State ex rel. Associated Bldrs. & Contrs., Cent. Ohio Chapter v. Jefferson Cty. Bd. of Commrs.

Decision Date31 August 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-J-49,94-J-49
Citation665 N.E.2d 723,106 Ohio App.3d 176
Parties, 150 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2700 The STATE ex rel. ASSOCIATED BUILDERS AND CONTRACTORS, CENTRAL OHIO CHAPTER et al., Appellees, v. JEFFERSON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS; Upper Ohio Valley Building and Construction Trades Council et al., Appellants. *
CourtOhio Court of Appeals

Ronald L. Mason and Michael J. Galeano, Columbus, for appellees.

Stephen M. Stern, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney, Steubenville, for Jefferson County Board of Commissioners.

Ronald G. Macala and Anthony M. DioGuardi, II, Canton, for appellants.

N. Victor Goodman and Mark D. Tucker, Columbus, for amicus curiae, Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council.


Defendants-appellants, Upper Ohio Valley Building and Construction Trades Council and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 246, hereby appeal from an order of the Jefferson County Common Pleas Court granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs-appellees, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., Central Ohio Chapter ("ABC"), G.E.M. Electric Company ("G.E.M. Electric") and Guy Johnston Construction Company ("Johnston Construction").

In March 1994, the Board of Commissioners of Jefferson County, Ohio, approved a project labor agreement ("PLA") relative to the construction of the Jefferson County/City of Steubenville Joint Jail Facility Project ("jail project"). The agreement was drafted for the express purpose of facilitating the orderly performance of work on the jail project by eliminating work stoppages, slowdowns and other interferences. Accordingly, the agreement imposed uniform procedures for dealing with labor disputes, contained a comprehensive no-strike clause, established a standardized work week and contained other provisions which made uniform the working conditions for all contractors, subcontractors and workers on the project.

The PLA provided that, as a condition to being engaged to perform work on the project, successful bidders were required to execute applicable local collective bargaining agreements for work on the project. These would expire immediately following the last day of work on the project. For contractors that were not signatory to collective bargaining agreements prior to commencing work on the jail project, the bargaining agreements entered into thereunder were not to be applied to other works in progress or to jobs which were bid prior to execution of the bargaining agreements.

The PLA also required contractors performing construction work on the project to utilize the registration facilities and referral systems operated by the local unions in filling job vacancies. However, the PLA specifically provided that the selection of applicants for work on the project would be on a non-discriminatory basis and would not "be based on, or in any way affected by, union or trade group membership, bylaws, rules, regulations, constitutional provisions or any other aspect or obligation of union or trade group membership." In addition, the PLA provided that contractors would retain the right to reject any applicant for employment.

Appellees G.E.M. Electric and Johnston Construction are contractors or subcontractors who employ non-union labor. Neither G.E.M. Electric nor Johnston Construction submitted a bid for work on the project although both of them inquired as to the project. Appellee ABC is an organization comprised primarily of "open shop" contractors. ABC does not engage in the construction business and did not submit a bid on the project.

After bids were awarded on the project, but prior to the execution of contracts for the project, appellees initiated the instant suit against the board of commissioners seeking to nullify the awards. Appellants subsequently intervened as defendants in this matter. This action was subsequently consolidated with a declaratory judgment action filed by the board of commissioners seeking a determination as to the legality of the project labor agreement.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court found in favor of appellees, declared the entire bidding process, including the PLA, null and void, and ordered the board of commissioners to accept new bids for the jail project. Appellants then filed this appeal.

Appellants have listed seven assignments of error. In the first three, appellants argue that the trial court erred in concluding that the PLA violates Ohio's competitive bidding statutes and the Ohio Constitution.

Appellants cite Bldg. & Constr. Trades Council of the Metro. Dist. v. Assoc. Builders & Contrs. of Massachusetts/Rhode Island, Inc. (1993), 507 U.S. 218, 113 S.Ct. 1190, 122 L.Ed.2d 565 ("Boston Harbor"), in arguing that project labor agreements such as the one at issue in the instant case are permissible. In Boston Harbor, the United States Supreme Court held that the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") does not preempt enforcement by a state governmental authority, acting as the owner of a construction project, of an otherwise lawful prehire collective bargaining agreement negotiated by private parties.

While the prehire agreement at issue in Boston Harbor, supra, is similar to the PLA at issue in the instant case, we find that Boston Harbor is not dispositive of the issues presented herein since the Supreme Court expressly stated in Boston Harbor that only NLRA preemption was at issue therein.

While we find that Boston Harbor is not dispositive, we nonetheless find that the trial court in the instant case erred in determining that the PLA violates the competitive bidding laws of Ohio and/or the Ohio Constitution. We begin with an examination of State ex rel. United District Heating, Inc. v. State Office Bldg. Comm. (1931), 124 Ohio St. 413, 179 N.E. 138 ("Dist. Heating I") and State ex rel. United District Heating, Inc. v. State Office Bldg. Comm. (1932), 125 Ohio St. 301, 181 N.E. 129 ("Dist. Heating II"), cited by the trial court. In Dist. Heating I, the State Building Commission had solicited proposals for the construction of a steam and transmission line between two state buildings. The relator, United District Heating, Inc., submitted the lowest bid and was subsequently awarded the contract. The building commission later rescinded the award after it learned that the relator employed nonunion labor. In an original mandamus action brought by the relator, the Supreme Court of Ohio overruled the demurrer to the petition and granted leave to answer. Upon authority from other states, the Supreme Court held that an administrative board may not so exercise its discretion as to refuse to accept a bid solely on the ground that nonunion labor might be employed on a public project.

After the building commission filed its answer, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Dist. Heating II. In Dist. Heating II, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its prior holding that a public construction contract may not be denied to the lowest bidder solely upon the basis that the contractor employs nonunion labor or doesn't employ exclusively union labor. In so holding, the Supreme Court found that a public entity unconstitutionally discriminates when it exercises its discretion in that manner.

Reviewing the facts of the instant case in light of the holdings in Dist. Heating I and II, we find the instant case easily distinguishable. In the instant case, no person or entity was foreclosed from submitting a bid on the jail project. The PLA does not distinguish between entities employing union labor and those employing nonunion labor. It applies equally to all prospective bidders, with stated stipulations. Further, the PLA does not require any contractor to become a "union" employer. It simply requires any person or entity, as a condition for being engaged to perform work on the project, to agree to be bound by the same rules and restrictions as all others similarly engaged. In addition, the PLA provides that collective bargaining agreements entered into thereunder apply only while a contractor or a subcontractor is performing work on the project.

We note that while the PLA requires contractors to use the...

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    ...(Ibid.) An Ohio intermediate appellate court likewise upheld a project labor agreement in State ex rel. Assoc. Builders & Contractors v. Jefferson Cty. Bd. (1995) 106 Ohio App.3d 176 , reasoning the agreement did not conflict with the purpose of the competitive bidding statutes, namely "to ......
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