Last week the Long Beach City Council unanimously approved a citywide Project Labor Agreement, the first major initiative increasing standards on publicly funded construction projects and increasing access to apprenticeship programs for Long Beach residents. As the saying goes, “It was a long time comin’.”
For decades, community groups and construction trade unions advocated for greater accountability on public works projects to ensure contractors are paying prevailing wages and maximizing local dollars by providing career opportunities for local residents. According to our allies at the L.A. and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, advocates pushed for previous Mayor Bob Foster to consider a Project Labor Agreement policy but he didn’t budge. In fact, time and time again, the proposal sat on his desk during his eight-year tenure and never saw the light of day. A few victories were accomplished during the Foster administration, including an agreement on the Gerald Desmond Replacement Bridge.
The Long Beach City Council is set to begin talks on Monday about a Project Labor Agreement that would apply to all city construction projects with a price tag of $125,000 or more. Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs, are “pre-hire” arrangements between unions, government agencies and private contractors who work together on construction projects. PLAs set wages, decide hiring practices and other matters between management and labor, often with the goal of creating community benefits through good jobs. According to a 2001 study on PLAs, prepared for the California State Senate, Project Labor Agreements have existed in California since construction began on the Shasta Dam in 1938, and have been used in both public and private sector projects.
“Project labor agreements are arguably the most important change in labor-management relations in the construction industry in recent years,” the report said.
Typically PLAs ensure that large construction projects pay fair wages,