Minority contractors and minority business associations in California are taking a political leadership role in Los Angeles and Oakland to oppose proposed project labor agreements (PLAs).
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
On March 1, 2011, Small Business United (SBU), described as “a coalition of small business groups and professional associations representing a diverse set of constituencies from throughout Los Angeles County,” held a press conference in front of Los Angeles County’s Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration to urge the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to reject a proposed project labor agreement for the county’s Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center Replacement Project – Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center, as well as the Exposition Construction Authority’s Light Rail project.
Members of Small Business United include AB Consulting; AG Consultants; American GI Forum of California; Arab American Association of Engineers & Architects, Golden State Chapter; Associated Builders and Contractors Los Angeles-Ventura and Southern California Chapters; Eastern Group Publication, Inc.; California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Chinese American Construction Professionals; Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Inc.; Santa Cruz Builders; the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction; South Bay Latino Chamber of Commerce; Hernandez, Kroone & Associates; Hispanic Contractors Association; Hispanic Engineers Business Corporation; Praad Geotechnical, Inc.; and Yerba Buena Engineering & Construction.
A press release from Small Business United dated March 1 declared it “stands opposed to PLAs due to their adverse effects on small, minority, and women owned businesses, as well as the negative economic and educational impact they have on the region’s communities.” The press release included this statement:
“We are unable to sustain our livelihood under the parameters found in PLAs already in existence at other L.A. entities such as LAX, LAUSD, and the L.A. Department of Public Works. The PLAs under consideration for the County and Expo projects are just more of the same: union rules written solely by union leaders. Our community of engineers and students will be negatively affected unless the PLA is removed or substantially modified to accommodate small, minority, and women owned business enterprises.” said Robert Guzman, one of the group’s leaders and President of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. “Many of our students have expressed concern over their futures as business leaders because PLAs will not allow them to grow by getting work on projects paid for with their tax dollars, unless they of course happen to be union, which most are not.”
Also at the press conference were 200 union activists who were intent on disrupting the press conference. See video footage here and here and photos here. The head of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council then used a megaphone at a union counter-rally to issue a diatribe against Associated Builders and Contractors and call for projects to be “as union as possible” under Project Labor Agreements. The opposing positions are clear: fair and open bid competition and responsible use of taxpayer funds OR costly union monopolies.
OAKLAND HOUSING AUTHORITY
On February 28, 2011, five contractors and three association representatives spoke at the meeting of the Board of Commissioners for the Oakland Housing Authority in opposition to a proposed project labor agreement for future construction. Speakers included the president of the Bay Area Black Builders organization.
Speakers asked for a public forum on project labor agreements, formal involvement in the project labor agreement negotiations, and the public release of a feasibility study produced for the Oakland Housing Authority by an Oakland consulting firm, Davillier-Sloan. This report was subsequently released. It included a recommendation that the project labor agreement should include a provision that allows Merit Shop contractors to make benefit payments to company benefit plans if these plans are deemed to be equivalent or “parallel” to the union plans.
Four local contractors and a representative of Associated Builders and Contractors had spoken previously at the Board of Commissioners meeting held on January 24, 2011 as part of an Alameda County Contractor Coalition.
The Oakland Housing Authority intends to issue a Request for Proposal for a firm to negotiate a project labor agreement with the Building Trades Council of Alameda County. Much of the construction for the Oakland Housing Authority is renovation work for multi-family residential housing.