish the wages and benefits on a particular project. The agreements provide standardization of work rules, hours and other factors.

The ruling puts the court on record as recognizing that by prohibiting the use of PLA’s on public works projects, Michigan lawmakers interfered with the legally protected rights of workers to engage in concerted activity to convince public entities to use PLA’s, and the rights of workers and their unions to enter into a range of agreements authorized under the law.

The judge actually went further than just striking down the law. She suggested in her ruling that anti-union sentiment was at the root of the legislation.

She took aim what she said was the false claim that the law was an attempt to level the playing field.

“The problem with the Michigan Legislature’s attempt top impose its own definition of fairness on labor relations is that Congress has 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.'”


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.