Project Labor Agreement Vote

bertolini_burgess.jpgThe big news this month is the board’s decision, taken at its June 13 meeting, to experiment with project labor agreements (PLAs, sometimes also called project stabilization agreements or PSAs) in connection with pending renovation and construction projects over the next 10 years on a number of aging JC buildings. In a 4-3 vote, in which I joined with the majority, the board authorized Dr. Frank Chong, SRJC president, to open negotiations with construction unions on using a PLA for one or more of these projects.

While opponents have criticized PLAs as “a solution in search of a problem,” proponents have pointed out that PLAs offer the JC the benefit of being able to negotiate terms and agreements on matters such as local hiring, apprentices, cost overruns, increased safety, strikes and sustainability even before construction work begins.

Before the board voted on what had proved to be a highly contentious issue, we had a lengthy, lively debate. When I spoke, I noted the support PLAs have received from a number of constituents – thank you all for your input in response to the PLA survey I included in my March newsletter – as well as from several elected officials.

I also referred to a couple of studies on the use of PLAs in higher education and community college construction projects in California. These studies demonstrated, among other things, that PLAs tend both to lower the cost of construction and to enlarge the pool of bidders, positive results that PLA opponents have contested.

I finished by responding to the charge that since the members of the board majority favoring PLAs were all elected with union support, we were under an obligation to toe the union line. “For the record,” I concluded, “I am not for sale to anyone, for any price. Period!”

Again, I want to thank all those who responded to my PLA survey in March. We got approximately 100 responses, far beyond what might normally be expected for a survey of this kind. I greatly appreciate your interest and input on this critical issue.

In fact, I always like getting feedback from my constituents. So next time there’s a major board decision on the horizon, I hope you won’t hesitate to click on the What Do You Think? link and give me your thoughts.

(Photo credit John Burgess / The Press Democrat)