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Chula Vista bans PLAs

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Chula Vista residents voted to ban project labor agreements on city funded construction projects in Tuesday's primary election.

Proposition G was passed with 56.37 percent, getting 12,884 of the 22,855 votes.

A project labor agreement (PLA) is a type of collective bargaining contract that is typically used by union groups and companies to help provide better pay, health insurance and employment to union-only workers.

Nonunion construction groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors, which led the charge to place the measure on the ballot, backed this initiative.

They want "fair and open competition" on all city projects in Chula Vista, and say PLAs discourage them from bidding on construction projects because they typically require bidders to either be a part of a union or pay into a union pension.

"I want to thank voters for doing the right thing and standing up to the unions," said Scott Crosby, president and chief executive officer of ABC San Diego, who determined around 8:05 p.m. Tuesday night -- once the first round of absentee ballots were in -- there was a pretty good chance Prop. G would pass, as there already was a 19 percent lead. "It looks like voters really understood the issue."

The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO sponsored the No on Prop. G campaign. Calls and e-mails to its CEO Lorena Gonzalez and political director Evan McLaughlin were not returned for comment.

A receptionist at the Labor Council said Gonzalez and McLaughlin were on vacation until June 15 and could not be reached.

Tom Lemmon, business manager for the San Diego Building and Construction Trade Council, which represents union workers, said Prop. G is not "fair competition," because it will allow companies from outside San Diego County to under-bid local workers and contractors.

"This means work cannot be guaranteed to Chula Vista workers," he said. "With a project labor agreement in place, it can be guaranteed workers only come from the local area."

He went on to say that he believes Chula Vista voters passed Prop. G because they were misinformed and were caught up in the "fair and open competition" slogan, and not the fact that PLAs help provide local workers better pay and better benefits.

"The Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce was opposed to it, members of the City Council were opposed to it," Lemmon stated. "The voters were deceived. This is nothing more than a masking agent to ban union workers."

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox was in favor of Prop. G.

"This will allow both sides (union and nonunion) to bid on city projects and not put constraints for only union bidders," said Cox, who also was re-elected during Tuesday's primary.

Cox added that Prop. G will provide lower construction costs to city projects since there will be a larger pool of workers.

"Projects will not be held up anymore, and will go to the lowest responsible bidder and not only ones that favor union only workers," she said.

According to the Chula Vista city clerk, opponents and proponents of Prop. G spent about $600,000 in campaign contributions.

Prop. G will go into effect once the county Registrar of Voters certifies all votes and the City Council accepts them. Cox believes this will happen within the next 30 days.

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