Union Hiring Halls Are A Roadblock to Local Hire
An article in yesterday’s San Francisco Examiner demonstrates that PLAs can’t guarantee local hire because union hiring hall rules can’t guarantee local hire (“Union allocation is roadblock to local hiring,” 8/4/10):
SAN FRANCISCO — City residents are landing more construction jobs on San Francisco Redevelopment Agency projects, but union practices still keep some from working.
The City and the Redevelopment Agency, a state bureau that oversees massive building efforts, aim to provide half the work on construction projects to San Francisco residents.
But those goals are rarely achieved, prompting some activists and politicians to push for a law that would fine contractors when city residents perform less than half the work on a locally funded project.
Mayor Gavin Newsom would support such legislation if it’s achievable given the constraints of unions’ collective bargaining agreements and the poor economy, mayoral spokesman Tony Winnicker said.
Less than 25 percent of work on 29 San Francisco-funded construction projects went to locals, a city-funded research report published Monday showed.
But with tens of billions of dollars worth of construction planned in San Francisco, including the building of new Hunters Point neighborhoods, city and agency officials said unions hold the key to achieving 50 percent local hiring rates.
“There’s no way we’re going to meet the goal without relationships with the building trades,” Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Fred Blackwell said at the bureau’s meeting Tuesday.
That’s because construction workers are generally assigned to jobs by unions, not contractors.
“We cannot legally determine our membership by where they live,” San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Michael Theriault said. “Hiring is generally done under the principle that the worker who has been out of work longest has first crack at the work.”
Theriault is involved with a city task force that’s exploring ways of boosting the local work force through labor agreements and other measures. The group next meets Thursday.
San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Michael Therialt’s quote is on the money. Workers are dispatched to unionized contractors/union contracts based on how long they have been out of work, not where they are from. And when union hiring halls have members from multiple counties or states, they are taking jobs away from local nonunion craft professionals.
Union membership and hiring hall rules can’t guarantee a local workforce for public projects. PLA advocates claim special language within PLAs can help establish local hiring goals (not mandates) that can help with local hire. But so can clauses in contracts without all of the discriminatory and costly baggage contained in typical PLAs.
It is not uncommon for a city or state to experience a lack of job creation for local residents when Big Labor has control of an urban or regional construction market with help from politicians beholden to Big Labor’s special interest agenda.
Hold local officials and special interst groups when they claim PLAs will result in jobs for local residents. No more lies. No more discrimination against nonunion craft professionals and contractors.