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Keep An Eye On This Election Issue

The New York Times reported Friday on an Election Day issue that is coming up in San Diego, California.  At issue is whether or not local city councils, school boards and other public sector bodies should be able to use PLAs (Project Labor Agreements) on their projects, essentially mandating that all workers on the jobs sites either be members of a union or join a union group during the construction of the project.  The article states:

“About 24 percent of California’s 543,000 construction workers belong to unions, but on projects using [PLAs], 75 percent do.”

In the San Diego case, the voters will vote on whether or not to ban the use of PLAs on public sector projects in the two towns in the county.  Voters in Oceanside and Chula Vista passed laws barring the use of PLAs after contractors brought their weight to bear in the election.

Advocates, particularly the unions, who support the use of PLAs claim that many major corporations such as Toyota have adopted PLAs for many years and find that their projects run smoothly, on time and within budget.  They claim that the same will be true for the public projects in the rest of California.

Opponents claim that the PLAs increase project costs to the taxpayers and give the unions an unfair advantage in the bid process for new projects in a period when projects are few and far between.  California has lost over 400,000 construction sector jobs during the current recession.

President Obama, in an executive order imposed soon after his inauguration last year, mandated that all government projects over $25 million in value must have PLAs negotiated before the projects begin and that the government agencies could only hire union companies to do the work.  Opponents, working to strike down this mandate on a local basis, are of the opinion that this is another move in the process of strengthening the unions in the construction business and that, unless the voters stop this union movement now, it will likely become an issue in every city across the country.

With the competition for available work so embattled, voters will have to keep an eye on this question


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