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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling upholding project labor agreements on state-funded construction projects.
A group of nonunion contractors sued the state Department of General Services in an attempt to halt the renovation of the SCI Grateford prison using PLAs, arguing that the agreement discriminated against nonunion workers.
Judge Dan Pellegrini, speaking for the majority in the case of Hawbaker v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania last month, disagreed arguing that nonunion contractors have as much opportunity to bid on state projects as signatory contractors.
Project labor agreements are project-specific, pre-hire collective bargaining agreements that help contractors and managers provide cost-efficient, high-quality and on-time construction.
Open-shop contractors and anti-union political operatives have beefed up their legislative campaign against PLAs in the last couple of years, promoting local anti-PLA ballot initiatives and pushing newly-elected Republican state officials to outlaw the use of the agreements on public projects – a move that many policy experts say will hurt workers, contractors and taxpayers.
Says Cornell University Researcher Fred Kotler in a 2009 study of PLAs:
"Project labor agreements make sense for public works projects because they promote a planned approach to labor relations, allow contractors to more accurately predict labor costs and schedule production timetables, reduce the risks of shoddy work and costly disruptions and encourage greater efficiency and productivity."
The court also notes that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that PLAs were legal under federal labor law.
Says International President Edwin D. Hill:
"PLAs have proven again and again to be efficient tools for state and local officials to get construction jobs done on time and on budget. It’s heartening to see the highest court in Pennsylvania debunk many of anti-PLA distortions promoted by groups like ABC."
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers