Another California County Poised to Prohibit PLAs, While the Riverside Community College District Trustees Can’t Help Themselves

0 March 15, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Following the lead of Orange and San Diego Counties, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors is poised to take up an ordinance that would prohibit wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreements (PLAs) on county construction projects. If adopted, three of the four most populous counties in California will have said no to political handouts, and yes to accountability on taxpayer-funded construction projects.

The Riverside Board of Supervisors will consider this proposal tomorrow, March 16 at their 9 am PT meeting at 4080 Lemon Street, 1st Floor, Riverside, CA 92501. Please plan to attend the meeting and show your support if you are in the area.

You can also email members of the Board of Supervisors to show your support.  The Supervisors can be reached at:

While the Riverside County Board of Supervisors is considering the best way to ensure quality, accountability and results for their constituents, the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees may do the opposite just hours later.

The trustees are scheduled Tuesday, March 16 to consider whether to require PLAs on the funds remaining from the voter-approved $350 million Proposition C.

As readers remember, the Riverside Community College District trustees voted during their December 15, 2009 meeting to require the college’s chancellor to negotiate a PLA with local labor unions and present it to the Board of Trustees for their approval.

The Riverside, CA Press-Enterprise had some thoughts on how this vote occurred in their editorial, “Shameful Vote,” (12/22/09):

The Riverside Community College District board’s new motto is apparently: Vote quickly, not carefully. The board pushed ahead with a sweeping new labor agreement last week, without giving the public — or even board members — a chance to understand the issue before the vote.

That nonsense needs to end. The district needs to provide thorough answers to the questions surrounding this pact before taking any further action. District officials need to explain the reason for the agreement, how the district and taxpayers might benefit from it and what effect the pact would have on the cost of college projects built with local bond money.

Seldom has a board decision raised more warning flags than last week’s vote on a draft project labor agreement with the Riverside and San Bernardino Building and Construction Trades Council. The board voted 3-2 to approve the draft pact and have Chancellor Greg Gray negotiate a final deal. The agreement would set workplace and contracting rules for all district projects of more than $1 million that use money from Measure C, the $350 million bond measure district voters approved in 2004.

But the circumstances surrounding the vote last week defy any conception of proper public procedure. The board received the document only minutes before the meeting began, so neither the trustees nor the public had any time to digest the draft pact before the board voted. Voting blindly is just reckless policy, particularly on an issue as far-reaching as the proposed labor pact.

The board could not hold any informed discussion on the document under those circumstances. But providing information was not high on the agenda: The district offered no analysis of how the agreement would affect college projects.

That omission is astounding. Such agreements almost universally favor expensive union workers over cheaper nonunion labor. So the pact could inflate the costs of college projects, thus reducing what the bond money will buy for students and the community. And district taxpayers will certainly want to know why a majority of the board is intent on rushing ahead without studying the financial consequences of the pact.

But when Trustees Virginia Blumenthal and Janet Green asked for more time to study the issue — and actually read the draft agreement — the rest of the board rebuffed the request. Just why is this deal so urgent to Mary Figueroa, Jose Medina and Mark Takano that they cannot spare time to answer questions about the consequences for the district?

The final agreement is slated to return to the board for approval in coming months. The chancellor and board will need to provide a clear rationale for the agreement, along with a detailed analysis of the pact’s provisions. And the board should allow a full public airing of those issues before it takes any vote.

Complete transparency is the only acceptable course. The reasons for this proposal remain unclear. But acting in haste, without public input, invites the suspicion that district taxpayers’ interests are not the trustees’ primary concern.

Here at, we encourage readers to reach out to the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees and tell them to protect local taxpayers and say NO to PLAs.

Trustees can be reached at the following email addresses:

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