At a special meeting this morning (Tuesday, March 13), the Ventura County Board of Supervisors rejected (on a 2-2-1 vote) a motion from the board chairman to require contractors to sign a project labor agreement (PLA) oriented toward the demands of the Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council in order to work on a $250 million county hospital project. Fair and open competition is saved on this project!
It would have been the first government-mandated project labor agreement within the Central Coast counties of Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties.
Before the vote, county supervisors heard a lengthy presentation from county public works staff and county counsel about hundreds of hours of work on negotiations with various stakeholder groups – in particular the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council and the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters – to come to an agreement on provisions concerning core workforce limitations, jurisdictional dispute resolution, and mandatory union initiation fees and dues paid by all workers under the PLA. The county was not able to resolve differences between the Building Trades and the Carpenters concerning jurisdictional dispute resolution.
Supervisor Peter Foy pointed out that the county had spent more than $1 million trying to develop a PLA and made a motion to move forward in bidding the hospital without a PLA, which he regarded as unnecessary and wasteful. He even dared to refer to “the free market” and “the taxpayers” in his statement. That motion failed to get a second.
Supervisor Linda Parks complained that she was being forced to vote on a 33-page contract she hadn’t been able to read because it was provided by staff after 6:00 p.m. on Monday, March 12. Parks asked if anyone on the board had read it, and Supervisors Kathy Long, John Zaragoza, and Steve Bennett said they had read it. Supervisor Steve Bennett said there were no compelling new things in the PLA and it was time to move forward.
Supervisor Kathy Long then made a motion for the board to vote on the staff recommendation to adopt a PLA with a “safe harbor” provision on core workforce and jurisdictional dispute resolution for the Carpenters union, provided all parties sign the PLA by Friday, March 16. Board chairman John Zaragoza instead moved for adoption of the version of the PLA supported by the Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. That motion failed 2-2-1.
There are three prequalified design-build entities for bidding on the project: Hensel-Phelps Construction, McCarthy Construction, and Clark Construction.
Staff reported that Clark did not object to a PLA because union contractors would perform all of its major trade work and at least 90% of the total work. Staff also reported that Hensel-Phelps noted that it employs its own workers under the jurisdiction of the Carpenters trade (which a Carpenters union official claimed to comprise 30% of the work).
McCarthy was planning to use a large Merit Shop electrical contractor that has Ventura County employees. A McCarthy representative declared that if the county approved a PLA as proposed, it would drop its plan to bid unless the county provided time to prequalify unionized electrical subcontractors. According to Public Works staff, prequalifying more electrical contractors would delay the project for up to 4-6 months at a cost of $400,000 per month. Showing a low priority for open competition and fiscal responsibility, the board chairman John Zaragoza declared that the county would still have two bidders if McCarthy dropped out.
See material provided by staff to the board here.
Board can’t pass labor agreement for county hospital – Ventura County Star – March 14, 2012