Several contractors filed a federal lawsuit against Westmoreland County for its use of a project labor agreement that requires union workers for county projects over $150,000.
On behalf of nine plaintiffs, attorney Thomas E. Weiers Jr. contended the agreement violates contractors’ civil rights. One of the listed plaintiffs is the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Pennsylvania (ABC), an organization of contractors operating in Western Pennsylvania, other plaintiffs include contracting businesses and their employees.
In May 2016, a majority of Westmoreland County commissioners entered into a project labor agreement with the Pittsburgh Regional Building Trades Council (PRBTC). The initial agreement was for three years, and would remain in effect on a year-to-year basis unless the county or the PRBTC terminates it.
The agreement applies to all qualifying construction projects for the county that cost in excess of $150,000, and compels contractors and sub-contractors to recognize a union that belongs to the PRBTC as the sole and exclusive bargaining representatives of all craft employees within their respective jurisdictions working on that project.
The agreement also compels those employees working on the project to become dues-paying members of a union in the PRBTC. The suit contends the agreement requires the contractor or subcontractor to immediately fire any employee that does not join one of these unions regardless of whether the contractor’s employees have voted to join a different union, and regardless of whether those employees have chosen to decline union representation and to contribute to that union’s pension.
“Almost all of ABC’s members are non-union,” Weiers wrote in the complaint, adding that one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit employs workers represented by the United Steelworkers. “ABC has associational standing to challenge the county’s project labor agreement.”
The plaintiffs in the case, which include ABC, Alex E. Paris Contracting Company Inc., Westmoreland Electric Services LLC, Lawrence Plumbling LLC, David R. Smith, Kurtis L. Rumbaugh, Joseph L. Corn, Andrew Cilia and Keith A. Impink, are seeking the court to find the county is violating their First and Fourteenth Amendments, violating their federal rights under the National Labor Relations Act, violating Pennsylvania’s competitive bidding laws, enjoining the county from enforcing the agreement and award attorney’s fees.
Fayette County has a similar project labor agreement that was put in place in 2011 with a cost threshold of $500,000. Fayette County Commissioner Vincent A. Vicites on Monday said the county has never been the subject of a lawsuit because of the agreement.