After 20 Months of Antics, Board of El Monte Union High School District Poised to Require Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement

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UPDATE (June 7, 2013): on a 5-0 vote, the board of trustees of the El Monte Union High School District approved a Continuity of Work Agreement (Project Labor Agreement) with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trade Council at its June 5, 2013 meeting.

Board member Juanita M. Gonzales – an organizer for United Teachers Los Angeles – made the motion to approve the Project Labor Agreement. She sent these tweets on June 6, 2013:


UPDATE (May 8, 2013): according to the minutes of the March 6, 2013 meeting of the board of trustees of the El Monte Union High School District, a motion to table consideration of the “Continuity of Work Agreement” (aka Project Labor Agreement) between the school district and the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trade Council was approved 3-2 by the board:

Ms. Talamantes motioned to Table this agenda item to a future board meeting.
Motion by Maria-Elena Talamantes, second by Theresa A Velasco.
Final Resolution: Motion Carried
Yes: Salvador Ramirez, Maria-Elena Talamantes, Theresa A Velasco
No: Juanita M Gonzales, Carlos G Salcedo

According to the minutes, “Ray Van Der Nat, Building Trades representative, addressed the Board to speak in favor of the continuity agreement up for consideration this evening. He said that it would be a wise decision for the Board to approve the construction trade agreement in order to help the community and the district residents. It could give students a chance to learn a job trade because everyone is not cut out to go to college and they offer an alternative route to job skills. He felt that it was a no brainer that the continuity would do for the district and the residents.” Also, “Ron Miller, Building Trades representative, addressed the Board also in regards to the Board approving the continuity agreement and would be available for questions later.”

In addition, during the Round Table/Board Member Comments, “Ms. Gonzales brought up the topic that her current job was questioned as being a possible conflict of interest. She said that she will never stop supporting labor unions. She will never apologize for being a labor worker. Ms. Velasco said that she did not ask Ms. Gonzales to apologize, but she was concerned and asked to verify if Ms. Gonzales paycheck was a conflict of interest.”

On April 10, the board of trustees pulled approval of the Project Labor Agreement from their agenda at the beginning of the meeting. It did not appear on the subsequent meeting agenda.

On February 12, 2013, Juanita M. Gonzalez, board member at the El Monte Union High School District, announced triumphantly on the Facebook page of Lynwood Unified School District board member José Luis Solache that “Great EMUHSD should be approve (sic) at our next meeting.” She was responding to Solache’s announcement that the board of the Lynwood Unified School District had just voted at its February 12, 2013 meeting to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

Below is the official record of the development of the Project Labor Agreement expected to be considered by the El Monte Union High School District Board of Trustees at its March 6, 2013 meeting for certain projects funded by borrowed money from Measure D, a $148 million bond measure approved by voters in November 2008.

Notice the July 11, 2012 minutes, where it’s revealed that the lawyer for the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council tried to force a standard boilerplate Project Labor Agreement on the district, while the district’s legal counsel wanted to have a legitimate negotiation.

As you can read below, the union agreement was pushed by board member John Tran, who was running for California State Assembly at the time, thus proving yet again my axiom “Behind every push for a Project Labor Agreement is a politician with ambitions for higher office.” (See El Monte School Board Member and Former Rosemead Mayor John Tran Plans Run for 49th Assembly District SeatWhittier Daily News – August 30, 2011) Tran ended up resigning his school board position and abandoning his campaign for Assembly because of scandal. (See Federal Prosecutors: Former Rosemead Mayor John Tran Took Bribes, Solicited Sexual Favors from DevelopersPasadena Star-News – November 23, 2012)

Nevertheless, the Project Labor Agreement proposal has lingered at the school district.

July 6, 2011 Minutes – Written/Oral Communication

Mr. [John] Tran:  …He asked the Board and district if they could explore the opportunity to do project labor agreements (PLAs), which would provide job opportunities for members of the community for our new and upcoming construction projects. He hoped that the Board would start dialogue to move forward for the project labor agreement. He asked the Board and Superintendent for clear direction on labor negotiations on the PLAs. With some discussion, Mr. [Nick] Salerno [the superintendent] would work with legal counsel on this issue and get back to the Board with some basic information.

September 7, 2011 Minutes – Round Table/Board Member Comment

Project Labor Agreement (PLA): Mr. Salerno said that an Ad Hoc committee should be formed.  Mr. Olivarez spoke with someone in Building Trades, Robby (sic) Hunter, in regards to the Board’s interest in entering a project labor agreement, but before he could do anything further with this, he needed directions as to the parameters. He recommended that two members of the Board create an ad hoc committee in which they come up with some ideas as to what they would like to accomplish with the PLA and some ideas a deal points. With this information, he could get the process started with Mr. Hunter. Mr. Tran and Mr. [Carlos] Salcedo have volunteered to be on the Ad Hoc Committee.

September 28, 2011 Minutes – Round Table/Board Member Comments

Mr. Tran asked about when the Ad Hoc committee would be meeting for the Project Labor Agreement. Mr. Salerno said he would schedule a date with legal counsel and get back to him soon. Mr. Tran asked for a couple of sample agreements to look over.

January 11, 2012 Minutes

Presentation Regarding Proposal of a Project Labor Agreement Between the EMUHSD and Regional Labor Organization Which Would Apply to Certain School District Construction Contracts.

An informational presentation was given by Richard Padilla, legal counsel (Olivarez, Gallagher, & Padilla, PC) on Project Labor Agreements (PLA). His presentation gave a general overview of PLAs, the scope of PLAs and how to define the scope of agreement, and other common features. He talked about the exceptions that apply to PLAs, work stoppages, and a typical term of a PLA. His presentation gave information on the potential benefits, challenges, and considerations for PLAs. Mr. Padilla introduced Mr. Robbie Hunter from the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council.

Mr. Hunter handed out material from the Building & Construction Trades Council. He and another representatives (sic) spoke to the Board about who they represent and what they do. He said that PLAs go back into the 1930s and have been strong up to this day. He continued to mention many construction projects that used PLAs. Studies have been done to evaluate the PLAs and how they have stayed within budget, produced quality work and have completed within the time frame. He gave a large amount of general information about PLAs that have taken place in the area. Some questions and answers took place between the Board, Mr. Padilla, and Mr. Hunter.

Mr. Padilla recommended that the Board provide the staff and legal counsel with some basic parameters of the proposal and then come back to the Board for approval. Some members of the Board requested a comparison sheet that shows some different entities, what the thresholds and parameters are for the PLAs that have taken place. Also, Mr. Padilla said that he would have a meeting with the District and Mr. Hunter to lay down some expectations of what the PLA should contain.

Mr. Tran said that he was ready to go forward with this and asked if the Board was ready to go forward as well. Mr. Salcedo said that he liked the potential benefits of a PLA but was not ready to give a recommendation. He felt that the Ad Hoc committee can meet first and report back to the Board with their recommendation. Mr. [Salvador] Ramirez agreed and said to let the Ad Hoc committee meet first. Ms. Gonzales would like to review other project labor agreements from surrounding school districts. She would also like to have any district construction projects utilize a PLA. She was ready to move forward to a project labor agreement. Mr. Hunter gave a suggestion that he and legal counsel create a draft of a PLA and present it to the Board to look over and get familiar with the language. At the same time, they can look over the data presented to help them move forward. Mr. Padilla said that probably at the February 1 meeting, they can present the draft.

[On February 3, 2012, board member John Tran resigned. In the same month, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported on rumors of mismanagement of bond funds – see Oversight of Local School Bond Spending Criticized.]

March 7, 2012 Minutes

Discussion Regarding Basic Mechanics of Typical Project Labor Agreement and Overview of Upcoming District Projects and Catalog of Similar Agreements From Nearby Jurisdictions

Mr. Richard Padilla and [Chief Business Official] Mr. [Ryan] Di Giulio gave a presentation on project labor agreement (PLA) with the district. The PLA is a set of labor standards, specifically toward wage compliance and work conditions. He said that in some sense, the proposed agreement was straight forward and other sense more intense. He suggested that an ad hoc committee get together to break down the specifics and numbers of the proposed agreement and narrow down what would be suitable projects for this agreement. There is a pre-existing ad hoc committee and there was a vacancy for another board member to join the ad hoc committee. There was much discussion between the Board and Mr. Padilla and Mr. Di Giulio regarding how to proceed with the ad hoc committee and when to bring in the building trades representatives. Mr. [Ray] Vandernat (sic) gave some information about the different thresholds that they have agreed upon. The majority of the Board agreed that Mr. Salcedo and Mr. Ramirez be on the ad hoc committee and work with legal counsel and the Building Trades representatives to come up with an agreement. The hope was to have an agreement brought forth by the April board meeting.

See the March 1, 2012 staff report to the Board of Trustees of the El Monte Union High School District on Project Labor Agreements.

April 4, 2012 Minutes

Update and Discussion Regarding Development of Proposed Project Labor Agreement with Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building Trades Council and Consideration of Proposed Agreement for Execution by District

Mr. Richard Padilla gave a summary of the progress made by the ad hoc committee to develop basic deal points and deal terms. A preliminary draft agreement had been sent to the Building Trades Committee and he was waiting to hear if they would accept it or not. The agreement incorporates some of the features discussed in the ad hoc committee meetings, most significant was to define the scope and parameter of this project labor agreement. Two main points in the agreement were flexibility and accountability. Mr. Padilla explained both points in more detail. Some discussion took place between the Board and Mr. Padilla regarding the details of the draft agreement presented to the Building Trades Committee.

July 11, 2012 Minutes

From the meeting agenda: Information and Discussion on Potential Project Labor Agreement – Richard Padilla, District’s legal counsel representative from Olivarez, Madruga, Gallagher, Padilla, Birrueta Law (OMGPB Law), will present information on the progress that has transpired between the District’s legal counsel and the Building & Construction Trades Council on the proposed Project Labor Agreements.

Information and Discussion on Potential Project Labor Agreement

Mr. Salerno mentioned that he did not have much information about the PLA because he had been emailing the Trades Council and no one had responded back, but Mr. Ray Van der Nat was present during the meeting to respond. Mr. Van der Nat mentioned that the Building Trades Council had proposed a generic agreement that was used by many entities and the District’s legal counsel only needed to turn in a redlined proposal back to the Trades Council. Instead, the District’s legal counsel had returned to the Trades Council a completely different agreement. He continued to give a summary of what had happened between legal counsel and the trades council. Mr. Van der Nat did not review or redline the District’s proposal because it would take a lot of time to cross reference the two proposals.

Mr. Richard Padilla commented on how that all of sudden the email that he and the district had been using for Mr. Van der Nat was not working. Ms. Gonzales said that getting a PLA should not take so long. She felt that by not having a PLA in place, it was costing the District money. Mr. Ramirez said that the district had an Ad Hoc committee that took time to create a proposed agreement and the Trades Council should have made contact with the committee to review the agreement instead of contacting individual board members. He said that the District should not accept a one-size-fits all agreement. He continued to say that the Ad Hoc committee had put together a legal document and the Trades Council did not take the time to review it. Mrs. [Theresa] Velasco said that it was pettiness of both sides blaming the other of who should have done what. She felt that everyone should be able to work together and come out with an agreement. But she did say that the District should not have a generic agreement that might fit a water district because we were different, we are a school district. Ms. Talamantes asked Mr. Van der Nat why the Trades Council did not review the District’s proposed agreement and redline it and then return it. That would have been easier if they would have taken the time to look over the agreement. Mr. Van der Nat said that it would have taken time and money to review a completely new agreement and did not know which contract language was taken from the original agreement and placed in the new agreement. She said that his answer did not make sense because all they needed to do was just read our agreement.

Mr. Salcedo said that he was still interested in what could come out of the Building Trades Council and what agreement could be reached. Mr. Van der Nat said that he would take the time to review the District’s proposal and redline it. Mr. Van der Nat would contact Mr. Salerno with some possible dates and times to meet with the Ad Hoc committee to review the redlined District’s proposal.

One comment

  1. […] The school board of the El Monte Union High School District is expected to vote at its March 6, 2013 meeting to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council in order to work on projects funded by borrowed money from Measure D, a $148 million bond measure approved by district voters in November 2008. This union deal was originally pushed in 2011 by a school board member seeking election to the California State Assembly; he ultimately dropped out of the race and resigned his board seat. For more information, see After 20 Months of Antics, Board of El Monte Union High School District Poised to Require Contractor…. […]