COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | CARL DEMAIO

Quality jobs for all San Diegans

One of the key elements of my efforts to fix the city's financial problems is to advocate new policies that help put San Diegans back to work.

Promoting a jobs-friendly environment in our city will bring in additional tax base that it desperately needs to balance its budget and provide the kinds services to our neighborhoods deserve.

Unfortunately, there are currently a number of proposals winding their way through the City Council that would impede job creation in our region.

Under pressure from organized labor, a majority of the City Council has signaled their intention to use Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) or mandate use of union apprenticeship programs on all infrastructure projects funded by taxpayer monies.

The City Council is also considering another set of policies that would extend the requirement for PLAs beyond taxpayer-funded projects to include privately financed housing, hotel, and commercial projects as well.

By requiring additional hearings and approvals for these private projects, the labor-dominated majority of the council is sending a not-so-veiled message to the private sector that they must agree to PLAs or risk their projects being rejected.

These onerous requirements are part of an attempt by San Diego's politically powerful labor unions to manipulate how contractors hire employees on these projects -- such that only workers who are members of a union can be hired for the jobs created.

The message to local job seekers is simple: if you are not part of a union, you need not apply for these jobs.

These regulations not only will result in discriminatory hiring practices, but will increase the total cost of much-needed infrastructure projects.

Because the vast majority of local construction companies are not unionized, they will be unable to bid on these projects -- thus reducing the number of bidders on projects.

Basic economics dictates that when competition is reduced, the end result is an increase in prices.

National studies have indicated that discriminatory employment policies such as PLAs result in a 20-30 percent increase in the cost of projects.

At a time when our streets and sidewalks have fallen into disrepair, we can hardly afford to waste scarce infrastructure dollars in our city's budget.

Adding to the increased costs imposed by PLAs, the council is also considering a proposal to increase the cost of construction by raising the so-called "linkage fees" on projects.

It is important to note that the San Diego is the only city in our region to impose these fees -- making investment in projects in our city much less competitive than other jurisdictions.

These onerous city regulations couldn't come at a worse time.

Construction of local housing, hotels, and commercial projects has been at a virtual standstill due to lack of financing from capital markets reeling from the global economic crisis. As these projects remain stalled, the thousands of jobs that would go along with them remain empty.

As the capital markets recover and investment capital begin to flow again, San Diego needs to put itself in the most competitive position to attract these funds for its stalled projects.

Instead of unduly tipping the scales for a small group of unionized job seekers to get construction jobs, the City Council should promote equal opportunity for all job seekers.

Instead of adding more city regulations, the cuncil should be implementing incentives and programs to make it easier for our projects to attract private financing once the markets open back up.

Let's hold the council accountable for promoting job creation -- and standing up for all San Diego's job seekers equally.


Councilmember DeMaio represents San Diego's fifth council district.

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