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$586 Million Project Labor Agreement on San Diego Courthouse is First of Its Kind

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In San Diego, a new $586 million courthouse project will be built under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) marking the first time such a contract has been used at the onset of a major court facility in the region.  The agreement comes a year after voters rejected mandatory PLAs on publicly-funded projects via a local ballot measure.  This project does not meet those standards as it is a state project.  

The deal was made at the request of state courts director Steven Jahr and will regulate planning and construction between builders Rudolph and Sletten Inc. and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (SBCTC).  Jahr told the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“I requested that the contractor enter into a PLA with the Trades Council to ensure certainty and timeliness as well as reduce variables in a construction project of this magnitude.  This will be the first state courthouse project on which a PLA is signed.”

Details of the agreement have yet to be released. If successful, a precedent for PLAs on court facilities could be set.  

Jahr described the agreement for the new 71-courtroom facility as a “pilot effort” that administrators “will continuously evaluate for costs and benefits going forward.”

Jahr said he recognized the labor-friendly agreements have their critics.

“We have examined those criticisms and believe for this project there is an overall benefit,” Jahr wrote.

Jahr explained that because of the crucial nature of the project and the current facility’s decomposition — both issues that force a fast timeline — a Project Labor Agreement is necessary to ensure there are no delays or cost overruns. “To that end,” Jahr added, “the PLA is being put in place to ensure that this momentum continues by preventing potential expensive delays and related costs.”

To boot, the PLA could require 30 percent of tradesmen and women to be hired locally. If the planning stages continue to go smoothly construction will begin in December of 2013.


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