Fairfield labor pact attacked – and backed

By From page A1 | July 20, 2014

FAIRFIELD — What happens in Fairfield reaches Vacaville.

At least it has with project labor agreements – a document the Fairfield City Council takes up Tuesday for the Fairfield Intermodal Station Project.

Marx Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee, spoke about such pacts during his talk Wednesday to the Vaca Valley Tea Party meeting in Vacaville.

The agreements tend to raise prices by 15 to 30 percent because they eliminate bidding by nonunion contractors, Mix said.

More than 80 percent of construction companies in the United States are not union, added Mix, president of the public policy organization that lists more than 2 million members.

Fairfield council members directed city staff in April to negotiate a labor agreement with the Napa-Solano Building Trades Council for the train station.

Catherine Moy was pictured, along with the four other Fairfield council members, on a Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction mailer critical of the council’s decision and sent to residents in June.

“I got exactly three residents who had questions about it,” Moy said Friday of the mailer.

Moy spoke with the residents and said they were happy with her response.

The Fairfield city staff believed from the start of the train station project that it would be a union project – before a project labor agreement arose, the councilwoman said. Her concern is that local workers be hired for work and a labor pact is the only way to do that, Moy said.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, which opposes labor agreements, said the council’s April action played favorites with union bosses while wasting tax dollars.

“A PLA is a scheme crafted by local union special interests that are solely meant to make it more difficult for union-free contractors and workers to successfully bid work they cover,” contends the coalition, which also questions that labor agreements help local hiring.

The Fairfield City Council decision, rather than supporting the community, helps a minority of members, the coalition added.

“Ask yourself, is the Fairfield City Council on the right track for our community?” the mailer read in part. “Shouldn’t a community project benefit the community?”

A Fairfield city staff report to the City Council said the project labor agreement requires that unions are the source of craft labor for the work. But the report adds that no employee working under the agreement is required to join any union as a condition of employment on the project.

The contractor is required to have employees who work for eight consecutive or cumulative days to pay dues required for union membership, according to the city staff report. The labor agreement will not have a significant impact on project costs because it’s likely most contractors will be union affiliates, the report states.

Jon Riley, executive director of the Napa-Solano Building Trades Council, said he hopes the mailers don’t alter the council position supporting the labor agreement – and doesn’t think they will.

“I really don’t think anything is going to change,” Riley said.

“I hope it would have no affect,” he added of the material sent residents.

“PLA’s are a good thing for the community – a good thing for the local workforce,” Riley said.

A Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group representative has said the association objects to labor agreements and a taxpayers group member said the pacts decrease competition and boost costs.

City Council members meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the chamber at the Civic Center, 1000 Webster St.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 4 comments

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  • Rick WoodJuly 20, 2014 - 7:23 am

    Local hiring requirements can be imposed without a PLA.

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  • Rick WoodJuly 20, 2014 - 7:28 am

    It's difficult to separate the causes of the higher cost, but to say the cost would not be higher with a PLA than without one is dishonest. Anything that reduces the competition for a competitively-bid job will increase cost. The amount can be debated but not that fact.

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  • George GuynnJuly 20, 2014 - 8:53 am

    WOW!!! Can't believe that you and I agree on your two comments so far in this blog. Thanks! Hope to see you at the council meeting Tuesday.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 20, 2014 - 8:05 pm

    George: I'm not going to be there. There are many positive things a PLA offers, but all of those things, except one--the anti-strike guarantee--can be accomplished by the City unilaterally without a PLA. They may increase the cost, but are still worthwhile. We probably don't agree on all those things. A better approach than a PLA would be to have a prequalification procedure for contractors. Only those contractors that meet City standards for experience, local hiring, and employee benefits would be allowed to bid.

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