Construction Manager at-Risk Negotiating with Unions for a Project Labor Agreement on $600 Million San Diego County Central Courthouse

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The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction just issued a press release (on May 30, 2013) entitled “Unions and State Conspire to Exclude Local Workers from Massive Public Courthouse Project in San Diego.” Text is below.

May 31 is the deadline for prospective bidders to submit their pre-qualification questionnaires to Rudolph and Sletten. See Subcontractors to Bid on Work for New Downtown Central CourthouseSan Diego Daily Transcript – May 16, 2013


May 30, 2013
Contact: Eric Christen, (858) 431-6337 

Unions and State Conspire to Exclude Local Workers from Massive Public Courthouse Project in San Diego

Attempt to Place Union-Only Project Labor Agreement on $600+Million State Courthouse in City that Banned PLAs Less than a Year Ago

San Diego – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) has learned that local unions and the Administrative Office of the Courts for the State of California (AOC) have been “negotiating” a union-only Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the new $600+ million Superior Courthouse to be located in downtown San Diego. The AOC has hired the general contracting firm Rudolph & Sletten to build the courthouse. Rudolph & Sletten is therefore “negotiating” the PLA with local trade unions. These “negotiations” take place less than one year after voters in the City of San Diego overwhelming voted to ban PLAs 58%-42% with the passage of Proposition A in June of 2012.

“This is a remarkably tone-deaf and outrageous decision the sole intent of which is to exclude 90% of the local construction workforce who happen to be union-free,” said Eric Christen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. “The citizens of San Diego have expressed, twice now, their desire to keep San Diego discrimination-free and now we have the AOC forcing this ‘agreement’ on us?”

CFEC has submitted a Public Records Act request to the AOC that seeks to answer, among other things, the following:

  • Where and who did the idea of a PLA come from?
  • What are the justifications for a PLA?
  • Who is actually “negotiating” the PLA?
  • Did unions who run the legislature threaten to hold up funding on the project unless a PLA was placed on it?

The project is one of the AOC’s most expensive and at more than 700,000 sq. feet and 70 courtrooms, one of the largest. Ironies abound for such a project to be considered for a PLA.

On top of San Diego having banned PLAs there is the State publicly stating its desire to have “significant local, minority, women, and veteran owned businesses participate.” Yet with 90% of the local construction workforce union-free, that goal will be impossible to reach with a PLA.

Also, PLA proponents argue that PLAs are needed on “large and complex projects” yet two of the largest projects San Diego has ever undertaken (The San Diego International Airport expansion and the new downtown Federal Courthouse) were both built successfully without a PLA. The State and AOC have been facing years of funding cuts for its courthouse projects due to the economy and indeed this project has been reduced in both size and scope. Yet a PLA will add at least 20% to the cost of the project by cutting out local bidders who would otherwise add competitive pressure to the overall bid package. Finally Rudolph & Sletten is asking for companies interested in bidding this job to fill out a “Request for Qualification” (RFQ) that has no mention of a PLA. Thus, companies are being led to believe that this project will be open to all of them when in fact in may not be.

“This is a project that is going to be paid for with taxpayer dollars that come from union and non-union taxpayers.” added Christen “Yet the State of California through the AOC has just told the majority of those workers and apprentices that while their tax dollars are appreciated their ability to work is not. This is not going to go easily or well for the State, the AOC, or Rudolph and Sletten if a PLA is in fact required on this project. As we have shown time and time again, we will use any and all means to keep this project open for every worker and contractor. This decision, and we will find out exactly who made it, is offensive.”

Contractors who are interested in bidding this work have until tomorrow, May 31, to send in their pre-qualification packages. Rudolph and Sletten is scheduled to begin subcontractor bidding in July 2013. The bond sale for construction is expected in fall 2013, and construction is scheduled to begin before the end of 2013. Completion is scheduled for 2016.

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  1. […] By May 30, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction was confident enough in its sources to issue a press release (Unions and State Conspire to Exclude Local Workers from Massive Public Courthouse Project in San Diego). I reported it in my May 30, 2013 post Construction Manager at-Risk Negotiating with Unions for a Project Labor Agreement on $600 Million S…. […]