A federal appeals
court in Washington, D.C., has affirmed a White House executive
order that effectively prohibits project labor agreements
on federally funded construction projects. The court's July
12 ruling in the case, Building and Construction Trades Dept.,
AFL-CIO v. Allbaugh, is a win for open-shop contractors.
President Edward C. Sullivan
In its decision, the court
says that the president has the authority to issue the executive
order and also that the White House directive is not preempted
by the National Labor Relations Act.
Writing for the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Chief Judge
Douglas H. Ginsburg says the order "clearly constitutes
proprietary action rather than regulation." He adds,
"The principles of NLRA preemption come into play only
when the government is 'regulating without a protected zone,'
and not when it is acting as a proprietor."
Ken Adams, chairman of the Associated
Builders and Contractors, calls the ruling "a major victory
for the U.S. construction industry as it ensures a neutral
government position and restores full and open competition
in the federal contracting process."
The battle over the labor pacts
on federal projects began during the first Bush administration,
when an executive order banning PLAs was issued. President
Clinton overturned that order.
In February 2001, President George
W. Bush issued a new order, stipulating that the contracting
authority can neither require nor prohibit PLAs. In April
2001, the building trades filed suit to bar enforcement of
that directive. The unions won that round last August when
a federal district court judge overturned Bush's order. The
Bush administration appealed that decision in November 2001,
resulting in the July 12 ruling.
BCTD President Edward C.
Sullivan says he is "bitterly disappointed" by the
latest decision and that the unions will consider their legal
options, including whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sullivan contends that the ruling allows "restrictions
on the manner in which federal funds are used, without regard
to the impact of those restrictions on rights the National
Labor Relations Act grants to the employers and employees
working on projects using those funds."