Idaho Judge Strikes Down Expanded 'Right-to-Work' Laws

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Charleton Heston campaigning for right-to-work laws in Idaho and comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson

A federal judge struck down two Idaho laws designed to undercut workers rights Thursday, re-establish the right of construction workers to use project labor agreements and to use union dues to subsidize member wages in order to make competitive bids for contracts. Two separate laws that banned the practices were ruled illegal by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The rulings were a big victory for construction workers in the state:

The state’s construction unions were outraged when anti-union legislators took aim at Project Labor Agreements, the pre-hire construction contracts that aim to set wage, benefit and safety standards as well as minority, female and veteran hiring goals.


The laws, intended to weaken the power of labor organizations in the state, were passed during the 2011 legislative session and were set to go into effect last summer.

However, two building and construction unions sued in U.S. District Court, and District Judge B. Lynn Winmill stopped the laws from going into effect while the lawsuit moved forward.

Proponents said the measures were simply expansions of Idaho’s right-to-work law.

The Open Access to Work Act banned project labor agreements that require contractors to forge pacts with unionized workers as a condition of winning a government construction job.

The Fairness in Contracting Act prohibited unions from using dues to subsidize member wages to help union-shop contractors submit more competitive bids and win more projects.

Winmill ditched the laws in a written ruling late last month.

He noted in his ruling that Congress set up the parameters under which construction employers and unions could bargain so they would be influenced only by their own economic power and the free play of economic forces.


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