- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

A federal judge yesterday gave at least a temporary victory to Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and organized labor in their fight over a labor agreement on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement project.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan forbade enforcement of President Bush's executive order barring project labor agreements on the bridge construction, estimated to cost $2.2 billion.
The judge accused Mr. Bush of exceeding his authority under the National Labor Relations Act and issued a temporary injunction against his Feb. 17 executive order killing project labor agreements (PLAs) on federally funded projects.
"I think the judge was very clear that there is a good case to be made that the president overstepped his bounds," said Mike Morrill, communications director for Mr. Glendening.
Ray Abernathy, spokesman for the AFL-CIO labor federation, said he doubted the order would delay work on the bridge. It does not forbid Maryland from advertising next week for bidders on a $450 million contract to build the superstructure of the 12-lane bridge linking Alexandria and Oxon Hill along Interstate 95.
Project labor agreements (PLAs) are collective bargaining agreements requiring employers to follow common work rules. Maryland reached such a pact with union and nonunion contractors on the Wilson Bridge project requiring them to follow union rules and use a union hiring hall for some new employees. In exchange, the unions agreed not to strike.
But Mr. Bush issued an order Feb. 17 that banned the agreements on federally funded construction projects, invalidating the agreement.
Officials from the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, the union representing the Wilson Bridge workers, plan to meet with the Maryland State Highway Administration today to renegotiate their agreement. "It shouldn't slow down the process at all," Mr. Abernathy said.
Judge Sullivan said Mr. Bush had no right to override Maryland's agreement with the union.
"By its literal terms, the executive order strips from construction owners and managers, and from unions seeking to bargain with those entities, the right to negotiate the kind of agreement expressly protected by [the National Labor Relations Act]" the federal judge wrote.
The National Labor Relations Act is a 1935 federal law that guarantees workers the right to organize and join unions without management reprisal. It set up the National Labor Relations Board to enforce unions' rights.
A hearing on whether to lift the injunction is scheduled for Sept. 13 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The judge's order follows U.S. Department of Transportation approval last week of a cost-sharing agreement between Maryland and Virginia that freed up $1.3 billion in federal money for construction.
Maryland and Virginia planned to pay for the portion not funded by the federal government. However, a dispute arose when Mr. Glendening insisted on using a PLA but Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore refused to go along. The disagreement threatened to delay construction until Mr. Bush issued his executive order.
Mr. Gilmore's office said yesterday's ruling was a setback.
"Obviously, we are disappointed, especially in view of the fact that the federal government just gave the OK on financing and other details," Gilmore spokesman Reed Boatright said. "Hopefully, it won't stand too awfully long because people are ready for this project to move forward."
Mr. Glendening had said the agreement would save money by guaranteeing labor peace and providing uniform work rules for all contractors. But it drew fierce opposition from Republicans and contractors who insisted it would freeze out nonunion firms and increase construction costs.
Bidders will be notified next week that the contract could be subject to a PLA, Mr. Morrill said.
This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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