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Building & Construction Trades Department

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

US District Court in Michigan Blocks Anti-PLA Law

The U.S. District Court in Michigan on November 15 issued a preliminary injunction against a Michigan law prohibiting public sector Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).  The State legislature passed this law in an attempt to get around an injunction the same court issued last year against similar legislation, but in the November 15 ruling in Michigan BCTC v. Snyder, the court found the new law to be equally unconstitutional.

By way of background, Michigan passed a law in 2011 that broadly prohibited PLAs on all public works projects, regardless whether the agreement was negotiated and implemented by a public entity or a private party.  The Michigan BCTC and Genesee, Lapeer and Shiawasee BCTC, assisted by the Building and Construction Trades Department, challenged the law in federal court.  The court held that Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act protects the right of construction workers to engage in concerted activity to attempt to convince public entities to use PLAs and to enter into PLAs with private contractors, and that the Michigan law was preempted because it interfered with these rights. That decision is currently on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In the meantime, the legislature amended the law to permit private contractors to use their own agreements on public works projects.  The new law, however, continues to preclude public entities from negotiating PLAs or implementing them through bid specifications.  In its recent decision, the court held that because the law still blocks construction workers from attempting to convince public owners to use PLAs, it is preempted.