How to Challenge a Project Labor Agreement

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The seminal Supreme Court decision, known as Boston Harbor, held that the NLRA does not preempt PLAs if the government entity is acting as a market participant, not a market regulator.

May 24, 2018
Wally Zimolong – Supplemental Conditions

Building and Construction Trades Council of Metropolitan District v. Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts Rhode Island, Inc Massachusetts Water Resources Authority v. Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts Rhode Island, Inc, 507 U.S. 218, 113 S.Ct. 1190, 122 L.Ed.2d 565 (1993) , affectionately knows as Boston Harbor, is the seminal Supreme Court decision that held that the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) does not preempt government mandated project labor agreements (“PLAs”) if the government entity is acting as a market participant rather than a market regulator. Boston Harbor has led to many believing that virtually all PLAs are legal when the government agency is a project owner or if the PLA involves a private project. However, does Boston Harbor really cut that far?

In short, no. The primary issue in Boston Harbor was one of preemption. The Supreme Court addressed whether the NLRA preempted state and local laws and ordinances mandating PLAs. On that narrow issue, the Supreme Court said there is no preemption if the government is acting as a market participant. What the Court did not address is whether other federal statutes invalidate PLAs. Specifically, whether PLA’s can run afoul of Section 8(e), the so called “hot cargo” provisions, of the NLRA.

Mr. Zimolong may be contacted at wally@zimolonglaw.com



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