Sometimes you can predict the future.

In the fall of 2013, business and taxpayer organizations warned the elected board of the Oxnard Union High School District in Ventura County (north of Los Angeles, on the coast) that it would endure reduced bid competition and higher construction costs if it required companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council as a condition of working on the Rancho Campana High School construction project.

The union-backed proposal abruptly emerged at the board's October 9 meeting and consumed the board and district administrators for more than two months.

In November, the Oxnard Union High School District board of trustees, in a contentious 3-2 vote, approved a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for its $48 million Rancho Campana High School project. The packed board meeting was charged and divided all because three trustees (Wayne Edmonds, Socorro Lopez Hanson and Steve Hall) put big labor special interests ahead of taxpayers, reason and worker rights.

At that time, we warned the three that the PLA would raise costs substantially because it would all but guarantee the 85 percent of the local construction workforce that is union-free would not be able to work on a project paid for by their tax dollars. The results are now in.

The PLA has resulted in a 20 percent increase in the cost of the project, so instead of paying $48 million to build the new high school, taxpayers will now be paying $59 million.

Thursday, 06 February 2014 04:03

The $140 Million North County Jail Question

The percussive banging of an inmate punching the door of his jail cell echoes throughout the Central corridor of the Santa Barbara County Main Jail. He's hitting so hard that it shakes not only the nerves of the guards and inmates around him, but the floor as well.

"It's a cry for help," a prison guard says.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Laz Salinas, the man who manages jail staff and operations, walks through the Central hallway, stopping at an out-of-order elevator. Salinas says an inmate purposefully flooded the cell next to it to short out the elevator, running up a $45,000 tab in repairs.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to advance a controversial policy that would establish union rules, benefits and oversight on large county construction projects.

The move, which awaits formal approval later this month, was a clear show of the greater political muscle unions have with the newly composed board, which took up the change after a slightly different group of supervisors turned it back in 2012.

Proponents found their strongest support Tuesday in Supervisors Shirlee Zane, Mike McGuire and Susan Gorin, who secured revisions sought by unions that broadened the draft policy even further.

Last week, the Oxnard Union High School District board of trustees — in a 3-2 vote — tentatively approved a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA, for its $45 million Rancho Campana High School project in Camarillo.

The packed board meeting was charged and divided all because three trustees (Wayne Edmonds, Socorro Lopez Hanson and Steve Hall) put Big Labor special interests before taxpayers, reason and workers' rights.

This PLA will raise costs substantially while all but guaranteeing that the 85 percent of the local construction workforce who are union-free will be unable to work on a project paid for by their tax dollars.

WATSONVILLE -- Watsonville is poised to enact an ordinance that gives union contractors an edge when bidding on public construction projects.

Supporters say the ordinance, which will be considered for final approval by the City Council on Tuesday, would increase job-training opportunities for city residents and improve coordination among various trades on large projects.

Critics say it would shut out nonunion contractors, narrowing the bidding field and driving up project costs.

Sunday, 14 July 2013 16:04

College weighs pros, cons of PLA

After the passage of Measure G in 2002, the Solano Community College Governing Board approved, and successfully implemented, a project labor agreement (PLA) for some of the bond's projects.

Recently the college passed Measure Q by a wider margin (almost 64 percent) than Measure G's 55.7 percent. Nevertheless, during the Measure Q campaign, some critics claimed that since adopting a PLA for Measure G had allegedly not been in the college's best interest, they opposed the measure.

The criticism against adopting a PLA for Measure Q has generated some debate in the community, a debate the Governing Board and the college administration have not ignored. In fact, the college has held meetings to listen to the arguments for and against the adoption of a PLA for Measure Q.

Thursday, 21 June 2012 03:07

Construction Jobs

Re: Kevin Korenthal’s Feb. 29 letter, “Union monopoly”:

Korenthal is at least half right. It is true that construction workers often must travel long distances to jobs outside their own communities, but no worker would choose to do that if jobs were available where they live. That’s precisely the point of the project labor agreement for the hospital project. It would get Ventura County construction workers off the highway commuting to far away jobs, and put them to work in Ventura County, building a project paid for with their own tax dollars to benefit their own community.

The Board of Supervisors can ensure local work goes to local workers and benefits the local economy, and get workers off the road, by approving the PLA.

Faced with mounting costs and stalled negotiations, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors set a drop-dead deadline for a local labor deal to be reached in a $250 million construction job at the county hospital.

In a hearing Tuesday, supervisors set March 13 for a vote on the agreement they hope will ensure that Ventura County residents make up a high percentage of the workforce for the construction. The project involves taking down part of Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura and replacing it with a wing that will meet earthquake standards. The project is estimated to generate as many as 2,000 jobs, labor interests said.

But county officials said it is costing $400,000 a month to delay the project that's six months behind schedule for a variety of reasons.

An effort to pass a labor agreement for the $250 million construction project at Ventura County Medical Center failed Tuesday as a county-imposed deadline expired.

Since late January, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has been pursuing the agreement as one of the few legal ways the board can promote local hiring within public bidding laws. Whether it would do that is in some dispute, but supporters say the pacts known as project labor agreements promote local hiring because workers are dispatched through local union halls.

The board set tight restrictions on the deal it wanted: support by all contractors and unions, terms that would maximize hiring of local labor, tight control over costs and protection from litigation. With negotiations stalled two weeks ago, the board gave the parties until Tuesday to reach a deal supervisors could approve for the biggest county government project in decades.

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