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  • Nov. 14, 2017

Sacramento City Unified School District Wants Unions to Monopolize Smaller Contracts: Vote on November 16, 2017


On Thursday, November 16, 2017, the Sacramento City Unified School District elected board of trustees will vote to reduce the project cost threshold on their Project Labor Agreement from $1 million to $500,000. See the staff report and proposed Project Labor Agreement here: Sacramento City Unified School District Proposed Project Labor Agreement Amendments 2017.

It’s unlikely the board will reject this union-backed proposal. Board members include the former Legislative Director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. A recent board member was a Business Development Specialist for a labor-management cooperation committee affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 340 and used the board position as a springboard to the Sacramento City Council and then the California State Assembly.

In other words, the Sacramento City Unified School District is a policy testing ground and political farm team for construction unions. But utopia is still not achieved. More favoritism for unions is needed.

The current district practice of fair and open bid competition for smaller projects between $500,000 and $1 million undermines the strategy of construction unions to regain their dwindling market share in the Sacramento region. Only government mandates on contractors to sign union agreements can prevent taxpayer money from going to workers who cling to values of independence and individualism.

Construction companies must pay state-mandated prevailing wage rates to their employees on California school construction projects. But these wage requirements do NOT include requiring workers to pay union dues and fees. That’s a problem for unions and their political allies.

It seems that too many bathroom renovations and other small contracts at the Sacramento City Unified School District have been providing employment to construction trade workers who choose not to join a union. Those bathrooms may be functional at a competitive price, but their construction did not contribute to union power.

And the Project Labor Agreement is about power, not performance. Sacramento City Unified School District elected board members are seemingly unconcerned about the district neglecting to evaluate the effectiveness and performance of the Project Labor Agreement since it was enacted in 2005. (See below.)

Sacramento City Unified School District Project Labor Agreement Performance for Apprenticeship

Sacramento City Unified School District Project Labor Agreement Performance for Helmets to Hardhats

The district never produced any documents showing the final career choices of students who participated in the “Construction Academy” that the Project Labor Agreement required contractors to support. It may have been an absolute failure.

There is documentary and anecdotal evidence showing that the Project Labor Agreement discouraged some local companies bidding. The school board is apparently unconcerned: after all, cutting competition and raising costs is the purpose of a Project Labor Agreement.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction will urge the school board to reject the proposal to reduce the Project Labor Agreement cost threshold to $500,000. In fact, CFEC will urge the school board to terminate the Project Labor Agreement altogether. A school district struggling with dropping enrollment and poor student performance should not be squandering borrowed money on costly favoritism to special interest groups.

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