U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds PLAs, Big Win for Workers and Unions

Rancho Santiago Community College District Case

October 11, 2010 - Building Trades unions and workers have won a major victory before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has ruled in Johnson v. Rancho Santiago Community College District that an ABC challenge to a Project Stabilization Agreement ("PSA") between the District and the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council has no merit.

 The Court rejected ABC's contention that the agreement was illegal because it excluded ABC apprentices from the District projects and required contractors to contribute to union apprenticeship programs. The Court found that in entering into the PSA, the District was acting not as a regulator but as a market participant, and the agreement did therefore not run afoul of either the National Labor Relations Act or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The Court rejected ABC's agrument that the PSA was illegal because it covered multiple projects.

Further, the court found, the agreement did not violate the due process or equal protection rights of non-union contractors and apprentices, because they are not excluded from the projects. All contractors could bid for work, and apprentices were free to join union apprenticeship programs qualified to provide workers for the projects.

The Court concluded the PSA is "rationally related to the District's legitimate interest in avoiding labor disruptions," and "reflects the District's interest in the efficient procurement of goods and services."

The ruling resoundingly confirms the ability of government agencies to enter into project labor agreements with the Building Trades unions, ensuring good wages and benefits and working conditions, and top-quality union workmanship. It is a major victory for Building Trades unions and workers, and a clear defeat for ABC.



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