Whew! Now we’ve finished looking at all the ballot propositions being offered State-wide, it’s time to take a look at the initiatives being offered up locally. At the end of this process we’ll offer up a summary page with links and likes.
Proposition A was placed on the November ballot by the County Board of Supervisors. It’s revenge in retaliation over a union-sponsored initiative that passed last spring limiting Supes to two terms. This ballot measure asks the voters to ban “Project Labor Agreements” (PLAs) for San Diego County construction contracts.
The use of PLAs dates back to the World Wars, when the Federal government, anxious that labor stoppages would be detrimental to the war effort, imposed “no strike” agreements in many industrial sectors. In return, unions were allowed to pre-negotiate wages and working conditions; employers were forbidden to utilize lock-outs and other anti-union tactics.
The modern day PLA typically is a one-time agreement between a group of trade unions and the developers of large construction project. In return for stability at the worksite, management makes concessions, agrees upon wages and benefits (which are not always at union standards) and consents to settle any differences that may arise through fast track arbitration. What management loses in the short-term financially they gain back in efficiency. PLAs are very common with large scale projects in private industry.
Controversy exists around using PLAs in public sector construction projects. Opponents claim PLAs increase construction costs to taxpayers, are anti-competitive by excluding o discouraging non-union contractors from bidding on public construction projects, and are an organizing tool to coerce construction workers into union membership. Advocates aver that PLAs reduce the risk of construction delays (and increased costs) from worker shortages or labor disputes through the no-strike provisions and centralized referral systems or hiring halls. Proponents also maintain that PLAs foster cooperation between the construction workforce and management.
Each side comes armed with mountains of white papers to bolster its case. The problem is that these studies were usually performed at the request of, or with funding from, interests on either side of the debate. (If you’re feeling wonkish about PLAs, read this.) I suspect that these arguments are shadow puppets for the much larger debate of the influence of unions vs. corporate influence in society at large. Otherwise there would be no need to put this up before the voters. Unless you were pissed off about having term limits imposed on you.
Our Very Republican Supes have already enacted a law that bans the County from signing “Project Labor Agreements”. However, as an ordinance, the ban could be overturned by three supervisors in the future. Putting PLAs up for voter approval gives the right wing a platform for union bashing that is paid for by county taxpayers to the tune of $100,000. That’ll teach those unions, huh?
Vote NO on Prop A
Next Up: Proposition D, The City of San Diego Sales Tax