FAIRFIELD — Negotiate a project labor agreement for the train station project, the City Council directed the staff Tuesday after speakers praised such a pact as promoting local jobs and union labor while others criticized the agreement as un-American and anti-competition.
Councilwoman Pam Bertani, who with other council members supported the decision that the staff negotiate the pact with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, cited federal Bureau of Labor statistics that Solano County has the highest unemployment in the Bay Area.
We need jobs here, Bertani said.
The councilwoman spoke about 10 shootings in 10 days in the city and how to reduce crime.
“Put people to work,” she said. “Jobs, jobs, jobs, here in Solano County.”
But Matt Heavey said as a small contractor in Concord that such labor agreements leave him unable to bid on public projects he supports with his tax dollars. Heavey is a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California, a nonprofit construction trade association.
Toby Cummings, representing the trade association, told the council that project labor agreements are less competitive and cost public agencies more money.
The agreement won support from many union representatives, including Jason Lindsey, who teaches in the apprenticeship program for an ironworkers local.
“We get jobs done on time, under budget, with no injuries,” he said.
Some contractors want to pay $15 an hour, Lindsey said, but workers can’t survive on that in the Bay Area.
A city staff report described a project labor agreement as a pact with one or more labor organizations establishing terms and conditions of employment for a construction project.
Vice Mayor Rick Vaccaro said before the council direction to the staff, “I could talk for a long time about benefits of PLAs.”
“I’ve seen the benefits,” he said.
Councilman John Mraz said in support of the agreement that “four words are very important.”
“On time, on budget,” he said.
Central Solano Taxpayers Group representative Dexter Sanders said the association has always objected to such labor agreements.
“It’s evident to me that PLAs are not the answer,” he said.
George Guynn Jr, a past president of the taxpayers group, said the agreements boost costs.
“If you have more competition,” he said, “you’re going to have a lower price.”
Ben Espinoza, representing the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, cited the history of project labor agreements he said have been in place since the 1930s and used on projects that include the Hoover Dam and the Alaska pipeline.
“Sit down and negotiate a PLA,” he advised the council.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.