MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City said it will proceed with $6 billion in infrastructure updates after a federal judge preserved its project labor agreements with an organization representing some 50 local unions.
The agreements with the Building and Construction Trades Council, which aim to reduce strikes and standardize work rules, outline the construction of a new police academy and a larger 911 call center.
In 2009, the city and the council struck a deal for public infrastructure projects involving a projected 32,000 construction jobs through 2014. About 1,800 of these are anticipated to be new construction jobs.
The deal relied on project labor agreements, defined by the White House as “a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project.”
On Feb. 6, 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order encouraging project labor agreements for federally funded projects costing $25 million or more to increase efficiency and timely completion of large-scale construction projects.
Two contractor groups, Building Industry Electrical Contractors Association and United Electrical Contractors Association, opposed the agreements, claiming they are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act.
U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr. rejected that argument on Thursday, drawing from a Supreme Court decision that preserved the use of project labor agreements in the cleanup of Boston Harbor.
City officials applauded the ruling, which they said will save an estimated $300 million that can be redirected to save projects that might otherwise have been cut because of the recession.
“This important ruling will allow critical public works – such as the new police academy – to proceed without interruption, and ensure that future construction projects will be completed in a cost-effective and efficient manner,” city lawyer Jonathan S. Becker said in a statement.
Gary La Barbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, said the ruling validates the fact that project labor agreements (PLAs) are a legal, effective way to lower costs and improve construction efficiency. “These PLAs will help jumpstart additional economic activity and create thousands of solid, union construction jobs throughout New York City,” La Barbera said in a statement.