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San Diego bans PLAs; opposition contemplates legal moves

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Nonunion contractors and those opposing collective bargaining agreements on construction projects garnered a win in Tuesday’s primary election, as project labor agreements are now banned on city of San Diego capital improvement projects.

San Diego city officials will no longer be able to enter into a union-friendly PLA, except when a project will receive state or federal funding.

The measure also now requires the city to post all construction contracts awarded at $25,000 or more online.

Proposition A collected 58.23 percent of the vote, while those opposed totaled 41.77 percent.

Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., San Diego chapter -- a nonunion trade association that represents merit shop contractors -- led the effort to pass Prop. A and helped write the measure.

Scott Crosby, president and CEO of ABC San Diego, said his group pushed for the PLA ban because it protects taxpayers.

“Project labor agreements discriminate against nonunion contractors, because they force them to pay into union pensions,” Crosby said. “I think the taxpayers understand the issue. They want fair and open competition. It’s a testament to voters in San Diego.”

The Yes on Proposition A campaign generated close to $600,000 in campaign contributions.

Tom Lemmon, business manager for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trade Council and one of the people leading the anti-Prop. A campaign, could not be reached for comment.

Labor unions have said all along they would take this issue to court if it passed.

Lorena Gonzalez, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego Labor Council, was unavailable Wednesday but released a statement saying, “As we’ve seen before, Carl DeMaio and the downtown lobbyists that fund his mayoral campaign and Propositions A and B have used project labor agreements and pensions as straw men that they’d prefer to fight against instead, because they make for good sound bites, no matter how inaccurate. Measures like these don’t solve problems, they just create more.”

She did not address previous statements that the labor council would challenge Prop. A in court.

Crosby said he can’t see what there is to challenge, and doesn’t expect the labor council taking Prop. A to court, because the council did not do so when Chula Vista and the county of San Diego passed similar motions to ban PLAs.

Unions favor PLAs because they aid union contractors in getting construction jobs, and agreements are written in a way so that there are no work stoppages.

Prop. A has also come under fire after Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 829, which prohibits state funding for city construction projects in a charter city that restricts its City Council from utilizing a PLA.

The bill was signed into law in April and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2015.

San Diego received $158 million in state construction funding in 2011, according to the city's Office of the Independent Budget Analyst.

Crosby pointed to the language in Prop. A, which states the ban on PLAs will be voided on projects funded by state and federal dollars.

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1 UserComments
kristin wright 10:55am June 8, 2012

I speak from a subcontractors point..In winning a public work contract I was told via the paper work and by Mr lemmon that I had to submit funds to all of their pensions, health/welfare vacation, traingin and other payments equalling a little over 91.00 per day per worker...Even though we are nonunion I still have to pay into their funds...We pay full health benefits but I still would pay into the unions...No exceptions...If the public saw all the paper work and the actuall figures they would not vote for another public project...This is putting one group over another, which is completley illegal. As I have said before if this was fair and Equal there would be no issue..Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. Lemmon don't get that part....They have nothing to loose and alot to gain...