On Tuesday February 23, the Brentwood City Council voted unanimously to support a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for its upcoming $12.2 million library project.
With the approval, staff will now begin the negotiation process toward a PLA. The move comes after the City of Brentwood previous approved a PLA on its Civic Center Project in 2009 and saw the project come in on time and under budget.
PLAs are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements negotiated with building trade unions and are utilized on large, complex, long-term, multi-craft construction projects such as the Civic Center or the library.
Mayor Bob Taylor asked about prevailing wages on the project.
Michael Vlaming, of Vlaming & Associates, explained that prevailing wage are set by the Department of Industrial Relations after making a determination on wages to be paid for a set classification.
Councilman Erick Stonebarger asked about the achievement of the Civic Center Project in terms of local hiring and veteran hiring.
Vlaming highlighted that the work of the previous PLA included local hiring provisions where 130 workers were local residents (30% of workforce). It also met objectives of competitive bidding and robust bidding—which meant left over money to build the parking structure.
The PLA previously also included a “Helmets to Hard Hats” prevision for returning veterans looking for work.
Bob Lilly, IBEW Local 302, spoke in favor of the PLA highlighting many of their members live in the area, specifically in Brentwood. He highlighted how area specific wages were fair.
“The payment of area standard wages have a very specific formula for that which basically you want to have the wages that are prevailing based on the cost of living in this area of wages so it makes it a much more fair situation,” explained Lilly. “The building trades are also participants in a joint apprenticeship program. Not only do we have our members work on the project, but we also have apprentices. We train the next generation of elections, pipefitters, plumbers and all the other members of the building trades.”
Lilly further highlighted that the local hire provision was not only important to the Building Trades, but also to the mayor.
“I know of no one who held our feet to the fire more than Mayor Taylor to make sure that you did have a local hire provision to make sure that members of the community are the ones who build the project,” said Lilly. “Not only does it help with your local economy, but there is a certain amount of local pride that comes with your own library, city hall or whatever. It’s only fair that local people build their own projects in the great city of Brentwood.”
Lilly closed that they have had many success stories where they have had 66 PLA’s in Contra Costa and none of them had been rescinded.
Mayor Taylor asked about strikes and worker protections within a PLA and how it worked.
Michael Vlaming spoke again speaking of a non-strike clause by the workers as well as a no lock-out clause by the employers. If there is a violation, there are provisions for an expedited dispute resolution.
Vlaming further highlighted that in the Brentwood civic center project, if anyone broke that promise, there is a $10,000 per shift penalty—this includes sub-contractors as well.
“Nobody works for free,” said Vlaming. “If a contractor does not pay his or her workers, the workers are not required to work. Leaving the job is then not a violation of the no strike, no lockout clause. The general contractor is then notified and a timeline is provided to cure the issue. There is a protection clause for the workers.”
Nick Weathers, California Rep for Helmets for Hardhats, explained the transition of veterans into the building trades calling the program both valuable and necessary.
“I am here to support the PLA and in support of my brothers and sisters in the building trades,” said Weathers.
Chris Connor, of Engineers Local 3, called on the council to support of the PLA.
“On behalf of the 40,000 members of Local 3 in 4-states, we are very proud to back this PLA. We don’t have problems with pay. The person that gets paid by their scale, it doesn’t matter what color they are, what gender they are they get paid by their job, period,” said Connor.
Greg Ferre, Contra Costa Building and Construction Trade Council, took the council back in time to the original place on the civic center project.
“Everything that we committed to, everything that we said was going to happen, did happen” said Ferre. “The project was on schedule, almost $30 million under schedule which afforded the construction of the parking structure. On a construction project, I never got any phone calls, which to me is good news because no news is good news. Everything ran very smooth. Bob Taylor was the local hire coordinator on the construction site so he made sure that not only local hire, but the construction was done well. Everything went as planned and the important thing was the project was done safely. We would hope since there is a good track record, we started with the Brentwood water facility, you got a gem there, an amazing civic center here, our members that worked on it are your constituents here, we would hope the same thing would hold true with the library and we will build another crown jewel in the City of Brentwood.”
Councilman Gene Clare stated the Civic Center was a very successful project and
“My believe is that a Project Labor Agreement ensures a quality project as evidence of what we are sitting in here today,” said Clare. “It also provides employments opportunities for our local residents and veterans. Competitive bidding, project cost efficiency. I am very much in favor of the PLA.”
Councilman Steve Barr highlighted the mode in the room was much different than 2009 when discussing the first PLA ,
“For me, one of the most important things is the safety element, as someone who used to do construction, to get through from start to finish without an accident is to me is one of the most important part because protecting that workforce and our workers is what we should be all about,” said Barr. “I am in support of moving forward with the project labor agreement.”
Vice Mayor Joel Bryant supported the PLA.
“One of the things that has been proven over and over again here is that in addition to the fact you have highly skilled individuals but you have a uniformity of those skills in each trade,” explained Bryant who explained a sub-contractor could cut corner or do different things with different techniques. “When you have a group of people doing the same thing all over the place, it makes for a better project, easier to find issues and address them. I am for this PLA for every reason mentioned.”
Councilman Erick Stonebarger highlighted he was against the PLA when they did the Civic Center where one of his biggest challenges was forcing workers to go through a union hall when they choose not to in the first place.
“Right or wrong, I think they had that right to do that,” said Stonebarger. “As we went through that project and we saw some of the results come through I’ve changed my position on it. I think the benefits we have seen with this building, and the local hire provision we were able to enforce… Surprisingly I am in favor of it.”
Mayor Bob Taylor commented “the mayor is in a state of shock”. Taylor then shared his support of the PLA and showed his excitement for the local hiring provisions for residents of Brentwood and East Contra Costa to work locally to provide for their families.
The council voted 5-0 in support of the PLA on the library project and begin negotiations. The City is estimating the new library can open by July of 2018.