The Blog

In a strong and clear decision, the Hampden Superior Court has issued an injunction preventing the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission (SWSC) from imposing a union-only project labor agreement on the construction of the West Parish Water Treatment Plant. In a decision issued on 5/16/24, Justice Michael K. Callan Wrote: "The public benefits from an open, fair, competitive and robust bidding process. The PLA requirement unnecessarily curtails that without legal justification." The legal challenge was brought by several merit shop plaintiffs, including Wayne J. Griffiin Electric, Inc. and ABC MA who were represented by atty. Chris Whitney of Pierce Atwood LLP.

"This is a great victory for open competition that benefits our members and the taxpaying public," said ABC MA President Greg Beeman. In response to the ruling, SWSC issued an addendum on 5/20 removing the PLA requirement and extending the bid dates to 6/4 for sub bids and 6/13 for GC bids.. ABC MA and the other plaintiffs are reviewing this addendum and extension to determine if it is adequate. The SWSC has scheduled a meeting in Executive Session on 5/21 to discuss the court decision.

In his decision, Judge Callan, wrote:

“The evidence before the court is that the PLA poses such a significant disadvantage to open shops as to render a competitive bid impossible. Certainly, in theory, Griffin and others can bid on the Project, but it is bidding blindly, and utterly defies common sense and logic to think that it is a real chance on "equal footing." No reasonable, otherwise highly qualified contractor or subcontractor would entertain such a colossal risk. For all intents and purposes, the PLA excludes open shops from bidding, as it essentially requires bidders to execute an agreement to use union laborers on the Project.”

There had been a lot of activity around this PLA leading up to this decision. Atty. Chris Whitney filed the request for an injunction against the imposition of the PLA on April 23. Plaintiffs are Wayne J. Griffin Electric, General Mechanical Contractors and ABC MA and the Merit Construction Alliance. In related good news, our application to the National ABC Construction Legal Rights Foundation has been approved in the amount of a $30,000 match. That is for the injunction stage – if there is an appeal phase, we could do another application.

In its 4/11/24 editorial, written before the lawsuit was filed, the Republican/MassLive wrote: “So far no party has sued to enjoin the use of the PLA. The project will likely move forward- under an agreement we consider to be based on flimsy grounds that do not meet the rigorous test set by the SJC in the Malden case.” Now that we have this court injunction, we can say that the court agrees.

In a 5/19/24 editorial, the Republican/MAssLive wrote: “ It is always refreshing to see the judiciaryperform its function correctly, as was the case with Judge Callan’s ruling, because in court cases, agencies such as the commission can’t skate by on speculative rhetoric and fear-mongering. They need to support decisions based on facts and evidence. The commission’s worry about labor unrest wasn’t based on facts or evidence, but stemmed, in our view, from being lobbied.”