The Troubled History of Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements on Construction Contracts for Contra Costa County, California

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For 20 years, Contra Costa County, California (in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area) has been a hotbed of union lobbying efforts to convince local governments to require construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of work. It was one of the first places in the country where unions deliberately used government-mandated Project Labor Agreements to organize construction workers and expand the market share of unionized construction companies.

In the 1990s, Contra Costa County was the only place in California where local governments required contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements for routine building projects, thus expanding Project Labor Agreements beyond their traditional use on large, complex, multi-year infrastructure projects.

Project Labor Agreements imposed by the Pinole City Council and the Board of Directors of the Contra Costa Water District were targets of litigation in the mid-1990s as supporters and opponents of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements began testing their legal theories in the state court system. Two of the three plaintiffs in a 2001 lawsuit challenging a presidential executive order restricting Project Labor Agreements were the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council and the City of Richmond (located in Contra Costa County).

The Troubled History of Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements on Construction Contracts for Contra Costa County, CaliforniaAt the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, government-mandated Project Labor Agreements have been chronically associated with controversy. The Troubled History of Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements for Contra Costa County, California provides the history of Project Labor Agreements for county construction.

The California Construction Compliance Group released the paper several days before the Internal Operations Committee of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to discuss amending the county’s mandatory project labor agreement policy at its December 10, 2012 meeting. Outside parties apparently recognized the effectiveness and accuracy of the paper, as top construction union officials demanded and achieved removal of the item from the meeting agenda.

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