CURRENT NEWS

On June 3, 2014, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors approved a plan, which included $500,000 in local funding, to construct a $25 million pipeline between the Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio reservoirs that will allow more storage of water for the Salinas Valley. The board took the vote and made the decision locally. Sadly, state lawmakers are attempting to force bad policy on local leaders in an unprecedented move to pay off organized labor unions.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who represents the Salinas Valley, gutted the contents of an unrelated bill, AB 155, and replaced them with a mandate requiring a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the design-build pipeline project. Highly controversial PLAs raise project costs by reducing the bidding pool, giving union hiring halls control over all workers, banning non-union apprentices, and forcing non-union workers to send dues and all benefit payments to unions. As a result, the majority of contractors usually refuse to bid on the work which results in cost increases to taxpayers by as much as 13-15 percent.

Beyond the contracting issues, the story of AB 155 is much more troublesome for local elected officials who are accountable to constituents for leadership and prudent financial management. This is the first California bill to mandate a Project Labor Agreement on ANY project, state or local. If it passes, we can expect Sacramento politicians to intervene on one local issue after another at the behest of labor unions.

In the past eight months Metro has employed over 350 workers in the construction of the Crenshaw Line. Guided by hiring goals outlined in the Project Labor Agreement, Metro is working to create "construction employment and training opportunities to many who reside along the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project."

The Project Labor Agreement commits Metro to hiring 40 percent of its construction workers from economically disadvantaged areas and 10 percent from disadvantaged populations—including veterans, ex-cons and emancipated foster care youth. The agreement further commits Metro to making 20 percent of its workers apprentices, having received at least 4,000 hours of training in a particular trade.

"I am proud that the MTA Board voted unanimously to become the first transit agency in the nation to use federal and local dollars to create jobs targeted at economically disadvantaged communities and individuals," said former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when Metro committed itself to the Project Labor Agreement back in 2012. "This landmark program is part of a strategy to deliver public transit projects while creating jobs that will lift people out of poverty and into the middle class."

FAIRFIELD — A critic of a project labor agreement passed unanimously by the Fairfield City Council says "those who voted for this backroom deal, especially any council member registered as a Republican, will be held accountable to the taxpayers."

"I'm not going to let this bone go," said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

He also said six contractors would have bid on the Intermodal Station Project, but decided against doing so because of the labor agreement.

The face of a little baseball player on the verge of tears juxtaposed with scary looking 50-gallon drums strewn about a field is a powerful image, one meant to raise safety concerns about a planned hotel and residential project in Petaluma.

But is it accurate? Or is it a union blackmail tactic to force the developer to agree to hire only union labor for its 39-acre plan?

On Monday night, the Petaluma City Council will be asked to approve the final environmental impact report and zoning maps for Riverfront, a plan for a 120-room hotel, commercial and office space, 4 acres of parks and trails, 273 housing units including townhouses, live-work units and apartments, and space for a community boathouse.

Friday, 18 July 2014 13:38

Judge project on its merits

On Monday, the Petaluma City Council will consider approving a well-designed mixed use project that would meet many of the city's long-term development goals, generate an estimated $600,000 annually in new tax revenues and 2,500 permanent and temporary jobs. The 39-acre Riverfront development, which includes 273 homes, a 120-room hotel, 60,000 square feet of office space, and 30,000 square feet of retail, has, remarkably, elicited exactly zero opposition locally.

For a project of this magnitude to generate no local opposition is extraordinary in Petaluma, a city where, historically, local city council elections have frequently been decided on public perceptions of overdevelopment.

But in the case of the Riverfront project, the city is getting what is wants: a mix of uses that appropriately achieves local goals for new housing, office and retail space, open space, recreational facilities and overnight lodging facilities.

Friday, 18 July 2014 13:33

Builders oppose building?

Unions raise environmental objections to Riverfront plan

On Monday, the Petaluma City Council will have to decide if environmental concerns raised by trade unions about the mixed-use project proposed on the Petaluma River are genuine, or a smokescreen used to delay the project following failed labor discussions.

Construction policy consultant Kevin Dayton of the Coalition of Fair Employment in Construction said all over the state, he has seen labor unions use this tactic as a punitive measure to stall projects. But union representatives say the issues they've raised are sincere.

"Almost always, they do this because they're pressuring the developer for some sort of economic concession — usually a project labor agreement," Dayton said while addressing the Petaluma Planning Commission during last month's public comment on the project. "It's too bad that the union representatives here aren't being open about that."

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 13:13

San Diego's frozen funding pipe

It's no secret that San Diego needs all the help it can get when it comes to repairing aging water pipes and sewer lines. With more than a billion dollars in unmet infrastructure needs, officials have been looking under every couch cushion to keep the disrepair to a minimum.

What might seem odd, however, is that the city has ostensibly given up access to tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure grants and loans provided routinely by the state. Despite warnings from Sacramento officials, in June 2012, San Diego voters passed a ballot measure, Proposition A, that's in direct conflict with state law.

Under Prop. A, the city is prohibited from requiring project labor agreements, or PLAs, on city-contracted construction jobs. The labor agreements are often used on long-term projects to set experience and wage requirements. The city has never required a PLA, but supporters of the ballot initiative argued that if one were ever used, it would be costly and unfairly favor unions. The campaign mirrored similar efforts by building-industry groups across the country.

The Fairfield City Council is poised Tuesday to hand big-labor special interests a huge victory. Specifically they are set to approve a project labor agreement on the new Fairfield train station.

A project labor agreement is a highly controversial agreement that city staff spent less than 90 days "negotiating" with local union bosses. The agreement will discriminate against the 85 percent of the area construction workforce that is union-free and cost taxpayers dearly, adding at least $10 million to the cost of the project due to fewer companies bidding.

The council at its April 12 meeting unanimously approved the concept of a project labor agreement despite a great deal of public opposition. They directed staff to "negotiate" the agreement with unions (no one else is allowed into these backroom negotiations) and less than three months later they have their "agreement."

The California Legislature is set to break new ground and taxpayers should be very concerned.

For the first time in state history, the Legislature is posed to require a local government entity to mandate a project labor agreement (PLA) on a local construction project.

If Assembly Bill 155, sponsored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D), is passed by the California Senate, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency would have to require contractors working on the proposed $25 million Interlake Tunnel project to enter into a wasteful and discriminatory PLA as a condition of performing work if the project is built using the design-build construction delivery method.

City Council members are poised Tuesday to approve a project labor agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, to cover virtually all work associated with Fairfield's train station project.

This is a massive undertaking that will help shape the city for the remainder of the 21st century, at an estimated cost of $81.5 million. Construction on a major piece of the project – to take Peabody Road over the existing railroad tracks near Vanden Road, is scheduled to begin next summer and will shut down the roadway for about a year.

Proponents of project labor agreements contend that they keep project costs in check and bring projects to conclusion on time. Opponents contend that they ultimately increase taxpayer costs and limit the pool of qualified people who can work on the projects – essentially shutting out shops that are not unionized.

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