ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS, INC., et al. v. STATE OF CONNECTICUT, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION et al., SC 18525
Judicial District of Hartford
Public Works Projects; Standing; Whether Nonunion Contractor Lacked Standing to Challenge City's use of "Project Labor Agreements" for School Construction Projects. The named plaintiff, Electrical Contractors, Inc. (ECI), is a nonunion electrical contractor that submitted the lowest bids in connection with two municipal school construction projects located in the defendant city of Hartford. The city rejected ECI's bids on the ground that it had refused to be bound by certain "project labor agreements," which required all contractors to adhere to the provisions of certain collective bargaining agreements. Thereafter, ECI and six of its employees brought this action, claiming that the city's imposition of the project labor agreements was illegal in that the agreements essentially prohibited nonunion contractors from working on the projects. The defendants filed motions to dismiss the action on the ground that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the competitive bidding process. The trial court granted the motions, relying on Connecticut Associated Builders & Contractors v. Hartford, 251 Conn. 169 (1999), which the court described as a virtually identical lawsuit involving ECI that had been dismissed for lack of standing. The court noted that, to demonstrate that they had standing to challenge the competitive bidding process, the plaintiffs had to establish a colorable claim that: (1) they either had submitted bids on the projects or they would have submitted bids but for the alleged illegalities in the bidding process; and (2) the alleged illegalities amounted to fraud, corruption, favoritism or acts undermining the object and integrity of the competitive bidding process. It determined that the individual plaintiffs lacked standing because they did not bid on the projects, and, in fact, they could not have done so given that they were not qualified electrical contractors. The court concluded that ECI failed to establish a colorable claim that in adopting the project labor agreements, the city had engaged in improper conduct. It reasoned that there was no evidence that union officials made promises to the city to induce it to impose project labor agreements that favored union contractors. It further determined that because the project specifications were imposed upon all prospective bidders in a nondiscriminatory manner, it was irrelevant that the specifications may have given union contractors an economic advantage over nonunion contractors. It also concluded that although the project labor agreements may have increased the total costs of the construction projects, the city properly exercised its discretion in determining that the agreements would promote the public interest by ensuring a steady supply of qualified labor and by minimizing worksite disruptions. In this appeal, the Supreme Court will determine whether the trial court properly dismissed the plaintiffs' action.