Federal Judge Victoria A. Roberts struck down as unconstitutional a ban on project labor agreements signed into law last year by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R). The ruling was a major victory for working families in Michigan and preserves one of the most widely-used and effective tools in protecting laborers in the U.S. Roberts ruled that PLAs are explicitly legal and encouraged under a law passed by Congress, and that the state not only doesn't have the right to ban them, that it was being dishonest in its attempt to enact the ban.
In Michigan, the court recognized that by effectively prohibiting the use of PLAs on public works projects, the Act interfered with the Section 7 rights of employees to engage in concerted activity to convince public entities to use PLAs, and the rights of employees and their unions to enter into the kinds of agreements authorized by Sections 8(e) and (f) of the Act. The court went on to find that this across-the-board rule is a regulation, not proprietary conduct, which is preempted under both Garmon and Machinists preemption principles.
But Judge Roberts did not stop at simply striking down the law, she went on to question the motives of those who put it in place, suggesting that anti-union sentiment was at the root of the legislation:
In her ruling, Roberts disputed that the laws intent was to level the playing field.
“The problem with the Michigan Legislature’s attempt to impose its own definition of fairness on labor relations is that Congress already decided what the proper balance of power should be between unions and employers when it amended the (National Labor Relations Act) in 1959,” Roberts wrote. “Here, ‘fairness’ is a disguised way for the State to upset the balance of power established by Congress.”