Two telecommunications installation contractors filed a lawsuit in June in the Manhattan federal district court alleging antitrust violations by Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Flushing, N.Y., and several electrical contractors that employ Local 3 workers. The suit, filed by U.S. Information Systems Inc., Nyack, N.Y., and Odyssey Group Inc., New York, alleges that IBEW Local 3 and several electrical contractors are conspiring to take over the market for installation of telecommunications wiring and systems in the New York metropolitan area. Representatives for IBEW Local 3 did not return phone calls by press time.

The lawsuit charges that, "Although the plaintiffs routinely perform telecommunications installation work at a quality level equal to or higher than electrical contractors and at a significantly lower price, the defendants' actions have prevented the plaintiffs from bidding on and being awarded jobs despite being the lowest qualified bidder and have driven up the plaintiffs' cost of doing business."

According to a press release from King & Spalding, the New York-based law firm representing the plaintiffs, U.S. Information Systems and Odyssey allege that Local 3 and several New York area electrical contractors, including A&R Electric Co., Elmhurst, N.Y.; Adco Electric, Inc., Staten Island, N.Y.; Five Star Electric Corp., Ozone Park, N.Y.; Forest Electric Corp., New York; IPC Communications, Inc., New York; and Nead Information Systems Inc., Jersey City, N.J., are part of a concerted effort to exclude telecom contractors from doing telecommunications installation work in the New York area.

In court documents filed on June 27, the plaintiffs charged that the defendants allegedly "have combined and conspired with each other, and others presently unidentified, to carry out a common plan to coerce and induce building owners and tenants, building managers, general contractors, information technology consultants and others in the construction industry to exclude the plaintiffs from the market for telecommunications installation work."

Examples of the alleged coercion given in the court documents included "work stoppages, slowdowns and threats of labor unrest"; "deliberately" slowing down a job where telecommunications workers were on site by shutting down elevators, lights and power; and "job-site sabotage," such as cutting telecommunications cables.

According to the press release, USIS and Odyssey employ Communications Workers of America (CWA) employees and have in the past filed several complaints against the IBEW Local 3 with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging unfair labor practices. The plaintiffs said they have prevailed in all instances, but that the defendants' behavior continued at future work sites, compelling them to file this action in federal court to address the fact that the defendants' ongoing actions have caused them antitrust injuries.

The lawsuit seeks more than $50 million in damages after trebling and a permanent injunction against the defendants. According to a statement regarding the case on the Web site, www.local3antitrust.com, the plaintiffs hope that if successful, the lawsuit will prevent the defendants and anyone acting in concert with them from further conspiring to eliminate competition by the plaintiffs in the market for telecommunications installations.