An article in the December 7, 2012 Fresno Bee newspaper (‘Needy’ Workers Will Get Jobs on High-Speed Rail) reports that all five design-build consortiums that are pre-qualified to bid on contracts for the first segment of California’s High-Speed Rail have signed a Project Labor Agreements (PLA) with construction trade unions:
Five teams of contractors have been invited to bid on the first major contract for a stretch of the rail route between Madera and Fresno. How the new policy will translate into the contract has yet to be determined, said Jeffrey Morales, the authority’s CEO. Potentially complicating the issue is that each of the five would-be prime contracting teams has already signed project labor agreements with labor unions. Morales said the existence of project labor agreements between the contractors and labor unions is independent of any action the agency takes.
The latest scheme of the California High Speed Rail Authority to encourage Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) as part of design-build proposals is a “Community Benefits Policy for Construction,” approved at a December 6, 2012 meeting while the outgoing and incoming heads of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California sat in the audience. This policy compels the design-build consortiums to show a plan to hire various categories of disadvantaged workers for construction work. Obviously these consortiums will cite their PLAs as a tool to implement this policy. The Fresno Bee reported on how Merit Shop representatives exposed the plot:
Organizations representing nonunion contractors worry that the policy ultimately will become a requirement for prime contractors to sign project labor agreements with unions, limiting jobs only to union workers.We believe this project needs to be awarded under fair and open competition,” Nicole Goehring of the Associated Builders [and Contractors] of California told the authority’s board before the vote.Eric Christen of Grass Valley, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, said he believes the policy is “just a euphemism for a project labor agreement, just a different name.”
American taxpayers will be contributing to this project, as the U.S Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration has authorized $3.3 billion in federal funding for the first segment of the project. The total cost of the rail line is now estimated at $68 billion, although previous estimates were as high as $117 billion. Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) has been leading the charge in the U.S. House of Representatives to terminate federal funding for this project, which he describes as a boondoggle of ever-changing cost and ridership estimates that will end up requiring perpetual taxpayer funding. Obviously there are some powerful special interests aligned with “progressive” true believers of high-speed rail seeking that perpetual taxpayer funding.