California Lawmakers Pay Back Their Big Labor Allies, Take Steps to Deprive Charter Cities of Local Control

1 May 1, 2012  School Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Elected officials in California have again taken their focus away from solving the troubled state’s problems to give a handout to their Big Labor enablers.

From 2000 to 2011, the merit shop construction community helped local leaders and voters across the state understand that government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) deprive taxpayers of the opportunity to get the best construction at the best price. Eight local communities enacted bans on PLA mandates, including three that did so through citizen initiatives.

Union bosses could feel the ground shifting under them, but were not going to take an assault on their monopoly lying down. As a major political contributor to most of the Democrats in the legislature’s majorities, Big Labor used its leverage to get state legislators to approve S.B. 922 in the closing days of the 2011 legislative session.

This bill was a clear special interest handout. From a policy standpoint, it nullified PLA mandate bans in localities controlled by the state government and was designed to deprive charter cities (i.e., cities where voters opted for local control by adopting a city charter) of state funding for future construction projects unless city leaders could consider the use of a PLA mandate.

If the policy wasn’t bad enough, this language was amended into an unrelated bill during the twilight of the legislative session, depriving taxpayers of the time to learn what the Democrats were really trying to pull, and then passed on party-line votes.

It turns out that Democrats in the legislature and their Big Labor allies moved the 2011 bill so quickly that the statute was not as air-tight as they wanted. Luckily for them, that is an easy fix for a state in which Big Labor calls the shots. On April 25, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed S.B. 829, which is designed to strip charter cities of state construction funds if the city cannot institute a government-mandated PLA.

Here are more details from a press release issued by Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Golden Gate Chapter:

Gut and Amend Bill interferes with local control for California Charter

Livermore, CA– Today, the Governor signed Senate Bill 829 (Rubio-Fresno), which intends to cut off all state funds from charter cities that ban Project Labor Agreements (PLAs). This is a follow-up bill to the original Union-Backed Senate Bill 922 signed by the Governor in 2011, intended to End Local Project Labor Agreement Bans or Fair and Open Competition ordinances for taxpayers at local governments.

SB 829 is the latest attempt by labor-backed lawmakers in Sacramento to limit state funds paid to any charter city that enacts restrictions on costly PLAs – including initiatives approved by voters. After heavy lobbying by labor unions and with minimal public debate, a maneuver called “gut and amend” was used to pass this bill in the State Senate last Thursday. The bill was passed on a straight party line vote.

“The bill has serious constitutional defects. However, that has not stopped some in the Legislature from backing what should be a non-starter. SB829 is a power grab by Sacramento politicians that will certainly be overturned by the courts,” said Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director, Associated Builders and Contractors Golden Gate Chapter.

SB829 is an attempt to undercut Proposition A in San Diego and similar Fair and Open Competition reforms gaining traction across the state. The bill was backed by the State Building & Construction Trades Unions in an attempt to gain state control of local construction money and block savings for local taxpayers.

Proposition A – the Fair and Open Competition Initiative – is on the June ballot in San Diego. It will prevent the City Council from imposing mandatory project labor agreements (PLAs) on city-funded construction projects and requires the Mayor to post construction contracts on-line for public review.

Senator Doug La Malfa and Assemblymembers Bill Berryhill, Connie Conway, Linda Halderman, Shannon Grove and Jim Nielsen among others in the State Legislature are to be applauded for opposing SB 829 and defending the rights of charter cities to exercise local control.

“We owe our duty to the constitution, not the unions,” said Assemblymember Shannon Grove, who spoke against the bill on the floor of the state Assembly. Grove represents part of the Central Valley where fair and open competition in construction is considered the best value for taxpayers.


The Problem with Project Labor Agreements

All construction work done under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) must be performed by union-only signatory construction workers. The PLA will force non-union contractors and their workers to pay union dues, pay into union benefit programs, require all employees to be hired through a union-hiring hall to get work, and would allow for union-only apprentices on the project. By unnecessarily limiting bidders and following outdated and inefficient union work rules, union-only PLAs consistently drive up costs to the taxpayers. Several academic studies indicate PLAs increase the cost of construction between 10 percent and 20 percent when compared to similar projects not subject to union-only PLAs.

ABC of California also issued a statement.

Here is some great video of Sens. Anderson and Wyland, both Republicans from the San Diego area, speaking out against this bill:

There is also good video of Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R) correctly characterizing the bill as unconstitutional.

This is just another example of how California is broken. When you put special interest groups in the driver’s seat, taxpayers get left behind.

Let’s just hope San Diego voters can see through the smokescreen on June 6.

Read more from TheTruthAboutPLAs:


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