FAIRFIELD — A conversation that was to discuss the pros and cons of a project labor agreement quickly devolved into arguments about the merits of union versus nonunion workers.
Solano Community College District governing board members listened to the discussion at their Wednesday meeting and heard both sides of the argument on whether or not to use a project labor agreement for future construction projects. The board is in the early stages of planning for how to spend $348 million from Measure Q, passed by voters in November.
No vote was taken after more than an hour of public comment from the over-capacity crowd. Board members made no comments after the public and made no mention of when a vote on the subject could come.
FAIRFIELD -- Even before any hammer is nailed on new campus projects, the Solano Community College Measure Q bond is generating considerable interest among labor organizations, students and faculty.
Solano Community College board members Wednesday got some nuts and bolts on how the $348 million bond funds might be spent, and also heard wide-ranging concerns about possible impacts to math and science programs, and use of Project Labor Agreements.
Approved by voters in November, Measure Q is designed to modernize the Fairfield, Vallejo, Vacaville campuses, and upgrade nursing, firefighter and biotechnology programs, among other items.
The man who produced such edge-of-your-seat movies as "Batman" and "Midnight Express" cautioned Tuesday that his efforts to build a new Golden State Warriors basketball arena atop San Francisco's Piers 30-32 are in the very earliest stages.
"This is the beginning of the beginning of the beginning," said Peter Guber, co-owner of the Warriors and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment. "We're at the opening credits."
It's yet to be seen whether this particular production will be a feel-good story, as the Warriors and city officials pledge, or a heartbreaker like so many previous efforts to develop the 13-acre patch of crumbling concrete and pilings just south of the Bay Bridge.
On Tuesday, December 11, West Valley-Mission Community College District (WVMCCCD) Board of Trustees held a public hearing on the pros and cons of having a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on the $350 million Measure C Construction Bond passed in June of 2012. No action was planned or taken on the issue.
"I have received voluminous, voluminous material on this topic," Board President Nick Heimlich noted drily. But that didn't deter several dozen people who had come out specifically to address the board on the subject from making their statements.
PLAs are pre-hire agreements with labor organizations establishing wage rates and benefits for all employees working on a specific project. These terms apply to all contractors and subcontractors bidding on the project, as well as anyone working on the project - union and non-union laborers alike. PLAs can include a variety of provisions that can range from blocking strikes to requiring all hiring to be done through union hiring halls.
November 13 was the last meeting for PLA proponent Trustee Chris Stampolis at the West Valley-Mission Community College District and last opportunity for him to get a Project Labor Agreement placed on the agenda…he was able to get one final agenda item to provide direction on Project Labor Agreements on the November 13, 2012 agenda through PLA proponent and Board President Adrienne Grey. Before a packed crowd of union members touting their praise for the union and how it has provided them a career, Trustees Stampolis and Grey pushed for forward action on PLA negotiations in the district, against the recommendation of Vice Chancellor Maduli for the Board to wait to provide direction on Project Labor Agreements until after the December 11 study session on the pros and cons of PLAs. Vice Chancellor Maduli recommended looking at several delivery options as strategies to improve local hire in the district. A pilot PLA on a less complicated project like the Learning Resource Center at West Valley Mission Campus was one of the strategies mentioned in addition to multi-prime and lease leaseback methodologies. After deliberating back and forth on an original motion by Trustee Lucas to wait until the December 11 meeting where staff will bring back information regarding pros and cons about PLAs and a pilot PLA that was ultimately withdrawn, the final motion was to direct staff to pursue the PLA/PSA with the appropriate entity using their discretion and bring it back at a timely future date no later than March in addition to completing the staff study on the pros and cons of PLAs at the December 11 meeting. Motion passed 4-1 with Trustee Heimlich and Trustee Walsh absent.
President Grey touted the PLA as opportunities to be gained by pursuing a Project Labor Agreement as $8 billion of public and private work is currently being built under a PLA in Santa Clara County [according to Neil Struthers, head of the Santa Clara County Building and Construction Trades Council].
Trustee Heimlich voted against the motion. He noted that state law exempted PLAs from labor and wage monitoring and wanted to know what the public would get for a PLA in exchange for higher costs and more labor law violations.
As you prepare to vote next week or fill in your vote-by-mail ballot, you should be aware of the implications of project labor agreements.
These union-backed and driven agreements basically guarantee trade union members government or private work. If a private company decides to make a deal to use union labor exclusively, so be it. That's their call.
When it comes to government and your tax dollars and mine—it's different. For decades, since the passage of the Davis-Bacon Act during the Depression, federal projects have required paying prevailing wages (that simply translates to union scale). That adds substantially to the costs of projects particularly now that the vast majority of the construction work force is non-union.
In 2003, the Solano Community College Governing Board placed a union-crafted Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on all Measure G bond work. The $164 million Measure G had been passed by voters in 2002 with no hint that a controversial PLA would be used.
The PLA vote occurred despite vigorous opposition from local contractors and contractor associations, such as ours. We warned the board that a PLA was simply a payoff to union bosses who had funded certain board members' campaigns and openly discriminated against the 85 percent of the local construction workforce that was union-free.
PLAs force workers to pay union dues, pay into union pension plans, be hired through a union hiring hall and explicitly forbid nonunion apprentices from working at all.
A discussion over instituting a county-wide project labor agreement policy ended without a decision, as questions posed by three supervisors went unanswered. The proposed PLA would apply to any project over $25 million in the county.
Instead of making a decision at last week's meeting, the issue was turned back to the county's staff to investigate several concerns raised by Supervisors David Rabbitt, Valerie Brown, and Efren Carrillo. Many of the questions had to do not only with necessity, but practicality and impact.
The PLA policy would mandate that any publicly funded project worth more than $25 million be executed under an undetermined project labor agreement. According to the County's Attorney, the County can already institute a PLA on any project, while this policy would mandate it. Under the PLA, non-union members working on the project would have to pay union representation dues. While not full union dues, there were questions as to how those dollars would impact employees in the county, where about 80 percent of the construction workforce is non-union.
SANTA ROSA – A sharply divided Sonoma County Board of Supervisors last week put off a decision on a proposed countywide project labor agreement policy for public projects of more than $25 million and sent the matter back for further study.
With labor unions voicing support, and contractors and business leaders opposing, the board on Tuesday asked county staff for more specifics on an array of unanswered questions from Supervisors David Rabbitt and Valerie Brown.
The policy would recommend that the county adopt PLAs for public projects of $25 million more. The board said it would hold another hearing on the matter as soon as possible — expected in the next two months — given that the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport expansion project — the prime target of a PLA, at least for now — is nearing the bidding process. The initial phase of that project will cost about $53 million.
A battle is brewing between big business and labor in Sonoma County over the prospect of the Board of Supervisors possibly adopting a project labor agreement for public construction projects of over $25 million.
The board is set to hear arguments for and against the proposal of a project labor agreement on Tuesday, with impassioned arguments expected on each side of the issue.
The North Coast Builders Exchange, a trade group representing builders and contractors, has already come out as vehemently opposed to the proposal, saying such agreements drive up construction costs and discriminate against non-union contractors.