FAIRFIELD — The controversial subject of project labor agreements was put to rest Wednesday night with a vote favoring the agreement from the Solano Community College Board of Trustees.
Before a packed room, the board voted 5-2 for the Measure Q project labor agreement, which is a pre-construction agreement with labor organizations that stipulates terms and conditions for various Measure Q projects. To fall under the agreement the projects must cost more than $4.5 million. The agreement will also be in use for select remaining Measure G projects.
Trustees Pam Keith and Michael Martin both voted no. Both, who said they have experience with unions, said it was a decision they “agonized” over for quite some time.
“This is probably the toughest decision (for) me in my life,” Martin said.
More than a dozen union workers took to the podium before the vote. Most talked about the personal leg-up in life that union apprenticeship gave them and how the project labor agreement would keep the jobs local and them close to home. Many who spoke also attended Solano College during their apprenticeship days – or had children who attended the college.
Also in attendance were three city councilman – Ron Rowlett, from Vacaville who is the business agent and president for Carpenters Local 180, and two from Dixon, Thom Bogue and Jerry Castanon Sr. The two Dixon officials spoke in favor of the labor agreements; Rowlett did not speak.
Calling these types of agreements necessary, Bogue said that using union-affiliated workers ensures that the best skilled labor is utilized.
The small handful of audience members speaking against the labor agreement was in direct contrast to previous meetings where they were in the majority of speakers. They said these types of agreements can drive up the cost of a project because of fewer bidders and the agreement speaks to just a small percentage of the workforce who are unionized.
“It’s taking a very small proportion of the workforce and giving them a monopoly,” said George Guynn, a Suisun City resident and member of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group.
Nicole Goehring, who is with the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. of Northern California, has spoken out ardently against project labor agreements in the past. She reiterated that 84 percent of the workforce isn’t union and therefore cut off from bidding eligibility. She said out of the 72 community college districts, 57 are not using these types of agreements.
“It’s a very small number that use PLAs,” she said in an interview earlier Wednesday. “Solano (College) used this practice in the past and we encouraged them to not do it again so that all taxpayers can benefit from these projects.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.