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  • April 16, 2019

Santa Clara Valley Water District Committee Provides Rare Forum for Both Sides to Give Presentations on Project Labor Agreements


On April 17, the Santa Clara Valley Water District Capital Improvement Program Committee will actually allow proponents and opponents of Project Labor Agreements to make informational presentations. As noted in the staff report for the committee’s April 17, 2019 meeting (see Item No. 4.2), “organizations representing both sides of the PLA debate accepted the committee’s invitation to speak on this issue and will be addressing the committee at this meeting." One of those organizations is the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

This opportunity for equal time is unusual. In its 21 years of existence, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has grown accustomed to how California politicians give their union benefactors control of taxpayer-funded construction contracts. Union officials present a draft "Project Labor Agreement" with a comprehensive scheduled presentation to an adoring elected governing board. The politicians ask prepared questions (provided by the unions) designed to make the Project Labor Agreement look like the unions' greatest gift to humanity. Then opponents get to speak against Project Labor Agreements during a limited public comment period while union activists provide unsolicited commentary from the audience. Then union officials are invited up again to tell the governing board that everything said by opponents is a lie. This is called Democracy, California Style.

Unions have provided the Santa Clara Valley Water District Capital Improvement Program Committee with two recent "studies" from the University of California Labor Center outlining the wonders of Project Labor Agreements. Unfortunately, the most recent study showing the cost of Project Labor Agreements for California taxpayers was published in 2011. There is no University of California Fair and Open Bid Competition and Fiscal Responsibility Center to conduct a study comparing the performance and results of similar construction projects with or without Project Labor Agreement mandates. This is called Democracy, California Style.

And don't expect any new studies anytime soon. In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 954, a union-backed bill that limited certain employer payments for "industry advancement" to union-affiliated programs, thus favoring academic research for construction industry advancement that is essentially "union advancement." Courts subsequently ruled that a non-union industry advancement program does not have "a First Amendment right to amass funds to finance its speech." This is called Democracy, California Style.

Under these circumstances, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction is honored that it gets to make a presentation on April 17, 2019 to the Santa Clara Valley Water District Capital Improvement Program Committee. The committee will get to see why unions don't want opponents to have equal standing when making arguments.

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