News Brief - February 2001:
Unions Use Environmental Lawsuits to Extort Labor Agreements
Power Plants in California Delayed
About a decade ago, according to an editorial in The Wall Street Journal on February 15, California unions began threatening construction companies that were building power plants with lawsuits based on environmental laws. According to the editorial, the unions use videos to train activists in using endangered species lawsuits to delay cogeneration and other power plants.
This litigation threat has been delaying the construction of power plants in California, and, according to a study by Engineering News Record cited in the Journal, has caused a 20 percent increase in costs because nonunion contractors are excluded. The litigation threat has also resulted in fewer power plants being built, according to the study.
The purpose of the lawsuits is to delay power plants until the builders sign "project labor agreements," according to the editorial. These agreements, known as a PLA's, require that the construction company hire exclusively from union halls and that any remaining non-union employees have to pay union dues. Arbitrators for any labor disputes have to be appointed by the union.
Among several ideas it proposed to solve the litigation problem, the Journal advocated that President Bush issue an executive order stipulating that "any environmental complaint in a federal court cannot be dismissed in exchange for nonenvironmental considerations such as the signing of a PLA."
Analysis: Apparently, judging by the language in the editorial referring to the litigation as a "novel" idea, the Journal editorial writer was not aware of the profuse litigation by environmentalists using the standing provisions of the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Law with the surreptitious primary purpose of garnering rich settlements for companion organizations. Known as "bounty hunting," this underhanded litigation has been honed to perfection by the environmental groups over past decades.
For a presidential executive order to fully address the problem of environmentalist, and now union, bounty lawsuits, the order would have to direct the Justice Department and federal agencies to cease paying settlements to non-party environmental groups or other non-profit organizations and to cease all settlements that do not specifically ameliorate the precise matters before the court. The various environmental laws already prohibit the payment of monetary settlements directly to the so-called "citizen plaintiffs."
- Carol W. LaGrasse