BOISE (CN) – On the day it was supposed to take effect, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a state act aimed at preventing unions in Idaho from subsidizing wages to help contractors win bids, saying it conflicts with federal law.
Called the “Fairness in Contracting Act,” Senate Bill 1007, passed in February and signed by Gov. Butch Otter March 3, put an end to market recovery programs, also known as “job targeting programs,” in Idaho. The new law, which was to be enforced by state Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, was set to go into effect July 1.
But District Court Chief Judge Lynn Winmill agreed with plaintiffs Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council and Southwest Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council, both AFL-CIO affiliates, who maintained the law conflicts with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
“In this case, Plaintiffs argue that the state’s attempt to prohibit market recovery programs through enactment of the Fairness in Contracting Act is preempted because such programs are protected by Section 7 of the NLRA,” Winmill said. “Section 7 protects employees’ rights to ‘engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of other mutual aid or protection.’ With respect to market recovery programs, the NLRB has found that they constitute concerted protected activity under Section 7: ‘The objectives of the “job targeting program” are to protect employees’ jobs and wage scales.'”
The decision was also based on the unions’ ability to satisfy four main requirements:
“A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish: (1) that it is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) that the balance of equities tips in its favor; and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest,” Winmill said.
In his analysis, Winmill referred to the 1983 case Belknap v. Hale establishing that “state regulation is presumptively preempted by the NLRA when it concerns conduct that is actually or arguably either protected or prohibited by the NLRA,” and that “The general framework for determining whether particular state law claims are preempted by the NLRA remains that initially established by the Supreme Court in San Diego Building Trades Council v. Garmon.”
He added that the unions would likely suffer irreparable harm and, lastly, that the court “finds that enjoining the enactment and enforcement of the Fairness in Contracting Act will further the public interest because (1) the public interest favors enjoining a state law that conflicts with a federal statutory scheme; (2) there is some evidence that job targeting programs may have resulted in financial savings on state and local public work projects; and (3) enjoining the state statute protects union members’ right to engage in concerted activity for their mutual aid and protection,” Winmill said.
“There being no evidence that a delay in enacting the Act would unduly harm Wasden or the public, the Court finds that the ‘balance of equities’ and ‘public interest’ elements for a preliminary injunction are also met,” the judge added.
The judge granted the preliminary injunction enjoining Wasden from enforcing any of the provisions of SB 1007. He further ordered that the injunction stay in effect until the court addresses and resolves any motion for a permanent injunction.