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Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

California’s SB922, Which Ensures Taxpayer Protections and Leaves the Door Open to Union Construction, Reaches Governor’s Desk

The approval of SB922 by the California Senate and Assembly ensures that Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on public construction projects include taxpayer protection provisions and will empower the governing boards of local entities to decide whether or not to use PLAs that include such provisions on their local projects. The bill was sponsored by Senate Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez.

The truth about PLAs is that these are contracts signed between construction trade workers and project owners to establish working site conditions and management, utilized by both public and private owners. By scheduling workforce needs, it is a tool to save precious taxpayer dollars, ensuring that a project is built on time, and on budget. In the private sector, PLAs have worked for Toyota, Honda, Disneyworld, and virtually every power plant recently constructed in California. Locally in the San Diego region, PLAs have been used to construct the Petco Park, 655 Broadway, Otay Energy Center, Palomar Energy Center and both the Olivenhain and San Vencente Dams.

Recently, the San Diego region has been impacted by falsely-labeled “fair and open competition” initiatives in the cities of San Diego, Escondido and El Cajon. These controversial measures are regulatory bans on PLAs that unfairly prohibit a public agency from even considering a PLA, even if taxpayers derive efficiencies similar to the private sector. Last week, paid signature gatherers have submitted a petition to the City Clerk in the city of San Diego, after repeatedly misleading voters about the measure.

SB922 is a true vision of fair and open competition, opening the toolbox of competition based on merit, not the force of the ballot-box bully. Public agencies across the region, and the state, will at last be free to choose, whether or not to enter into a PLA, on a project-by-project basis. If they do choose to voluntarily enter into a PLA, the following taxpayer protections will be required:

-Both union and non-union contractors can bid on and be awarded contracts;
-Workers cannot be discriminated based on race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or membership in a labor organization;
-Prohibits any work stoppages or disruptions on projects, with any dispute being resolved by a neutral arbitrator;
-Workers on hazardous jobs will drug-use tested.

Contrary to false claims by opponents, this bill does not require any public agency to use PLAs on public projects. Under this bill, public agencies such as the County of San Diego cannot adopt controversial bans against PLAs which include these taxpayer protections. Charter cities, such as Oceanside and Chula Vista, are not prohibited from adopting such bans, but will cease to receive state funding if the bans are not lifted by 2015. This bill will also expose the true fiscal taxpayer impacts of unfair PLA bans such as that proposed by self-serving contractors in the City of San Diego.

According to Tom Lemmon, Business Manager of the San Diego Building Trades Council:

In these tough budget times, it is only fair that public agencies in San Diego have all the tools available to them, as private developers do, by open competition based on merit, not the force of the ballot-box bully.

There has never been stronger taxpayer reason to oppose the PLA ban in the city of San Diego, as the city could lose future state funding and jeopardize major projects.


6 Comments on “California’s SB922, Which Ensures Taxpayer Protections and Leaves the Door Open to Union Construction, Reaches Governor’s Desk”

  1. You forgot to mention this law strips power and choice from local voters. The law takes the choice to ban PLA’s out of voters’ hands. If voters in local communities don’t want Project Labor Agreements, why should the state be able to force local communities to permit them? Unions tout local hire provisions of PLAs (total BS by the way); but what about local voting rights? The people don’t want PLAs and should be allowed to vote accordingly! Stop frustrating local voting rights and taking choices away from the people. The unions’ resort to the state legislature to take power from local voters will not be forgotten. You complain about free and open competition supporters somehow gaming the system to ban PLA. Yet the unions completely pulled this fast one to get these laws passed. The last minute, gut and amend, debate-free way the unions wormed these laws before the legislature is shameful. Your article is not accurate and you should delete it.

  2. Below are results from the recent vote to ban Project Labor Agreements in San Diego County. Now, why exactly do you believe the voice of San Diego voters should be ignored? There is no good answer. Unions have used politicians in an underhanded way to force their views on others. Shame on Democrats for ignoring the voice of voters. Shame on unions for their underhanded politics. It’s no wonder the public despises unions.

    Prop A- SAN DIEGO COUNTY CH. Amdmt.

    YES 443,314 75.67%
    NO 142,534 24.33%

  3. One last thought… why are PLA’s focused on union or union benefits plans? If PLA’s are merely an agreement to a set of rules related to a project, then why do they require contributions to union benefit trust funds? Why do they require non-union contractors to hire union employees? The real answer is that PLA’s are an anti-competitive money grab by UNIONS.

    I just noticed you cite Tom Lemmon as your source! Very funny. The biggest union stooge around is who you cite as authority?

  4. Yep. Labor is above board no doubt.

    PLA shakedown
    From the Sacramento Bee
    As late as last Thursday, Sen. Gloria Negrete-McCloud’s Senate Bill 922 was an innocuous measure that would have added tuberculosis to information that may be disclosed under the state’s immunization system.

    Then Friday, just a week before the legislative session ends, the word tuberculosis disappeared from the measure and so did the original author. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez are the new authors of a far more controversial measure. The amended SB 922 would bar city councils and county supervisors or even local voters from banning “project labor agreements,” essentially agreements that require public agencies to use union labor for public works projects.


  5. Dear Reasonable Voter,
    If you had experienced the blackout in Southern California, you would have known that one weak link can put the entire region and state at risk. Unfortunately, under the darkness of voter unfamiliarity with PLAs, too many risky weak-links are being peddled in this region by predatory contractors.

    Let us look at the County of San Diego Proposition A of 2010. What did voters support?
    (1) That any local law or agreement would comply with state law. (Read the ballot question for Proposition A.) By creating a standard template for PLAs, SB 922 requires compliance with state law.
    (2) That all qualified workers will get an equal opportunity to work on public projects. (Read the opening line on the Yes on A ballot argument.) SB 922 prohibits discrimination of any workers based on race, gender, political affiliation or union membership.
    (3) Protect taxpayers and promote fiscal responsibility. (Read the Yes on A ballot argument and ads.) By keeping the tools that private sector uses for on-time and on-budget project completion available to public agencies, SB 977 accomplishes just that.

    At the end of the day, the substance of a PLA does not matter to ballot box bullies. They ban PLAs as political retribution against unions. The fact that have targeted jurisdictions that have never had PLAs by these agencies demonstrates that this is not a taxpayer calculation, but a political one. For example, in Chula Vista, local elected officials refused to put a PLA ban on the ballot. They were strong-armed by external political operatives to force the measure in a low-turnout election, so that voter preference was skewed.

    If 75% of San Diego supports fair and open competition, I believe that SB 922 accomplishes that, creating a level playing field across the region, and the state. It is time to turn on the lights in California.

  6. Prop A prohibited requiring contractors to agree to a PLA.

    You failed to address any of the substantive content of my posts. I will, however, address your points…
    1. The law already requires that the law be followed. We don’t need PLA’s to enforce the law.
    2. You are wrong. PLAs require non-union contractors to hire union employees. Which means non-union employees do not get to work, while union employees do. That is discrimination, it’s just not protected under the law. This fact prevents contractors from bidding on PLA jobs. A lower number of bidders means less competition means higher prices for the tax payers.
    And please, please do not say that PLA gaurantee a living wage. Prevailing wage laws aready do that. That is one of the more laughable arguments unions make in support of PLAs.
    3. PLAs do not protect tax payer dollars. In my opinion, and based on basic economics, limiting the pool of market participants results in higher costs. PLA jobs have less bids. Ergo, PLA’s cost more.
    I know there are arguments now about whether PLAs result in higher per foot costs. Unions disagree with that argument. Non-union contractors believe PLAs result in higher costs. I believe PLAs are money grabs by struggling unions.
    I believe the manner in which these laws were passed (through the legislature without debate and in direct opposition to voter choice) is shameful. These tactics are not those employed by reputable entities.
    Have a position, get voter support, let the people decide. Unions using their political connections to pass laws that contravene citizen choice is shameful and irreputably harms public perception.

    The blackout was started by an electric company employee… I wonder if that employee was union… HE WAS! Funny. IBEW. Human error happens though and in no way should this individual be held responsible for the accident.

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