Within three days last week, elected boards of two of the four community college districts in Orange County, California voted on proposals to require their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with construction trade unions as a condition of work.
1. Rancho Santiago Community College District: Anaheim Hills, Garden Grove, Irvine, Orange, Santa Ana, Tustin and Villa Park
On April 1, 2013, the elected board of the Rancho Santiago Community College District voted 5-2 for the district to begin negotiations with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council for a Project Labor Agreement. Construction companies and their trade associations will not be invited to participate in the negotiations, but companies will be required to sign the final union agreement in order to perform contract work.
The Project Labor Agreement will apply to contracts funded by $198 million borrowed through bond sales authorized by Measure Q, approved by 72.6% of district voters in November 2012. This $198 million figure does not include state matching grants and interest paid to bond investors. Neither the official voter ballot information nor campaign material indicated any plans to require contractors to sign a union agreement as a condition of work.
Voting for the union negotiations was board member José Solorio, who reportedly plans to run in 2014 for an open seat in the 34th State Senate District, possibly against Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who voted in 2009 to ban Project Labor Agreements as a condition of winning Orange County contracts.
Opposing the Project Labor Agreement were board members Phil Yarbrough, who is a Republican, and Arianna Barrios, who is not registered with a party. The five Democrats on the board (José Solorio, Larry Labrado, Claudia Alvarez, John Hanna, and Nelida Mendoza) voted for it.
2. Coast Community College District: Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Midway City, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Stanton, Sunset Beach, and Westminster
On April 3, 2013, the elected board of the Coast Community College District voted 3-2 for a task force to continue evaluating positive and negative implications of requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council. A directive to begin negotiations with the unions was made and seconded, but was then withdrawn when it was clear that a majority vote was lacking.
Union lobbyists want construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement in order to perform contract work funded by $698 million borrowed through bond sales authorized by Measure M, approved by 57.2% of voters in November 2012. Neither the official voter ballot information nor campaign material indicated any plans to require contractors to sign a union agreement as a condition of work. In fact, school district administrators informed the Orange County Taxpayers Association via an email during the campaign that the college district would not require its contractors to sign a union Project Labor Agreement.
The total construction program, including state matching grants and other funding sources, is $957 million. This figure does not include interest paid to bond investors.
Board members Jim Moreno and Jerry Patterson aggressively pushed for the Project Labor Agreement. They are both Democrats. Jim Moreno is considering a campaign in 2014 for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Board members Lorraine Prinsky and David Grant (Democrats) and Mary Hornbuckle (the one Republican on the board) rejected the motion for negotiations and voted for a task force to evaluate the proposal and return with a report.
A Bit of Hope for California’s Future: At both community college districts, the student trustees on the board voted AGAINST the faction pushing for a union Project Labor Agreement. Ryan Ahari was a NO vote at the Rancho Santiago Community College District and Kolby Keo was a YES vote at the Coast Community College District. Student trustees generally aren’t beholden to unions to advance their political careers, so they can make the correct decision to seek the best quality construction at the best price for the benefit of students.
College district caught in labor agreement fight – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – March 7, 2013
College district changes its tune – Orange County Register (op-ed by Orange County Taxpayers Association President & CEO Carolyn Cavecche) – March 28, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)
Bond betrayal: Did college district dupe OC Tax on PLA? – www.CalWatchdog.com – March 29, 2013
Union-only O.C. hiring pacts raise alarms – Orange County Register – April 3, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)
Playing fair means no PLA – Orange County Register (editorial) – April 3, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)
PLAs bad for taxpayers, competition – Orange County Register (op-ed by Rancho Santiago Community College board member Phillip Yarbrough) – April 3, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)
Jim Moreno wants to give away $100 million to unions – example of recorded call to Coast Community College District voters – April 3, 2013
Coast district delays decision on union-only labor pact – Orange County Register – April 4, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)
No pro-union pact at CCCD: Bond measure floated on promise not to seek PLA – Orange County Register (editorial) – April 4, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)
Coast Community stymied on labor agreement – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – April 5, 2013
Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.