NLRB Helps Resolve Union Turf Wars On Construction Projects

AALRR clients have recently had two published rulings by the National Labor Relations Board in which competing unions have disputed work assignments by construction contractors. Where either or both unions to a dispute picket or threaten to picket because of such a dispute, the NLRB can get involved. If the unions involved have not agreed to a different mechanism to resolve such disputes, the NLRB has the legal authority to make a final and binding award of the disputed work.

In a matter involving the Teamsters, the Laborers, and Ames Construction, the contractor assigned truck driving work on a construction in Imperial County, California to the Laborers despite the Teamsters' insistence that the work should be assigned to its members. After an investigation and a hearing in Los Angeles, the NLRB in Washington, DC agreed with the contractor's work assignment and awarded the disputed work to the Laborers. See Laborers (Ames Construction), 354 NLRB No. 113 (November 30, 2009).

In a matter involving the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Laborers, and High Light Electric, the contractor assigned certain traffic light installation work to the Laborers. The IBEW demanded the work assignment. After an investigation and a hearing in Los Angeles, the NLRB in Washington,DC agreed with the contractor's work assignment and awarded the disputed work to the Laborers.  See Laborers (High Light Electric), 355 NLRB No. 29 (April 29, 2010).

The NLRB's dispute resolution process is very important in today's highly competitive climate. Work is scarce, and unions are more competitive than ever as they seek to preserve their market share. An NLRB award of disputed work is final and binding on the unions involved. It is critical for any contractor performing work in the current economy to understand the playing field in case such issues arise. This is especially true for contractors signed to multiple labor agreements, working under project labor agreements, or otherwise performing work that multiple unions claim.

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