Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s Open Competition Executive Order

0 September 20, 2011  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Despite the attempts of lawmakers in California to override the will of local voters and their elected officials, not all of the news on wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA) mandates from the states last week was bad.

On Sept. 7, a federal District Court judge in Iowa dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Central Iowa and and Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building and Construction Trades Divisions of the AFL-CIO.  Their suit claimed that Gov. Terry Branstad’s Executive Order 69, which prohibited PLA mandates on state and state funded construction, was preempted by federal labor law.

While the 1993 Boston Harbor Supreme Court decision may have affirmed that government entities can require PLAs on public construction through their interest as a market participant – not a regulator of labor policy, this decision in Iowa is further evidence that government entities can also decide to prohibit themselves and even their subdivisions from requiring contractors to enter into a PLA as a condition of performing public work.

The key point is that the Iowa order does not prohibit a contractor from voluntarily entering into a PLA (which is authorized by the National Labor Relations Act), it simply ensures that government entities are neutral when it comes to PLA policy.  This gets government out of the business of picking winners and losers via politically motivated crony contracting.  By removing PLA favoritism towards Big Labor, taxpayers can get the best construction at the best price.

Here are the highlights from Gov. Branstad’s press release hailing the decision:

Judge Jarvey found “EO #69 establishes funding conditions that serve the State’s proprietary interest in projects. In prohibiting PLAs, the State of Iowa has made a decision that PLAs detract from a competitive bidding environment and that state funds and state projects will benefit from eliminating coercive union tactics. The State, as the proprietor of its construction projects, can make the decision not to pay union wages or operate under union conditions.”

“Dick Sapp, Frank Harty and Ryan Koopmans of the Nyemaster law firm worked tirelessly to get the case dismissed at the earliest point in time before going to trial, saving the state of Iowa tens of thousands of dollars in litigation costs that the state would have incurred due to the lawsuit brought by the unions,” said Jeff Boeyink, Gov. Branstad’s chief of staff.

Mr. Sapp and Mr. Koopmans are also lead counsel on the case brought by AFSCME and Democratic leadership challenging the governor’s line item veto authority.

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