Coming to an agreement

News AASHTO November 13, 2001
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A federal court has issued a ruling that effectively overturned a Bush Administration ban on so-called "project labor agreement


A federal court has issued a ruling that effectively overturned a Bush Administration ban on so-called "project labor agreements," clearing the way for Maryland to institute such a pact on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, on which the state is overseeing construction.


The ruling potentially has nationwide impact on projects including highways, bridges, dams and airports, according to the Washington Post.


Project labor agreements generally require all contractors working on a covered project to offer their workers union-level pay and working conditions in exchange for an agreement by the employees not to strike during the construction period. Maryland had planned to use such a pact on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge reconstruction, a $2.4 billion project it is jointly executing with Virginia and the District of Columbia to clear up a serious bottleneck on I-95.


In February, President Bush issued an executive order effectively banning the use of project labor agreements on projects that incorporated federal funds. Several states immediately voiced concern, in part because they have used the pacts to buy a measure of assurance against work stoppages and bring projects in on time. Several such pacts were pending on major projects at the time of the order, and it did not "grandfather in" existing agreements.


The recent ruling came in a lawsuit filed against the Bush order by the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, which sought in its May filing to protect its agreement on the Wilson Bridge and its stake in dozens of other projects.


U.S. District Judge G. Sullivan found that the Bush order unconstitutionally "removed an economic weapon from labor organizations, federal agencies and the recipients of federal funding."


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