Building and Construction Trades Council of Metropolitan District v. Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts/Rhode Island, Inc.

PETITIONER: Building and Construction Trades Council of Metropolitan District
RESPONDENT: Associated Builders & Contractors Of Massachusetts/ Rhode Island, Inc., et al.
LOCATION: Center Moriches School District

DOCKET NO.: 91-261
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 507 US 218 (1993)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1992
DECIDED: Mar 08, 1993

Charles Fried - on behalf of the Petitioners
Maurice Baskin - on behalf of the Respondents
Maureen E. Mahoney - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae supporting Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Building and Construction Trades Council of Metropolitan District v. Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts/Rhode Island, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1992 in Building and Construction Trades Council of Metropolitan District v. Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts/Rhode Island, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in No. 91-261, Building and Construction Trades Council v. Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and et cetera.

Mr. Fried.

Charles Fried:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This is a case of implied preemption.

The court of appeals held that a public owner developing its property may not support a agreement between its construction manager and a council of local unions, an agreement of the sort specifically authorized by sections 8(e) and 8(f) of the National Labor Relations Act.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, one of the petitioners here, is under Federal court order to complete a massive and complicated construction project.

The Authority, as any public or private owner with a similar task, has engaged the services of a construction industry specialist, here Kaiser Engineering, another of the petitioners, to schedule and plan the tasks to be performed, to supervise the contractors performing those tasks, and to establish a labor relations regime for the project.

Accordingly, Kaiser did propose to the Authority that the labor relations regime here should be one which is quite common on such projects, a project labor agreement, which is an agreement with all of the unions that usually supply crafts to such a project in return for exclusive representational rights for all workers on the projects irrespective of their contracting and subcontracting relations.

The contractors and eventually the owner of the project get the benefit of stable costs, stable labor costs throughout the life of the project, and security against the kinds of labor disruptions that are caused by lawful labor activity.

Kaiser proposed such an arrangement to the Authority, which approved the proposal, and accordingly Kaiser negotiated and signed the agreement with the unions here.

Byron R. White:

At that point I suppose the Authority was bound by the contract?

Charles Fried:

The Authority was not a signatory to the contract.

Byron R. White:

I know.

I know, but they, I suppose Kaiser was its agent.

Charles Fried:

Well, a great point is made of that.

Nowhere is that said.

On some copies of the cover of the agreement, and that is reprinted in one of the appendices, it said that this was done on behalf of the Authority, and that of course is quite true.

The Authority is the ultimate party that stands to benefit from this.

However, it is nowhere stated that Kaiser is an agent, nor is Kaiser, I'm sorry, that the Authority is an agent, nor is the Authority a signatory.

In these connections of course these contracts are read in such a way as to assure their validity, and Kaiser is a sophisticated and a frequent player in this particular arena and of course it had every intention to be bound.

It is not at all clear whether the Authority would have been bound by virtue of the contract itself, by virtue of that project labor agreement itself.

It is quite clear that Kaiser is bound, it is quite clear that Kaiser is a signatory.

Byron R. White:

Well, why wouldn't it be bound?

Why wouldn't the Authority be bound if they approved in advance the negotiation of this contract and Kaiser had been hired as its, for the purpose of managing labor relations, among other things?

Charles Fried:

Well, perhaps it would have been bound, and if it would be bound it might be subject to suit under section 301 to enforce that contract, but that would not in any way affect its validity.

Now, in order to make the arrangement an effective one because of Massachusetts' competitive bidding laws the Authority included adherence to the arrangement as a bid specification.

The National Labor Relations Board in another proceeding, the district court in this proceeding, as well as the panel of the court of appeals and the court of appeals en banc all agreed that this was a valid labor agreement under sections 8(e) and 8(f).

The court of appeals found, however, that the specific action of the Authority in including adherence to the arrangement as a bid specification improperly intervened in labor relations, and therefore that that action was preempted.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, does that turn, that decision turn on whether the Authority was acting as a proprietor or as a regulator?

Charles Fried:

In our view it ought to turn on it.