• Jan. 30, 2017

Electrical Union Targets Monterey Bay Renewable Energy Agency for Project Labor Agreement Policy

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has been watching a threat to the proposed Monterey Bay Community Power electric generation public agency since April 2016. That's when union officials made a presentation to the Monterey Bay Community Power Project Development Advisory Committee about Project Labor Agreements. A report from that presentation was then submitted to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors.

Now the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 234 is apparently making its move to take control of construction and maintenance contracts of this planned new public power agency. On January 25, a professional organizer for this union asked the Monterey City Council to support a provision about "local hire" that the unions were getting the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to add to the proposed Joint Powers Agency agreement.

We know that when unions talk about local hire, they actually mean "obtaining workers exclusively from the dispatching system that each trade union operates for projects within their geographic jurisdiction." And that means a Project Labor Agreement.

This letter was emailed to the Monterey City Council today (January 30, 2017):

January 30, 2017

Monterey City Council

City Hall

580 Pacific St.

Monterey, CA  93940 

Re: Plan for Union Monopoly on Monterey Bay Community Power Renewable Energy Contracts (Project Labor Agreement)

Dear Members of the Monterey City Council:

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction represents organizations and businesses throughout California, including the Monterey Bay area, that support fair and open bid competition and worker freedom of choice on government-funded construction contracts. A speaker at your January 25 special city council meeting about Monterey Bay Community Power requested something that greatly concerns us and should concern you.

A professional union organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 234 asked you to support unspecified language in the foundational document of the Monterey Bay Community Power Joint Powers Agency about “local jobs.” He also told you that the unions were working with certain members of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to insert this language.

You should know that this language is actually a union organizing scheme. That’s why a union organizer spoke during public comment. They want to use the new Joint Powers Agency to require all energy developers and contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of getting contracts.

In other words, every trade worker that builds anything funded by Monterey Bay Community Power must be represented by a union and must pay union dues and fees to the local unions. And when union officials say “local,” they mean the local union headquarters, not necessarily local workers. In practice, the workers themselves can be classified as “travelers” by the union and come from anywhere - probably from the Bay Area but perhaps even from Canada.

Non-union construction companies essentially become unionized if they choose to sign the Project Labor Agreement. And for construction companies already unionized, the Project Labor Agreement subverts their existing Master Labor Agreement already negotiated between contractor representatives and union officials in a series of bargaining sessions.

When there is a Project Labor Agreement, the Government determines the working relationship between employer and employees. There’s no employer involvement in developing terms and conditions. That’s the potential of Monterey Bay Community Power for unions.

There are, of course, responsible and capable union construction companies and workers in the Monterey Bay area. But there are also responsible and capable non-union construction companies and workers in the Monterey Bay area. You may know some of them. Some local non-union workers specialize in large infrastructure projects. Other local non-union workers install solar panels on schools, apartments, government buildings, and residential homes.

Monterey Bay Community Power offers a strategy to get these local private companies and their employees either unionized or out of the Monterey Bay construction market altogether. The future of renewable energy in the Monterey Bay region will be union-only, down to installing or removing a light-emitting diode (LED) or plugging in a new solar panel.

Note that Project Labor Agreements cut competition for contracts and also increase the cost of construction. That’s where the savings will go from Monterey Bay Community Power - not to the energy consumers, but to the unions.

With Watsonville and Santa Cruz having individual seats on the Joint Powers Agency board - and Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Carmel having only one collective vote - the board will be pre-ordained for a majority to vote for a Project Labor Agreement. And your local residents and businesses will pay for it.

Want proof a Project Labor Agreement is the plan? See the presentation that union officials made to the Monterey Bay Community Power advisory planning committee in 2016. It’s linked here on the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction website:

Monterey Bay Community Power Project Development Advisory Committee - Project Labor Agreement Presentation on Agenda

Recommendation: When representatives of Emerging Ecologies and the Climate Action Compact appear again before the Monterey City Council for another study session, ask them how they expect the Project Labor Agreement to be implemented. Will it be included in the Joint Powers Agency foundational documents, or will it be adopted by the Joint Powers Agency board as a policy immediately afterwards? Are board representatives from the City of Santa Cruz and City of Watsonville expected to take the lead on pushing the proposal?

Unless there is a guarantee of fair and open competition for contracts, stay away from this union-influenced community choice aggregation agency.

Please contact me at or at (858) 431-6337 for more information about Project Labor Agreements.




Eric Christen

Executive Director

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction


PO Box 1627
Poway, CA 92074

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