U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson, Jr. ruled last week that project labor agreements (PLAs) between New York City and the Building and Construction Trades Council, an umbrella group that represents about 50 local trades unions, do not violate the federal National Labor Relations Act. The agreements, first reached in 2009 to “improve efficiency by preventing strikes and standardizing work rules,” include the construction of a new police academy and a 911 call center, both part of $6 billion worth of city infrastructure projects.
To back up its decision, the court referred to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, which determined that PLAs used to expedite a Boston Harbor clean-up project were lawful.
However, the Building Industry Electrical Contractors Association and United Electrical Contractors Association contend that PLAs are unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act. They claim that “by entering into the PLAs, the city was acting as a regulator and not a market participant, allegedly favoring unions.”
Alan Pollock, a lawyer representing the contractors, says the judge’s decision is disappointing. “We intend to appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals,” says Pollock, a partner with NYC law firm Robinson Brog Leinward Greene Genovese & Gluck.

The PLAs are expected to save $300 million on public infrastructure projects and create 1,800 new construction jobs, say lawyers for NYC.
“This ruling validates what we’ve known all along: PLAs are legal and are very effective in lowering costs for taxpayers and improving efficiency on construction projects,” Gary LaBarbera, president of the BCTC of Greater New York, said in a statement. “These PLAs will help jumpstart additional economic activity and create thousands of solid, union construction jobs throughout New York City.”

Photo by Esther D'Amico