DETROIT (CN) – Michigan passed an unconstitutional new law that bans the state from awarding public contracts to any group that uses or even encourages unionized labor, union organizers claim in a federal lawsuit.
Gov. Richard Snyder signed the Michigan Public Act 98 of 2011 into law on July 19. Nicknamed the Fair and Open Competition in Government Contracting Act, the trades councils say it affects bidders, contractors, subcontractors and labor organizations equally.
The 10-page complaint against Snyder says that section 5(a) of the law prohibits Michigan and all state governmental units “from entering into or expending funds under a contract for the construction, repair, remodeling or demolition of a public facility, if the contract or any subcontract under the contract contains a term that requires or encourages bidders, contractors or subcontractors to enter into or adhere to agreements with a collective bargaining organization relating to the construction project or other related construction projects.”
Contractors often rely on project labor agreements (PLAs) to standardize shift schedules, breaks and travel times – a practice that streamlines work and deters strikes on joint projects, unions say. Since it involves collective bargaining, it would be banned under Michigan’s new law.
“The enactment of 2011 P.A. 98 has substantially and severely impaired PLAs to which plaintiffs are currently parties by rendering those PLAs null and void with respect to work contracted after the law’s effective date,” according to the complaint filed by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council and Genesee, Lapeer, Shiawassee Building and Construction Trades Council.
“The prohibition in 2011 P.A. 98 against employees in the construction industry seeking to negotiate and implement project labor agreements and other pre-hire agreements through their bargaining representatives for use on public works projects in the state of Michigan also constitutes impermissible state interference with the ‘free play of economic forces’ that Congress intended to govern construction industry labor relations,” the complaint states.
Union organizers say the law violates the supremacy and contracts clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the National Labor Relations Act. They seek an order declaring it invalid and unenforceable and permanently enjoining its enforcement.
They are represented by John Canzano with Klimist, McKnight, Sale, McClow & Canzano of Southfield, Mich.