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Various Authors 3:49 p.m., Dec. 3
California Senate Bill 829, which denies state funding to any municipality which has enacted a ban on project labor agreements, was signed into law yesterday by Governor Jerry Brown.
The bill was backed by unions, contractors that use union labor, and government entities including the San Diego Unified School District. It was opposed by the non-union trade group Associated Builders and Contractors of California, the California Chamber of Commerce, the League of California Cities, and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Under the new law, all municipalities, including “charter cities” such as San Diego, which are not governed by general law provisions under the state constitution, are blocked from receiving state funds for local projects if they enact a blanket ban on the use of project labor agreements.
A project labor agreement is a contract that defines terms of employment on a specific construction project before it begins. It is binding on all contractors and subcontractors bidding on a specific project, regardless of whether such contractors traditionally use non-union workers, who typically are paid at a lower rate (such agreements usually contain a stipulation to pay “prevailing wage,” a pay rate commonly associated with union work). Such contracts are entered into before work begins on a project and constitute an agreement that prevents work stoppage once a project has begun.
The new law has serious implications for San Diego as it relates to Proposition A, the “Fair and Open Competition + City Contracts Online” initiative, which seeks to implement a project labor agreement ban.
In 2011, according to the city’s independent budget analyst, San Diego received$158 million in construction funding from the state.
“Proposition A will prevent the City Council from imposing mandatory PLAs on City-funded construction projects,” says a release distributed by Anthony George Manolatos of By George Strategies for the Yes on A camp in a release yesterday.
On examination of the facts, however, Manolatos’ statement appears misleading.
“PLAs are not mandated under California law,” states an analysis presented by the state assembly to members before what was described by Prop A supporters as a “straight party line vote” in favor of SB 829, which passed in the state senate by a 23-15 vote and in the assembly 50-23.
“Governing boards of local agencies can choose by majority vote whether or not to use a PLA that includes these taxpayer-protection criteria. Governing boards of local agencies can also decide by majority vote whether or not to fund a project that includes such a PLA,” continues the official assembly analysis, implying that the use of such an agreement is not mandated, but the mandatory exclusion of such agreements from consideration constitutes grounds for a city to be banned from receiving state funds.