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
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.
If you haven’t contacted the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors yet, please do so and tell them to oppose government-mandated PLAs on any taxpayer-funded project.
NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE
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 17, 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 – September 16, 2012
Cross posted from Labor Issues Solutions blog here.