At the March meeting, the board heard pro and con testimony about a proposal to adopt project labor agreements (PLAs), also known as project stabilization agreements (PSAs), in connection with renovation projects, over the next 10 years, on a number of aging JC buildings. The work has been made possible by the 2014 voter approval of $410 million in bonds.
PLAs offer the JC the benefit of being able to negotiate terms and agreements on matters such as local hiring, apprentices, cost overruns, strikes and sustainability before construction work begins.
While federal- and state-funded construction projects generally require that work be done under union rules, this is not always the case at a local level. In 2014 Sonoma County required PLAs on projects of over $10 million. Construction unions are urging the county supervisors to lower the threshold to $2 million.
At the SRJC board meeting, the North Bay Labor Council’s president, Jack Buckhorn, spoke in favor of PLAs, claiming they save money because they limit labor disputes and cost overruns. In the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, he was quoted as saying, “PLAs are not only proven to finish projects on time and under budget, there is also a social justice component. They include local training programs that create middle-class jobs.”
Speaking in opposition to the proposal, Ken Kriescher, chief financial officer for Western Water Constructors and a board member at the (non-union) North Coast Builders Exchange, said PLAs “are a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.” He pointed out that the JC “has existed for decades and has had many successful projects without a PLA” and said that “open and fair competition has worked quite well for the community and taxpayers.”
The board will vote on the PLA proposal at a future meeting, and I’d like to know how readers feel about the issue. Please respond to our survey and don’t hesitate to email your views to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo credit John Burgess / The Press Democrat)