• Oct. 9, 2019

California Transportation Agency Moves to Impose Project Labor Agreements on Rail Projects

Today (October 9, 2019), the California Transportation Commission will receive “an overview of the California State Transportation Agency’s (CalSTA) Draft Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) Guidelines.”

As stated in the staff report for this item, the TIRCP “provides grants to fund transformative capital improvements that are being used to modernize California’s intercity, commuter, and urban rail systems and bus and ferry transit systems to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) by reducing congestion and vehicle miles traveled throughout California.”

Obviously the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was involved behind the scenes in the development of these proposed guidelines. They impose conditions that strongly pressure local governments seeking such grants to require their construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

Examples of such content:

8. Project Applications

Applications must be submitted in accordance with the Call for Projects and by January 16, 2020…The project application shall include…

10. If applicable, an explanation of how the project will provide employment and workforce development and training benefits to the community, particularly to priority populations. This explanation should be accompanied by a Community Workforce Agreement, Project Labor Agreement, or some other agreement made between the applying agency and unions, community-based organizations, or other partners.

9.2 Secondary Evaluation Criteria

Projects will also be evaluated based on the following criteria:

2. Benefit to priority populations. The applicant must evaluate the criteria detailed by CARB (see Attachment 1) to determine whether the project meets criteria for providing direct, meaningful, and assured benefits to a disadvantaged community, low‐income community, and/or low‐ income households and address a community need pursuant the CARB’s Funding Guidelines, and specifically document the manner in which all or part of the project does so. Projects that will be used by residents of disadvantaged communities, low‐income communities, and/or low‐ income households should document the nature of such use and its degree of relevance to disadvantaged community, low‐income community, and/or low‐income household residents in the service areas of the operators benefiting from the project…

Special consideration will also be given to projects that include community workforce agreements or labor agreements with unions, community-based organizations (CBOs), or other partners. The following bullets provide more background and context for applicants:

For transit infrastructure, Community Workforce Agreements (CWAs) are commonly used in California cities where local elected officials see them as a mechanism to maximize the economic benefits of development projects and create jobs for local residents.

For transit system expansion, the state’s larger transit agencies (e.g., Los Angeles County Metro, BART, SFMTA, and AC Transit) regularly establish Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for large construction projects.

CWAs and PLAs set standards for wages and expand training opportunities for workers, because they include use of the state-certified apprenticeship system and contributions to apprenticeship training trust funds for every hour worked. Some agencies that require PLAs for major subsidized housing developments and transit system expansion projects include targets for local hiring (turning the PLA into a Community Workforce Agreement, or CWA), set goals for apprenticeship utilization, and codify goals for participation of disadvantaged workers to expand access to women and other workers underrepresented in the construction trades. 


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