Brown Hands Out More Union Gifts
OCT. 3, 2011
By KATY GRIMES
For unions, Gov. Jerry Brown is the governor who keeps on giving.
He announced over the weekend that he signed SB 922, by state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair. The bill will end “fair and open competition” policies, and terminate any Project Labor Agreement bans enacted by city and county governments. Brown even included a signing message in which he proclaimed the bill to be “fair” and “democratic.”
He said, “In fact, this bill preserves the right of all sides to debate what obviously is a hotly contested issue. Seems fair to me — even democratic.”
But SB 922 was rushed through the Legislature in a most undemocratic way, with undemocratic results.
Written only one week before it was eventually passed, SB 922 will actually do the opposite of what Brown’s signing message said. It suppresses the competition rights of small businesses and infringes on local governments’ ability to use free-market, non-union construction labor. And it’s already mandated by the state that all employees must receive union wages and benefits, even if they are not union members, when working on public projects.
PLAs result in either nonunion workers having to apply for union membership, and pay dues, in order to work on public projects. Or workers are just hired through unions. Either way, small nonunion businesses end up not being able to compete for public contracts.
SB 922 was snatched from its original author by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, both former union leaders now serving as Senate and Assembly leaders. The bill began its legislative life about immunizations and tuberculosis screening. But the language was gutted and new language inserted September 2. The new language which now will end “fair and open competition” policies and terminate any Project Labor Agreement bans enacted by city and county governments.
When a bill is gutted and amended, the legislative process is avoided. There are no committee hearings held in which the public can participate, no scrutiny of the bill by expert legislative staff paid to analyze bills. And there is minimal and rushed debate between legislators before the vote is taken. The gut-and-amend process is how legislators get a bill passed that couldn’t muster enough support during the proper legislative process.
Against Nonunion Contractors
SB 922 was created primarily to delay nonunion contractors from continuing their successes in getting local governments to ban PLA’s. With a PLA in place, even if non-union carpenters and contractors win a local government construction job, carpenters are required to join a union, or companies have to hire other union workers, driving up the costs of public projects.
Kevin Dayton, state government affairs director at the Associated Builders and Contractors of California, is working on a campaign that is collecting signatures to place the “Fair and Open Competition” measure on the June 2012 ballot for the city of Sacramento and the county of Sacramento. “That campaign has already collected 75 percent of its signature goal. The Fair and Open Competition measure for the city of San Diego has already qualified for the June 2012 ballot. And the San Diego City Council will likely place it on the ballot at its meeting on the afternoon of Monday, October 3,” Dayton said.
According to The Truth About PLA’s, a project of Associated Builders and Contractors, labor union leaders appealed to Democratic state legislators to override the local governments in a plan to nullify existing PLA bans enacted by some local governments in the state. If a local government refuses, SB 922 states that funding to projects in a city where a PLA ban is in place will be cut off by the state.
For the governor to claim that this bill reserves the right of all sides to debate is disingenuous. This bill shuts the door on any debate about non-union constructions jobs.
Project Labor Agreements
To understand Project Labor Agreements, I explained in “Union Gut-And-Amend Bills Slice Open State” what Project Labor Agreements are, and how they affect a city or county:
“Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are collectively bargained contracts that establish working conditions and management rights. They have been used by both public and private entities since the 1930′s,” the National University Institute for Policy Research explained in a recent study. “In the debate over the use of PLAs, one of the most prominent areas of disagreement is whether these contracts effect construction costs. Supporters argue that PLAs save public dollars because contractors with highly skilled workers are more likely to participate in construction projects, resulting in higher worker productivity and fewer change orders. Proponents also contend that special provisions in PLAs enhance job site cooperation and ensure quick and effective resolution of labor disputes that would otherwise result in delays that could either increase costs or create severe operational disruptions.”
Local government “Fair and Open Competition” measures establish a policy principle that the government shall not require its contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. (Contractors retain a voluntary right to sign PLAs.) It also attempts to interfere with charter cities’ local home rule authority for municipal affairs by trying to cut off state funding for projects in charter cities with such a policy.”
This bill will become law on January 1, 2012. According to Dayton, there are already numerous legal interpretations about SB 922 and proposals for lawsuits to overturn the law.
It’s easy to see where support for these bills came from. The San Diego Building and Construction Trade Council sent out a press release that said the union “applauds the signing into law of SB 922 by the Governor Jerry Brown [sic].”
In its Oct. 2 press statement, the labor group said, “The passage of this bill underscores the importance of the business and labor community working together to ensure the best deal for taxpayers. It also highlights the dangers of unilateral bans by special interests. According to Tom Lemmon, business manager of the San Diego Building Trades, ‘The bill levels the playing field across the state, to ensure true fair and open competition in taxpayer-funded construction projects’.”
Tom Lemmon, the Business Manager of the San Diego trades union, sent an email message out today. It read, “Simply put, PLAs are a contract between the agency and trades unions that establish the work conditions and management rights for a construction project.”
Simply put, “leveling the playing field” is only good for unions. Everyone else pays for it.
Labor Compliance Bill
Brown also signed AB 436, by state Sen. Jose Solorio, D-Santa Ana, on Sept. 30. The bill started out as a prevailing wage bill for public works projects, but was drastically amended at the end of August. AB 436 turned into a “labor compliance” bill and will now require local governments to pay “Labor Compliance Program” fees to the state, unless they already require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements. In effect, this will exempt certain local PLA-friendly governments from paying the fees to the state.
The California Department of Industrial Relations has already issued draft proposed regulations reflecting this policy.
Tags: California, California budget, California Legislature, darrell Steinberg, Democrats, government, Jerry Brown, jobs, John Perez, Katy Grimes, labor unions, legislature, Public Employee Unions, unions, waste
May 18, 2013