Merit shop advocates have learned the Fresno, Calif., City Council will consider repealing the city’s ban on government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs) this week. The city’s open competition ordinance could be repealed by the end of the year.
Since 2000, this ordinance has successfully guaranteed government neutrality with regard to PLAs on city project and protected local taxpayers from PLA mandates. The Fresno ordinance was the first policy that implemented government neutrality toward PLAs adopted by a local government entity in the United States.
If repealed, the Fresno ordinance would be the first casualty of S.B. 922. This bill, enacted by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in 2011, was designed to nullify bans on PLA mandates in general law communities and deprive charter cities of state financial support for construction projects if their city leaders are prohibited by local law from requiring a PLA mandate.
Many believe Fresno’s Republican mayor and candidate for state comptroller Ashley Swearengin supports repealing the city’s PLA reform ordinance. This is not a huge surprise, as the mayor played a role in securing federal approval of the PLA requirement on first segment of the California High-Speed Rail project.
Supporters of repealing the Fresno PLA reform ordinance argue repeal is necessary by December 2014 to ensure the city can access $35 million worth of state-funded loans to support the Tertiary Treatment Disinfection Plant project. This argument is suspect because S.B. 922 will not take effect until January 1, 2015.
In addition, by repealing this ordinance, Fresno city leaders would undercut the position of other California charter cities that they have the legal autonomy to set their own construction procurement policies with regard to PLA and prevailing wage mandates.
Gov. Jerry Brown is a noted advocate of the political philosophy he calls “Subsidiarity.” The idea is policy decisions should be made by the lowest level of government possible to ensure public policies address local conditions. Unfortunately, he was not influenced by this philosophy when he signed S.B. 922. By signing this bill, he undercut the ability of local communities to determine their own policies with regard to PLA mandates – and did a huge solid for construction union bosses by stopping the local-level PLA revolt in California.
We strongly encourage Fresno leaders to stand up for local control and vote against repealing the city’s PLA reform ordinance.