Public/Private Partnership to Enrich Union Bosses

A “Project Labor Agreement” (PLA) between the California Rancho Santiago Community College District and a union illegally discriminates against construction workers who exercise their right to refrain from union membership and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation won’t let the agreement stand.  The Foundation joined a high-profile appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit challenging a public agency’s discriminatory regulations intended to enrich union officials, punish nonunion workers, and stick taxpayers with the bill.

Rancho Santiago and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council (CTC) union entered into the PLA, which effectively precludes nonunion apprentices and contractors from working on over 50 construction projects funded by the public agency for over $300 million. Foundation attorneys filed an amicus brief supporting a group of nonunion apprentices seeking to work on the projects.

The union hierarchy does not represent Rancho Santiago employees, and the PLA is simply an attempt by Rancho Santiago to impose union affiliation on others. The PLA is essentially a collective bargaining agreement that contractors must sign as a condition of performing work on a government-funded construction project. It requires contractors to grant union officials monopoly bargaining privileges over their workers, use exclusive union hiring halls, make payments into often corrupt and under-funded union pension funds, and operate according to wasteful union work rules. The PLA also requires that all employees pay forced dues to the union or be fired from their job, as California is not a Right to Work state.

But Foundation attorneys argue that the discriminatory union-only requirement imposed on contractors bidding on the District’s projects violates provisions in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that limit the ability of union officials to impose union affiliation on workers against their will. By denying work to nonunion contractors on $300 million worth of public projects, Foundation attorneys argue, Rancho Santiago has imposed blanket regulation of the regional construction industry – an attempt which is federally preempted under U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Foundation attorneys point out that Rancho Santiago is not acting as a valid market participant and does not directly manage labor relations at construction sites.

“Public agencies owe it to their taxpayers to award contracts to those who will do the best work at the best price, not those who agree with bureaucrats to impose union boss control on all employees,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “This discriminatory union-only contracting scheme is a payoff to union bosses at the expense of individual workers and taxpayers.”