Ed Bedford 1:23 p.m., May 23
Labor announces project labor agreement struck between unions and convention center developer, drops opposition to expansion
The San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents a number of labor unions tied to the construction industry, announced yesterday that it had entered into a project labor agreement with the general contractor handling the $520 million convention center expansion downtown.
The move signaled an about-face from the labor community, which had previously denounced the project’s approval process as “shady,” and questioned the legality of the hotel taxes to be implemented to provide funding for the operation. Mayor-elect Bob Filner has not issued an official statement on the issue, but Filner’s well-documented coziness with labor has led to rumblings that his election could have softened unions’ stance on the project.
An announcement of the contract itself drew criticism from Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego, a trade group representing non-union contractors that, according to KPBS, was the “driving force” behind the successful Proposition A campaign in June that banned the city from implementing a Project Labor Agreement on any undertaking. The measure passed handily, despite warnings about a downgrading of the city’s bond rating and advice from the State Controller’s office that it would prevent the city from receiving state money for projects.
Doug Porter at the San Diego Free Press, also covering the issue, links to a study asserting that although the Associated Builders and Contractors speak as the “voice” of “80 percent of construction,” its national membership actually only encompasses about 1 percent of contractors, a claim that was echoed in a later press release detailed below.
Following the demand from Associated Builders and Contractors, the Building and Construction Trades Council issued a release announcing the agreement. Lorena Gonzalez of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, another union group, said that deals were reached with individual unions and the lead contractor on the project without city involvement, thus avoiding any violation of Prop A.
Per the Building and Construction Trades Council press release, the agreement allows for both union and non-union contractors to bid on individual components of the project. It also includes anti-discrimination provisions, mandatory drug testing for “workers on hazardous jobs,” a prohibition of work stoppages or disruptions, and a clause giving preference to contractors who use veterans and/or San Diego residents as workers.