The first government-mandated project labor agreement (PLA) in California (following the Boston Harbor decision at the U.S. Supreme Court) was imposed in the spring of 1994 by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors for a county hospital construction project. Last year, unions managed to squeak out (on a 3-2 vote) their first PLA for a Los Angeles County project – a county hospital.
Now unions are gunning for their first government-mandated project labor agreement in the Central Coast region (Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties), and the target is again a county hospital.
Ventura County (on the coast between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles) will build a $250 million Ventura County Medical Center Hospital Replacement Wing. Associated Builders and Contractors of California was tipped off in the summer of 2011 that unions were plotting through two members of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to force contractors on this project to sign a project labor agreement under the guise of “local hire.” Confirmation came from this seemingly innocuous item on the August 2, 2011 board agenda:
27. Recommendation of Supervisors Bennett and Long to Direct the County Executive Office and County Counsel to Report Back to the Board Regarding Incorporating Local Hire Components in the Construction of the Ventura County Medical Center Replacement Hospital Project. (Supervisors Bennett and Long)
We’ve seen this exact same strategy used at other California local governments (such as the City of San Diego) to “innocently” sneak project labor agreements into the discussion. When Supervisor Steve Bennett subsequently announced he was running for the Democrat nomination for the 26th Congressional District seat being vacated by Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), we knew that once again this axiom was fulfilled: behind every push for a project labor agreement is an elected official with ambition for higher office! Shortly afterward, the cat was out of the bag as union officials acknowledged publicly that they were scheming for a project labor agreement.
The controversy reached a feverish pitch on January 24, when the Board of Supervisors held a five-hour meeting with 29 public speakers and more than 200 attendees to discuss the proposed project labor agreement. The meeting concluded with a 4-1 vote to try to negotiate some sort of fair PLA. (Supervisor Peter Foy of Simi Valley was opposed to the whole charade and voted against the directive – thank him at email@example.com.)
On February 17, more than 40,000 Ventura County households received a mailer from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) warning them that Big Labor Bosses from Los Angeles were expanding their quest for government-mandated union monopolies to Ventura County.
(See: CFEC’s mailer)
On February 28, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors spent three more hours listening to 34 public speakers and discussing the proposed project labor agreement. They also learned from staff that each month’s delay of the hospital project to negotiate the PLA costs the county $400,000. But if you’re gunning for a policy that will increase the cost of the hospital by as much as $50 million, who cares about a silly $400,000 per month from the taxpayers?
The Board of Supervisors is expected to make a final decision at its March 13 meeting.
A question needs to be asked here: why does consideration of what unions claim is a mere “construction management tool” attract so many speakers and take so many hours of public deliberation? Could it be that project labor agreements are actually about UNION MONOPOLIES paid for by the TAXPAYERS?
The Ventura County Star newspaper has thoroughly reported on the PLA controversy for its readers over the past several months:
County board looks for ways to boost employment with hospital project – Ventura County Star – August 2, 2011
Local hiring for VCMC project looks promising despite dispute – Ventura County Star – November 28, 2011
Christen: Unions going for monopoly on new medical center – Ventura County Star – December 3, 2011 – op-ed
County to explore labor agreement to push local hiring for hospital work – Ventura County Star – January 24, 2012
Editorial: County’s push for local hiring requires caution – Ventura County Star – January 28, 2012 – editorial
Leonard: Weighing the options in trying to ensure local hiring – Ventura County Star – February 11, 2012 – columnist
VCMC Expansion – Ventura County Star – February 20, 2012 – letter to the editor against the proposed PLA
Morales: Diverse support for local hiring – Ventura County Star – February 25, 2011 – op-ed by Maricela P. Morales, acting executive director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, also writing on behalf of the Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC) of Ventura County, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Multicultural Consortium.
Union Monopoly – Ventura County Star – February 27, 2012 – letter to the editor against the PLA from Kevin Korenthal, former official with ABC
Board sets deadline for deal in hospital project – Ventura County Star – February 28, 2012
Construction Jobs – Ventura County Star – February 29, 2012 – letter to the editor in support of the PLA from Bob Balgenorth, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California
Editorial: Ventura County labor agreement an elusive goal – Ventura County Star – March 3, 2011 – editorial
PLA is Good for Us – Ventura County Star – March 5, 2012 – letter to the editor in support of the PLA