Placer County bans PLAs

Steven Greenhut:

Here’s the rare good news press release from Kevin Dayton at Associated Builders and Contractors of California, the open-shop construction trade association:

A third county in California has now prohibited Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on taxpayer-funded construction projects.

On a 3-2 vote on August 24, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution adding a provision to its contracting policies that states “the County shall not require a contractor on a County public project to execute or otherwise become a party to a project labor agreement as a condition of bidding, negotiating, award, or performance of the public project.” The resolution cited three reasons to adopt the policy: “to promote competition in contracting, to reduce the risk of cost increases in public works projects in Placer County, and to protect the interests of the taxpayers of Placer County.”

Union representatives showed up in force to oppose the resolution, thus demonstrating to county taxpayers that the policy was relevant and needed.  The executive director of the Roseville Chamber of Commerce spoke in support of the resolution as well as a representative of Associated Builders and Contractors.

Approval was along party lines, with the three Republicans (Rocky Rockholm, Kirk Uhler, and Robert Weygandt) voting for guaranteed fair and open bid competition, while Democrat Jennifer Montgomery and Decline-to-State Jim Holmes voted against it. (Holmes quit the Republican Party last year because he was “tired of the rhetoric.”  Apparently he’s more comfortable parroting the rhetoric of Sacramento union bosses, as he did at the meeting.)

Placer County stretches from affluent northeastern Sacramento suburbs to North Lake Tahoe and has a population of 350,000. In the past several years, the county has been vexed by “greenmail,” in which construction unions hire a law firm to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and block the permitting of proposed developments. When the developers agree to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the construction unions, the environmental objections fade away and the project moves forward.

Several other county governments in California are in various stages of considering bans on PLAs, as ABC and its coalition partners advance the “20 in 2010” program to ban PLAs at twenty local governments in California in 2010. In November 2009, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 for the Prohibition of Anti-Competitive or Discriminatory Requirements in Public Contracts ordinance to ban PLAs. In March 2010, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 for an ordinance to ban PLAs.

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