County Board Suspends CUB Agreement

For the second time in the past 12 months, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners voted to suspend the county’s use of Construction Unity Board (CUB) agreements. The 8-2 vote was taken at the board’s Aug. 1, 2012 meeting, with dissent from Alicia Ping and Ronnie Peterson. Rolland Sizemore Jr. was absent.

CUB agreements are a type of project labor agreements, negotiated between local trade unions and contractors. CUB agreements require that contractors who sign the agreement abide by terms of collective bargaining agreements for the duration of the construction project. In return, the trade unions agree that they will not strike, engage in work slow-downs, set up separate work entrances at the job site or take any other adverse action against the contractor.

The county board first suspended its CUB in September 2011, pending the outcome of litigation that’s challenging the validity of the state’s Public Act 98 of 2011. That law, which took effect on July 19, 2011, prohibited municipalities from including as a requirement in a construction contract anything that would either require or prohibit contractors from entering into agreements with collective bargaining organizations. The act also prohibited discrimination against contractors based on willingness or non-willingness to enter into such agreements.

The law was challenged in federal court by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO and the Genesee, Lapeer, Shiawassee Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO. They sought to rule the law invalid, contending that it was pre-empted by the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution and the National Labor Relations Act.

The county board’s September 2011 resolution suspending its CUB also also stated that if the state law was overturned by a state or federal Court, the county would automatically reinstate its CUB agreement policy. That happened in March of 2012, when the judge for the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that the state law was unenforceable. At that time, the county’s CUB immediately was reinstated, without additional action by the county board.

Instead of appealing that decision, the state legislature made revisions to the law, which took effect on June 29, 2012 as Public Act 238 of 2012. The new law revised several aspects of the previous version, but generally prohibits the use of CUB agreements.

According to a staff memo, the unions that filed the initial lawsuit seeking to invalidate the original version of the law are expected to file suit again to have the revised version invalidated. Meanwhile, the new law led the county board again to suspend its CUB agreement. The resolution on the Aug. 1 agenda was nearly identical to the one passed by the board in September of 2011. It suspends the county’s CUB requirement pending the outcome of any litigation challenging the validity of the new state law.

The city of Ann Arbor has taken similar action related to CUB agreements, most recently at the city council’s July 16, 2012 meeting.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]