When it comes to delivering projects on time and on budget, it is widely proven that engaging union workers during construction is key. Building Trades members around the state have shown time and time again that there isn’t a project they can’t build, a milestone they can’t reach, or a schedule they can’t meet. When given the chance, our members always deliver.
Unfortunately, sometimes bad contractors get projects by undercutting fair bids, putting our workforce on the bench. When that happens, workers are often exploited, projects are less safe, ‘change orders’ flood awarding agencies, and taxpayers generally lose. This scenario has played out all across the state, from college projects in San Diego to judicial projects in Redding. Oftentimes, this means out-of-area contractors using out-of-area workers to construct these projects, meaning most of the dollars earned by the construction workforce leave the community as soon as they are earned.
To avoid the scary scenario of a bad contractor getting a project on bid day, many awarding agencies have embraced project labor agreements to protect the interests of their communities. These agreements provide peace of mind to cities, counties, school districts and more by providing direct engagement with local skilled and trained workers. Project labor agreements are proven to result in more construction dollars staying local than traditional project delivery models, something that appeals to policymakers. Even more, the agreements allow these agencies to prioritize apprenticeship opportunities for people in their own communities.
When projects like the Golden 1 Center or SoFi Stadium were constructed under negotiated project labor agreements, priority apprenticeship slots were created for residents of disadvantaged communities near the projects. Similar agreements statewide have prioritized apprenticeship opportunities for members of indigenous tribes, women, veterans, and other specific groups. By leveraging their projects through these agreements, policymakers have found a powerful tool capable of creating great change in their communities. As we all know in the Building Trades, an apprenticeship in one of our many trades is a ticket to the middle class for workers.
While more and more local agencies continue to enact citywide, countywide, or districtwide project labor agreements, there are still areas hesitant to make the commitment. Oftentimes, business groups, developers, or even outside labor organizations push weaker alternatives to project labor agreements for their own interests, jeopardizing negotiations towards a powerful local-level agreement. These alternatives come in many forms but always have one thing in common: workers are less protected than they would be under a project labor agreement.
As Building Trades leaders, we have a mission to organize the construction industry and improve the outcomes of those engaged in the trades. If we’re honest with ourselves, there are few better ways to accomplish our mission than by fighting hard to enact project labor agreements in our own communities. Our local councils have taken this to heart, enacting strong agreements around the state without settling for weaker alternatives. Within our office at the state level, we continue to push for and negotiate agreements with state agencies for projects in every corner of California. These collaborative efforts are working, with project labor agreement implementation numbers constantly growing.
We must remain vigilant, though. The more victories we win for workers, the stronger the calls will become from other groups to weaken our efforts. We must remain united behind the idea that project labor agreements are the best way to connect union laborers, painters, operators, plumbers, elevator constructors, roofers, electricians and more to the projects going on in their communities. These agreements are also the best way for us to demonstrate, at the local level, what our programs can do to elevate workers to the middle class.
Project labor agreements are a win-win for local communities, and we must never be afraid of saying so. We have the high ground in these debates. When we successfully implement project labor agreements, workers win, communities and taxpayers win, and projects are delivered on time and on budget.
Our members today are counting on us to deliver. So are the workers we haven’t yet organized. We must keep pushing, keep organizing, and keep advocating for these agreements until they touch every community in California. When we are united in our efforts, nobody can stop us!