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Affected Contractors, Industry Associations File Suit to Stop West Parish Water Treatment PLA

Union-only project labor agreement would add $15.44 million in costs, delay the project 2.4 months, and doesn’t meet strict limits on use of PLAs


Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 04.23.2024
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Memorandum of Law ISO Motion for TRO and Preliminary Injunction 4.23.2024
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Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction 4.23.2024
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SPRINGFIELD, MA – Wayne J. Griffin Electric, Inc., General Mechanical Contractors, Inc., Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts (ABC MA) and the Merit Construction Alliance (MCA) have filed a lawsuit challenging and seeking to enjoin the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission from soliciting bids for the West Parish Water Treatment Project on which the Commission has imposed an unlawful project labor agreement (PLA).


PLAs make it virtually impossible for the 82 percent of Massachusetts construction workers who chose not to join a union, according to unionstats.com, to participate in a project by making unions “the sole and exclusive bargaining representative for all employees on the project.”



“Massachusetts bidding laws are designed to obtain the lowest cost for taxpayers,” said ABC MA President Greg Beeman.  “Since PLAs contradict that goal by reducing competition, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has put strict limits on the instances where they can be used.  This project fails to meet that high bar.”


In Callahan v. City of Malden, the SJC wrote that PLAs are only permissible if the project “is (1) of such size, duration, timing and complexity that the goals of competitive bidding cannot otherwise be achieved and (2) the record demonstrates that [the Commission] undertook a careful, reasoned process to conclude that adoption of a PLA furthered the strategic goals.”


The Commission’s own engineering firm, Hazen and Sawyer, a highly regarded company that specializes in the planning and design of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater projects, estimates that the PLA would delay the West Parish project by 2.4 months and raise the cost by $15.44 million.


Similarly, the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission’s legal counsel, Norm Guz, said at a Commission meeting that “based on the facts and the Callahan case… [he] could not see how a PLA would be upheld… if challenged” and recommended “the Board not proceed with a PLA…”


At no time during discussion of the PLA issue at Commission meetings were the Hazen and Sawyer estimates mentioned, nor was the firm invited to attend the meetings.


"The commission publicly ignored the advice of its engineering and legal experts that a PLA would increase the cost and length of the project and fail to withstand a legal challenge,” said MCA President Jason Kauppi. “It was the opposite of the careful, reasoned process required by the high court to guard against waste and favoritism in public construction bidding."


The Commission invited representatives of the Pioneer Valley Building Trades Council to make a lengthy presentation on the alleged benefits of a PLA at its December meeting.  When the presidents of ABC MA and the MCA requested to be heard at the January meeting, they were each granted only three minutes to address the Commission.


The Commission recently successfully completed the York Street Pump Station project, a much more complex project than the West Parish project, without a PLA.  At no time did the commission ask for or conduct an analysis comparing the complexity of York Street to the West Parish project.


Both Griffin Electric and General Mechanical, both open-shop companies, were pre-qualified for the West Parish project through a process that began last September.  Nothing in the pre-qualification materials indicated that the Commission might impose a union-only PLA.   

Griffin and General Mechanical both planned to submit bids, but neither will if there is a PLA. 


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