Never shy about taking on unions, especially in a state where organized labor enjoys little support outside the government sector, the Idaho Legislature recently introduced a pair of bills for addition to the state’s existing Right to Work statute.

Senate Bill 1007, named the “Fairness in Contracting Act,” is intended to “promote fairness in bidding and contracting.” This bill provides, among other things, that a “contractor or subcontractor may not directly or indirectly receive a wage subsidy, bid supplement or rebate on behalf of its employees, or provide the same to its employees, the source of which is wages, dues or assessments collected by or on behalf of any labor organization(s), whether or not labeled as dues or assessments.” The proposed measure would also prohibit labor organizations from “directly or indirectly” paying “a wage subsidy or wage rebate to its members in order to directly or indirectly subsidize a contractor or subcontractor, the source of which is wages, dues or assessments collected by or on behalf of its members, whether or not labeled as dues or assessments.” Use of any fund financed by wages collected by or on behalf of any labor organization, whether or not labeled as dues or assessments, to subsidize a contractor or subcontractor doing business in the state of Idaho would be deemed unlawful.

Contractors, including subcontractors, or labor organizations that violate the provisions of this proposed law will be guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined an amount not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for a first offense, twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) for a second offense, and one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) for each and every additional offense.

The legislation would also confer standing on any “interested party,” including a bidder, offeror, contractor, subcontractor or taxpayer, to challenge any bid award, specification, project agreement, controlling document, grant or cooperative agreement in violation of the provisions of the law. If an interested party prevails in a lawsuit challenging the bill, it will be awarded costs and attorney's fees.

A companion bill, Senate Bill 1006 (“The Open Access to Work Act”), introduced at the same time, bars bidders on public works projects from paying a predetermined amount of wages or wage rate; or type, amount or rate of employee benefits. The law does not apply when federal law requires the payment of prevailing or minimum wages to persons working on projects funded in whole or in part by federal funds. A separate provision makes clear that the contractor party cannot be required to enter into an agreement with a labor organization as part of the contract.

Both of these bills were printed and sent to the State Affairs Committee for further action last week. Yesterday, the full Senate considered and voted on SB 1006, approving it by a 27-7 vote. It has now been referred to the Idaho House. SB 1007 on Monday passed the Committee by a 7-2 party line vote, and will soon be taken up by the full Senate.

Although these bills remain at a relatively early stage, questions have been raised about their legality and potential conflict with federal labor law. Stay tuned for more.