The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Laborers Union members are entitled to perform turnkey installation of mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) precast panels on Detroit's Interstate 75 Gateway Project. It limited a recent ruling to employees of Walter Toebe Construction, Wixom, Mich., whose I-75 entrance and exit ramp reconstruction contracts included installation of 25,000 sq. ft. of Reinforced Earth MSE product. That portion of the contracts was the focus of a jurisdictional dispute between the Michigan Laborers' District Council and Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters.
As Labor Board officials noted in their review, the MSE work entails unloading, setting, leveling, and coping of panels, whose use with geotextile-bound earth has become an increasingly popular alternative to building conventional reinforced concrete walls. The Michigan case is the NLRB's latest jurisdictional dispute stemming from precast alternatives to traditionally cast-in-place concrete work (note companion box).
As a member of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association Inc. (MITA), Walter Toebe is a party to collective-bargaining agreements with the Carpenters and Laborers. The contractor had assigned Gateway MSE work to employees represented by the latter union, beginning in fall 2007. In an April 2008 grievance filed with the NLRB, Carpenters officials sought work assignment to their members, who handle much of the district's cast-in-place retaining wall construction for highways, and perform MSE installation for certain area contractors.
The grievance prompted Laborers officials to inform Walter Toebe management that MSE job assignments were for its members, and measures including picketing would be taken if the work were reassigned. That action compelled the employer and MITA to defer to the NLRB, a move the Carpenters contended was taken to derail the grievance. Following hearings and testimony from representatives of both sides, the Board ruled in favor of the Laborers Gateway Project workers.