Missouri Law Prohibits Costly Public Project Labor Agreements
On May 30, 2017, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed legislation generally barring public entities from requiring job-specific union contracts called “project labor agreements” on public construction projects.
The legislation, effective August 28, 2017, prohibits public entities from requiring contractors to enter into project labor agreements and from discriminating against, encouraging, or giving preferential treatment to union contractors, or those voluntarily adhering to union contracts.
While the Missouri Senate and House were unable to pass legislation repealing the state’s “prevailing wage” law (which requires contractors to pay their employees a minimum amount in wages and benefits on certain publically funded projects, generally calculated based on local union contracts), Senate Bill 182 bars public entities from requiring contractors to become signatories to project-specific labor contracts that specify wages, benefits, and a broad scope of other union terms and conditions.
Greitens, a Republican political newcomer, campaigned on a business-friendly platform. Greitens signed “right-to-work” legislation just weeks after taking office. Signing Senate Bill 182 is seen as another campaign promise fulfilled.
At a signing ceremony with Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, Greitens said that project labor agreements “drive up the cost of construction projects” and, while it is the taxpayers who ultimately pay for these publically funded projects, “in the past, taxpayers got a raw deal.”
The Missouri Senate and House are considering several bills that would partially or completely repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, but no such bill was able to reach the Governor’s desk. If one does, he is expected to sign it. Missouri legislators have been pushing for the repeal of prevailing wage for years, but the previous governor had vetoed every effort.
The Governor’s supporters reiterate that these pieces of legislation are necessary to provide a level playing field for all contractors, union and non-union, and that local public entities will save money. Opponents argue that the Governor’s agenda will hurt local workers who risk losing work to “outside,” non-union contractors who can underbid contractors bound to union contracts.
Senate Bill 182 provides a legal remedy for violations, including the recovery of attorney’s fees and referral to the local prosecuting attorney or circuit attorney for investigation.