FAIRFIELD — Solano County will continue using project labor agreements on large construction projects with one change – the threshold will fall from projects of $10 million to $2.5 million.
The Solano County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday reviewed the county’s project labor agreement policy passed in 2004. It decided to make the revision and review it in two years to make certain local, small contractors can still compete on the smaller projects that they would likely seek.
Project labor agreements are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements. They spell out in advance such things as wages and benefits. Solano County since the early 2000s has negotiated agreements with the Napa-Solano Building Trades Council for eight projects totaling $284 million.
The county used a project labor agreement to build the $89 million Claybank Jail expansion, which is near to completion. The county’s next big project will be building a $25.6 million jobs training and education center at the Claybank Jail.
Pros of having project labor contracts include guaranteeing labor peace by getting a pledge to avoid strikes and speedily resolve interunion disputes, according to a 2001 report by Worcester Municipal Research Bureau presented to the board.
Solano County took a similar position in 2004. Its resolution in support of having project labor agreements said this method prohibits work stoppages due to labor issues, as well as provides jobs for local trades.
But the guarantee of labor peace comes at the price of reducing the opportunity for nonunion contractors to compete for projects, the Worcester report said. These contractors must operate under union rules that undermine the economies that might otherwise give them an advantage, it said.
Kevin Coleman represents the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 180. He asked supervisors that the county lower the threshold for using the project labor agreements to $1 million.
Several union officials said that, without project labor agreements, contractors from other areas and states come and get the construction jobs. Project labor agreements help keep the construction money in the area, they said.
Nicole Goehring wrote a letter to the county opposing project labor agreements on behalf of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California.
“ABC supports fair and open competition and increasing opportunity for all workers regardless of their affiliation,” Goehring wrote.
Project labor agreements deny the vast majority of local contractors and small businesses the opportunity to bid on projects, Goehring wrote. That increases project costs 13 percent to 15 percent.
Supervisor Skip Thomson said the county administration center where the board meeting was taking place got built under perhaps the county’s first project labor agreement.
“I’m pretty proud of this building actually, and I think it serves the citizens and taxpayers well,” Thomson said.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday not only decided to keep a project labor agreement policy, it voted to have the county negotiate with the Napa-Solano Building Trades Council on a contract for the planned, $25.6 million Claybank Jail jobs training center.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.