Would San Diego voters lift the ban on union-friendly construction deals?

The ban approved by San Diego voters on controversial, union-friendly construction deals known as “project labor deals” could be overturned in November 2022.

Driven by local union leaders and city council Democrats, a ballot measure that would overturn the city’s project labor agreement ban was approved this week by the council’s rules committee in a vote party line.

Supporters of the new election measure say it would ensure San Diego receives its fair share of state funding for crucial local projects by removing the city’s 9-year ban on agreements, known as the ‘APL.

That’s because two state laws have been passed since voters in San Diego banned PLAs in 2012, which say cities with laws banning PLAs are not eligible for the discretionary building funds of the. State. These laws are SB 922 and SB 829.

Critics of the new electoral measure say it is a takeover by local unions based on lies and distortions.

They point out that San Diego secured about $ 140 million in state funding for the Pure Water Project despite the PLA ban, and that special state law allowed the city last summer to establish its very first APL specifically for pure water.

The project labor agreements are union-friendly construction agreements. They are common in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, but are relatively rare in San Diego due to the region’s tradition of predominantly conservative politics.

Such pacts were used locally to build two North County dams, to expand San Diego International Airport, and to build Petco Park. But the city was not the lead agency on any of these projects.

The rules committee voted 4-1 on Wednesday for city attorney Mara Elliott to finalize the wording for the November 2022 ballot measure and bring it to the full council next year for it to be placed on the ballot.

Republican Chris Cate, who voted alone, said the city’s ban on the PLA – the 2012 Proposition A – cost the city no money. The measure was approved by nearly 60 percent of voters.

But Cate also acknowledged that the San Diego electorate appears to have shifted significantly to the left since 2012, allowing voters to reverse and remove the ban.

Council member Raul Campillo is spearheading efforts to overturn the ban.

“Project labor agreements are good for San Diego, and unions are good for San Diego,” he said. “They prioritize local jobs, boost our local economy and ensure that local workers get wages, benefits and protections. “

Campillo also noted that his proposal creates new oversight, accountability and transparency for the city’s procurement.

“We will have a process in place to stop fraud, abuse and waste,” he said. “Everything that is built into that is to ensure that taxpayers get what they pay for. “

Campillo staff member Justine Murray said the unusual effort required to secure state funding for San Diego’s Pure Water project should not become the norm.

“We cannot continue to put the city in risky situations where our state officials have to maneuver to secure funding for San Diego because we are not following state law,” she said. .

Eddie Sprecco, chief anti-PLA associate general contractors, said Campillo and other supporters are twisting things.

“The whole premise of this thing is stupid,” Sprecco said, saying no state money is at risk.

He said the ballot measure would give the local branch of the state Building and Construction Trades Council more leverage to secure city construction contracts, especially larger ones.

“It’s basically the construction trades that are trying to get their big contracts through,” said Sprecco, whose group represents around 900 union and non-union contractors.

He noted that all city construction contracts require payment of prevailing wages, which are essentially union-level wages. He said this ensures that contractors do not have an incentive to poorly pay workers.

A March 2020 poll funded by the Building and Construction Trades Council found that 63% of people were in favor of removing the PLA ban, 11% were against and 22% were undecided.

In June, a Chula Vista measure explicitly authorizing PLAs was approved by city voters with over 67% support.

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