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Battle Over School Bond Projects Continues

Audio

Aired 5/18/09

The San Diego Unified school board is considering how to move forward with a labor agreement that could give unions most of the jobs under a school bond measure.

The San Diego Unified school board is considering how to move forward with a labor agreement that could give unions most of the jobs under a school bond measure.

Project Labor Agreements or PLAs often give unions preference in hiring. In exchange, the unions give up their right to strike.

The San Diego Unified school board is currently negotiating the terms of such an agreement under Proposition S. More than two-billion-dollars worth of construction projects are at stake.

Nonunion groups say PLAs amount to discrimination. But Donald Cohen says that's not the case. Cohen is with the Center on Policy Initiatives. He says such an agreement will simply ensure the district uses companies that offer good health benefits, job security, and a steady stream of apprentices.

"This is about setting standards for the workers," Cohen said. "There will be union contractors on the job and there will be nonunion contractors on the job. But all the workers will be treated well, and will have health care. Its about the workers."

Nonunion construction groups call that rhetoric. Eric Christen is with The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. He says if the PLA is approved, nonunion contractors would have to buy-into union health plans and hire union workers despite having their own.

"We don't need a bunch of elected officials in the San Diego Unified School District who should be focusing what's best for students, telling business owners in the construction industry what is best for them and their workers," Christen said. "They know what's best for them. They know how to build things and they do a great job of it."

The school board is expected to vote on the final deal next week.

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