Co-published by Newsweek
With momentum on infrastructure rebuilding stalled, the Trump administration this week is moving ahead to repeal a two-year initiative dating from the Obama administration that might be the only dynamic infrastructure and jobs program in existence at the federal level.
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,
Since 2011, the Construction Careers Coalition has secured agreements with public agencies to bring good jobs and benefits to local community members through public construction projects. These agreements are bearing fruit: At each of the six public agencies, we have exceeded our hiring goals for local residents, which means that more families can support themselves and more money flows back into our local economy.
The coalition has used a key tool, the Project Labor Agreement (PLA), to create public accountability and good middle-class jobs for local residents. A PLA is an agreement between a government agency and construction unions in which both sides offer concessions to ensure that construction work is completed on time and on budget. The Construction Careers Coalition has focused on adding a Construction Careers policy to PLAs here in L.A. as a way to create green infrastructure that employs local people. At each agency, the policy has set goals to hire local construction workers,
John Hariel has an electric personality – perfectly appropriate for a man who is helping to wire Los Angeles.
A general foreman with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 11, Hariel – known to everyone as Big John – has spent the last two decades building L.A.’s infrastructure. He’s a natural leader blessed with an entrepreneurial mind, an activist heart and the body of a Mac truck.
Big John has deliberately reached out to women and men from disadvantaged communities, mentoring them to become strong leaders, parents and citizens. Frying Pan News recently got a chance to talk with members of his wonderfully eclectic electrician crew, all of whom are working on the Martin Luther King Jr. hospital renovation in Watts, which is covered by a project labor agreement and local hire agreement. The team included several women electricians and members from all ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the impressive diversity of L.A.’s construction workforce.