San Jose: Public projects valued at $6 million will require project labor agreements

PUBLISHED: October 24, 2017 at 1:09 pm | UPDATED: October 25, 2017 at 4:54 am
SAN JOSE — City lawmakers on Tuesday adopted a policy that requires contractors to hire at least some union workers on public projects valued at $6 million or more, including new libraries, fire stations and airport improvements.

The City Council adopted “project labor agreements” requirement on a 6-5 vote. The agreements require a contractor to hire some workers from a local union hall and pay state-mandated prevailing wages — what a majority of workers in a county’s largest city earn. Contractors also must provide fringe benefits and hire a number of apprentices from disadvantaged groups. Contractors will be allowed to hire 35 “core” workers from their own workforce with the rest hired through a union hall.

Private construction projects, those funded by federal dollars and city-funded affordable housing projects will be excluded. Santa Clara County, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Cleveland and New York have all passed similar labor agreements.

Backers said the agreements will help ensure every worker has a fair chance of getting work and support families struggling to survive in Silicon Valley’s technology-driven economy. Critics said the move will stifle competition and inflate construction costs, meaning taxpayers get fewer public improvements for their tax dollars.

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Prevailing wage, project labor agreements protect living standards for construction workers

July 6, 2017 at 12:01 am

In an era of political hyperventilation, it might be a good idea for some critics to take a deep breath before they launch into their attacks on the prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements that protect the living standards of construction workers in California and across the nation.

From Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, anti-union writers in recent weeks have incorrectly branded the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act that wrote the prevailing wage into the law on taxpayer-funded construction projects as born of racism and a rip-off of public funds. The same critics also have falsely characterized project labor agreements as costly to taxpayers and unfair to nonunion construction companies.

Now, for the facts.

Two Republican congressmen, Sen. James Davis of Pennsylvania and U.S. Rep. Roger Bacon of New York, sponsored their legislation 86 years ago to establish a minimum wage on taxpayer-funded construction projects, based on local measures of central tendency in any of the covered construction trades.

The idea behind the prevailing wage is to keep unscrupulous operators from low-bidding the legitimate competition to the detriment of the local workforce. The effect has been to allow blue-collar workers – 400,000 of whom are represented by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – to maintain their place in the American middle class.

Of the false charges that have been lodged of late about Davis-Bacon, perhaps the most repugnant is the smear that recirculates every so often that the act originated as an outgrowth of racism. The critics troll through the historic record to quote some congressmen in the debate over Davis-Bacon who supported the law based on their own warped view that it was designed to protect higher-paid white workers in the northeast represented by the authors of the law from “cheap colored labor” that would be imported to their districts from the South. The critics fail, however, to report Congressman Bacon’s reply that imported workers came in white skin as well as black.

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Mortenson Construction enters into PLA for $524M Milwaukee Bucks arena project

by Kim Slowey
July 26, 2016


Dive Brief:

  • General contractor Mortenson Construction has entered into a project labor agreement (PLA) with local trade unions and workers on the new $524 million Milwaukee Bucks arena, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal.
  • The agreement establishes a prevailing wage guarantee, sets up a dispute resolution process prohibiting any activity – strikes or lockouts – that could hold up construction and requires a veteran employment program through the organization Helmets to Hardhats.


Dive Insight:

Bucks President Peter Feigen praised the deal and said the team was proud to “enlist local labor” in the safe and efficient construction of the arena. Local trade union representatives also hailed Mortenson’s willingness to use union labor and its understanding of “the role of the PLA from the quality, productivity and the safety it provides.”

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Project labor agreements make sense for everyone: David Wondolowski and Matthew A. Szollosi (Opinion)

By Guest Columnist
on September 09, 2015 at 3:29 PM


Recently, Baylor Myers, director of the ultra-conservative Americans for Prosperity group, in an op-ed for the Cleveland-area Sun newspapers, called for passage in Ohio of legislation that would effectively prohibit public-sector project labor agreements. His proposal, and the reasoning for it, demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the construction industry.

In the course of governmental efficiency arguments at all levels, we often hear “government needs to operate more like a business!” Project labor agreements have been commonly used in the private sector as a means of project delivery for decades.

Yet, in this instance, proponents in Ohio — who earlier this year were unsuccessful in prohibiting PLAs but added a provision to the state budget, House Bill 64, that requires a public hearing by state agencies whenever PLAs are contemplated — seek to take a proven, successful tool off the table for all public authorities and all state agencies.

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California Colleges Reaping the Local Hiring Benefits of Hard-Fought Project Labor Agreement

A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) covering up to $500 million of construction at Riverside City, Moreno Valley and Norco colleges has surpassed its local hiring goals. The projects are partially funded through California’s Measure C bonds with the state and federal government providing matching funding.

The use of a PLA was heavily contested, but building trades union advocates and their mission of ensuring local hire ultimately prevailed:

Since the agreement was adopted in 2010 on a 3-2 vote, 65 percent of workers have come from Riverside and San Bernardino counties and 54 percent of participating businesses have been local, according to a presentation prepared by Padilla & Associates, which administers the agreement for $1.6 million.

The five-year agreement requires contractors to pay union-level wages and benefits, sets a local hiring goal of 50 percent and requires apprenticeship programs. Workers from Riverside County get first priority followed by workers from San Bernardino County.

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Benefits of Lorain High School PLA start with bids 6% lower than estimates

You may recall last month’s ACT Ohio progress report where I detailed how the North Central Building Trades Council (“NCBT”), working in partnership with ACT Ohio, initiated suit to enforce the Project Labor Agreement on the $62 million Lorain High School project.

A favorable ruling by the judge overseeing the case on our request for injunctive relief led to positive negotiations with the Attorney General’s Office and significant discussion with the Kasich Administration. The result was a settlement agreement that allowed the PLA to stand for the project.

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