Tag Archive for Valerie Brown

Sonoma County Will Get Its First Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreement: County Projects Over $10 Million

After hearing public comments from 71 speakers and spending hours deliberating on technical aspects of Project Labor Agreement provisions, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors agreed on January 14, 2014 to vote at their next meeting (January 28) on their own version of a policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for projects with construction costs over $10 million.

It’s the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in Sonoma County. Board chairman David Rabbitt said that the number of comment cards submitted at the meeting for the agenda item (90 total) was a record.

Back of T-shirts worn by union activists at Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Back of T-shirts worn by union activists at Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Union officials have been lobbying the Board of Supervisors for a Project Labor Agreement for two years. In September 2012, the board considered a policy but did not enact it because a 3-2 majority did not support it.

In the November 2012 election, retiring Supervisor Valerie Brown (who opposed a Project Labor Agreement) was replaced by Susan Gorin, a Santa Rosa City Councilmember who supports Project Labor Agreements. Unions backed her campaign. Gorin defeated Santa Rosa City Councilmember John Sawyer, who opposed Project Labor Agreements, 24,033 votes to 22,251 votes (51.8% to 47.9%). The Project Labor Agreement was then inevitable.

An ad-hoc committee was formed in 2013 to develop a Project Labor Agreement that could win consensus from the Board of Supervisors. After the final version was produced, a business coalition opposed to the Project Labor Agreement proposed their changes, and building trade unions proposed their changes. At the January 14 meeting, the board spent hours compromising and agreeing on various disputed provisions.

In more than 16 years fighting Project Labor Agreements in California, it was the first time I saw elected officials take their jobs seriously to create their own agreement, rather than simply approving a boilerplate model from the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO with a few variations negotiated by staff and union officials. Supervisors emphasized that the policy was for the county, not for special interest groups.

Nevertheless, the adoption of this policy gives unions a foothold to eventually expand it to almost all county construction, provided a solid union-backed majority continues to control the board. For example, Solano County adopted a Project Labor Agreement policy with a threshold of $10 million, but Supervisors approved special exceptions in which contractors were required to sign a Project Labor Agreement, even for a $957,000 project (321 Tuolumne remodel at the county’s Vallejo campus). In addition, the Santa Rosa City Council and the Santa Rosa Junior College board of trustees have voted in the past not to use Project Labor Agreements, and surely unions will again target these local governments. They now have a precedent in Sonoma County.

Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction speaks to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors against the proposed Project Labor Agreement policy.

Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction speaks to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors against the proposed Project Labor Agreement policy.

Background

January 14, 2014 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors – Agenda and Staff Report

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Ad-Hoc Committee Report and Project Labor Agreement

Sonoma County Past and Future Major Construction Projects

Sonoma-Mendocino-Lake Counties Building & Construction Trades Council Proposed Changes

The Coalition Against Sonoma County Project Labor Agreements Proposed Changes

Comparison of Three Versions of Project Labor Agreements

Sonoma County Taxpayers Association Opposes Project Labor Agreement

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Demands Environmental Impact Report for Proposed Policy Giving Unions Monopoly on County of Sonoma Construction Contracts

News Coverage

Push for Worker Benefits on Sonoma County Projects Returns – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – January 12, 2014

Sonoma County Project Labor Agreements Could Have Lower Cost Threshold – North Bay Business Journal – January 13, 2014

Bringing Blunt Force to Public Works Contracts – editorial – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – January 14, 2014

Sonoma County Supervisors Appear to Back Project Labor Agreements – North Bay Business Journal – January 14, 2014

County Supervisors Signal Support for Project Labor AgreementsSanta Rosa Press-Democrat – January 15, 2014

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Abandons Project Labor Agreement Policy; Instead Directs Staff to Negotiate Project Labor Agreement for Sonoma County Airport Expansion

UPDATE: This article was reprinted in www.theTruthaboutPLAs.com on September 21, 2012 as Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Abandons Project Labor Agreement Policy; Instead Directs Staff to Negotiate Project Labor Agreement for Sonoma County Airport Expansion.

Opponents of a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for Sonoma County rally on September 18, 2012.

Opponents of a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for Sonoma County rally on September 18, 2012. The signs say “WHY? WHY are you trying to solve a problem that your staff says doesn’t exist?”

Without a vote, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors directed county staff on September 18, 2012 to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions and with the input of contractors for the planned $54 million expansion of the runways at the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County Airport. Supervisors listed numerous items to be addressed in the negotiations and asked staff to present an agreement to the board for consideration within two months.The original agenda item was to approve a policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of winning Sonoma County contracts for projects of $25 million or more.

After almost five hours of staff presentations, public comment, and board deliberations, the county board chairwoman Shirlee Zane (the primary advocate for the Project Labor Agreement) concluded that other board members had too many concerns about the content and meaning of the policy to reach a consensus. Supervisors Valerie Brown, David Rabbitt, and Efren Carrillo all had multiple concerns about how the policy would be implemented. Supervisor Mike McGuire stated his support for a policy with a threshold not less than $25 million, but didn’t show much interest in joining Supervisor Zane to push the proposed policy.

Government meetings to deliberate proposed Project Labor Agreements have taken an increasing amount of time over the years as supporters and opponents have become more sophisticated in their arguments and political strategies. This deliberation was the longest I’ve experienced in 15 years of fighting Project Labor Agreements in California, even exceeding the length of the March 2010 deliberation of the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees for its Project Labor Agreement.

At this meeting, 23 people spoke in support of the union policy and 29 people spoke against the union policy. Besides construction trade union officials and apprentices, supporters of the Project Labor Agreement included San Rafael City Council member (and former College of Marin Board of Trustees member) Greg Brockbank, Santa Rosa School Board member Laura Gonzalez (read her thank you note to Supervisor Zane), and Marty Bennett, a professor at Santa Rosa Junior College. Lisa Maldonado – executive director of the North Bay Labor Council – tried to frame the debate as class warfare between “wealthy families” and “workers who pay most of the taxes” and accused opponents of the Project Labor Agreement of exploiting illegal immigrants. She also Tweeted these comments:

Lisa Maldonado @LaMujerObrera

  • Wont Get Fooled Again! Special Shout Out to Supervisor Carrillo!: http://youtu.be/Rp6-wG5LLqE 
  • Spanks to Supervisors Brown, Rabbit & Carrillo for turning your backs on working families and supporting those who exploit workers!
  • Thanks to Supervisors McGuire & Zane for their tireless support of working families and local hire!
  • Supervisor Rabbit continues to back up North Bay Builders exchange anti worker supporters who got him elected. #scabsupervisor!
  • Why are the Associated Builders threatening our Board of Supervisors if they don’t vote their way? Talk about THUGS! pic.twitter.com/h3dZnhGI
  • Press Democrat’s new low: helping Scab Builders (aka their advertisers) threaten our Supervisors to Vote their way! (& they call us THUGS!?)
  • Scab builders can afford expensive advertising in the Press Democrat because they cheat & exploit workers #scablies pic.twitter.com/lHs0oSBM
  • Check out the ad that scabbuilders placed in the PD today. It’s expensive but it comes with an editorial of UR choice pic.twitter.com/jIKvTk02
  • Well now we know why the press Democrat did editorial on PLA while the middle east is on fire! I guess it really PAYS to advertise #noethics

And subsequently from the top labor official in the North Bay:

  • I thought@EfrenCarrillo’s public brawling was embarrassing. Then I saw his behavior in betraying working families & pandering to Keith Woods
  • Well Money still talks in Sonoma County. The interests of tChamber, theNCBE & the uber rich Soiland family are first with Rabbit, Carrillo !
  • @EfrenCarrillo: re: ur betrayal of workers last night-Now We know how the guy you knocked out in a bar feels. did u hit him from behind too?
  • It’s a sad thing when crazy Tea Partiers are your only defenders! #Carrillodoesntfightfair
  • Last night we saw Big Business owns Sonoma BOS. Xcept for McGuire & Zane We need Susan Gorin, NOT John Sawyer another tool of Asphalt Money!
  • @EfrenCarrillo Too bad there were no “rowdies” at the PLA vote, perhaps then you would have ‘defended’ working people?!
  • Dime Con Quien Andas y Te Dire’ Quien Eres! ( Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are) .#thingsmyabuelasaid #Efrenimies
  • Muchisimas Gracias to Supervisors McGuire & Zane for supporting PLA’s workers & apprentices & good middle class jobs!

Opposing the Project Labor Agreement policy as proposed were representatives of several construction trade associations (the North Coast Builders Exchange, the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Western Electrical Contractors Association), the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, and the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association. I also spoke as a follow up to my September 17, 2012 email to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors about the Project Labor Agreement policy.

Below is a compilation of news media coverage.

NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE

Supervisors Stick Up for the 85 Percent – North Bay Business Journal (editorial) – October 5, 2012

Supervisors Divided Over PLA Details: Staff to Answer Board Concerns in Two Months – North Bay Business Journal – September 24, 2012

Sonoma County Spurns Blanket Union Plan for Big Public Projects – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – September 19, 2012

Sonoma County Supervisors Want More Study on Project Labor Agreements – North Bay Business Journal – September 19, 2012

Sonoma County Supervisors to Consider Project Labor Agreement: Strong Public Input Expected on Tuesday – North Bay Business Journal – September 17, 2012

County Fails to Make Case for Favoring Unions – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat (editorial) – September 16, 2012

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

PLA Proponents Must Prove Benefits – North Bay Business Journal – October 8, 2012 

September 18, 2012 Unions Rally to Support Project Labor Agreement Policy for Sonoma County

Unions rally to support a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for Sonoma County on September 18, 2012. The portable electronic road sign in the background says “No PLA.”