• July 16, 2019

Unions Lure San Luis Obispo County Beach Towns Into Project Labor Agreements

Do you follow the business of the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District? Probably not.

But construction union officials follow it. They knew the district was planning to build a $28 million wastewater treatment plant. And they knew they wanted monopoly control of the construction work.

On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District will vote on requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on this water project.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has begun asking the board members why they decided to consider undermining local construction companies and give unions control of the construction contract workforce. Our July 16 email to the board is below.

South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board Members,

My name is Eric Christen and I am the Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC). CFEC was formed 21 years ago to oppose discriminatory and wasteful Project Labor Agreements (PLAs).

Before you rush into agreeing to “negotiate” a Project Labor Agreement for all bond work-thereby radically transforming the way in which you conduct business-I wanted to send you some background on Project Labor Agreements. We will be sending you the information in emails each one focusing on a specific aspect of Project Labor Agreements.

This email gives you a broad overview of Project Labor Agreements and why they are so controversial. Follow up emails will get into more detail on issues related to apprenticeship, wage theft under Project Labor Agreements, core workforce limitations, Project Labor Agreement failures and Project Labor Agreement studies.

Project Labor Agreement are banned in 24 states while eleven (11) entities have done the same in California. Why? Because they implicitly and explicitly discriminate against the 85% of the workforce who are union-free and increase construction costs.

Project Labor Agreement Bans in the 50 States as of July 2019.png

Project Labor Agreements create barriers for local, minority and women-owned construction employers and their employees from participating in building their community because they contain provisions that do not allow for the full utilization of their own workforces and force union-free workers to pay into union pension plans they will never vest in. This is wage theft.

Furthermore, studies show these types of agreements increase project costs – anywhere from 10-30% above prevailing wage because they restrict competition. Open competition is healthy and increases quality. It levels the playing field and local money is invested into the community. With the construction market so busy right now and with more work than workers, why would you do anything that makes is less likely you’ll attract bidders. If you want to see what this means in real life here is what happened to the City of Selma just last month! Their new police station was supposed to have been awarded already but despite having 10 pre-qualified bidders only 1 ended up bidding the project. Why? Staff lays the fault squarely at the feet of the Project Labor Agreement.

Project Labor Agreements are so unpopular that in order for big labor special interests to get them placed on most projects they are forced to resort to environmental extortion (we call it “greenmail”) in order to get the owner of a project to “agree” to a Project Labor Agreement or else. We document this abuse at our website Phony Union Tree Huggers. This CEQA abuse is so prevalent that its proponents now face two separate lawsuits, one is San Diego and one in Los Angeles, brought forward by developers who have faced this extortion.

Project Labor Agreements exclude the men, women, and veterans who have chosen to enter into state approved, unilateral apprenticeship training programs in pursuit of a construction career from the opportunity to work and gain the invaluable on-the-job training experience that provides stability for them, their family and their community.

For these reasons we ask you to NOT approve a Project Labor Agreement on your bond work but instead consider the following:

- Continue to bid your work with fair and open competition. What problems exist that this solution in the form of a Project Labor Agreement is to remedy? There are none.

- Hold a study session on the issue of Project Labor Agreements where both sides are allowed to fully present their side of the issue and where you can ask questions of the participants.

- Survey contractors who do work for you and ask them about Project Labor Agreements  When the San Jose Unified School District and East Bay Municipal Utility District did this they found they would receive 50% FEWER bidders and as a result they chose not to employ a Project Labor Agreement.

Project Labor Agreements are political documents pushed by big labor special interests and those they place into elective office. The bigotry, exclusion and waste they represent have no place in America or San Luis Obispo County in 2019.

Eric Christen
Executive Director
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction


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Poway, CA 92074

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