Associated General Contractors (AGC) – San Diego filed a lawsuit July 30 against the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). The suit claims that provisions in the project stabilization agreement (a PLA by another name) approved by the School Board prevent non-union apprentices from working on projects funded by the $2.1 billion voter-approved Proposition S bond and amount to discrimination. In the lawsuit, AGC notes:
The District [SDUSD] policy [to require the project stabilization agreements on all projects funded by Proposition S bond] expressly conflicts with apprenticeship law in California and it eliminates and impressmisibly restricts participation on the projects for all apprenticeship programs in California for training under their standards, regardless of their prior approval by DAS/CAC, except certain programs hand-picked by the District.
As a result, the District policy violates the Labor Code and related regulations, which permit contractors to utilize any approved apprenticeship program in which they participate to fulfill apprenticeship requirements on public works projects, including the [Proposition S funded] Projects.
AGC-San Diego representatives held a press conference with local media on July 30th to release details of their suit. AGC leaders were joined by several local apprentices, each of whom is prohibited from working on Proposition S funded projects by the project stabilization agreement approved by the SDUSD. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s coverage captured the worker’s perspective on this political handout:
James Ray, a 49-year-old father of four from San Diego’s Skyline neighborhood, is slated to finish a three-year training program at AGC in December, after which he expects to receive a certificate of completion from the state.
“We just want the chance to take care of our families and, you know, be a blessing . . . ,” Ray said at the AGC news conference. “What do we do now?”
This lawsuit and press conference come on the heels of the SDUSD School Board’s approval of a SECOND project stabilization agreement on July 28. Followers of this blog are probably scratching their heads and wondering why a SECOND agreement is necessary. Well, the project stabilization agreement approved in May was fine for the the Building and Construction Trade Department (BCTD), AFL-CIO locals, but the local carpenter unions had objections. Carpenter union locals have found themselves involved in jurisdictional disputes throughout the country recently and have been accused repeatedly of stealing work and raiding BCTD unions for their members. In the context of this dispute, the local carpenter unions refused to sign the project stabilization agreement that the SDUSD had already approved, forcing the School Board to draft and approve a second project stabilization agreement.
By the way, the LA/Orange County BCTD website sums up the inter-union dispute very well:
Building Trades crafts are uniting to fight efforts by the Carpenters Union to take over the work and raid the membership of other unions. Since disaffiliating from the National Building Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the Carpenters have embarked on an aggressive campaign that has targeted a number of different crafts including the Plasterers and the Painters and Allied Trades (Drywall Finishers).
The Carpenters who supported both George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger, have been used their political clout with the anti-union politicians in Sacramento in order to get the California Apprenticeship Commission to approve state funding and certification for a Carpenters Union apprenticeship program to train Plasterers.
“[The Carpenters] are trying to position themselves politically with a dangerous foe. These politicians are no friends to labor,” said Ernersto “Ernie” Penuelas, Business Agent with Iron Workers Local 433. “The Carpenters are trying align themselves with people who carry a big stick in order to get favoritism for what they are trying to do, which is—in the opinion of a lot people—to take over the entire Building Trades and make it one big Carpenters union.”
Craft unions are not taking this struggle lying down. A video that surfaced on the website YouTube.com, shows confrontation between two Carpenter Business Agents and a group of Iron Workers, that ends in a brawl [union violence anyone?] after one of the Carpenter Business Agents grabs an Iron Worker as he tries to enter a job site.
As others have already said, it looks like the brotherhood isn’t what it used to be.
Regardless, this SECOND project stabilization was approved by the SDUSD School Board 3-2 and will be challenged as a part of AGC’s lawsuit.