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San Diego’s Proposition A Clouded By Signing Of State Bill

The future of Proposition A, a measure to limit so-called Project Labor Agreements that will go before San Diego voters in the June election, was clouded today when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to prevent local governments from banning such deals.

The bill, authored by Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, prevents the state from providing funding for local government projects in charter cities where PLAs are banned.

Because Proposition A has contingencies regarding state funding, the ultimate impact of the legislation was unclear.

The City Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

Project Labor Agreements cover hiring, working conditions and other labor issues on municipal projects.

Supporters say PLAs ensure labor peace and help get construction completed on time, while opponents believe they raise costs by cutting out less-expensive nonunion labor.

Such deals already are banned in San Diego County, and the cities of Chula Vista and Oceanside.

A PLA covers Proposition S construction bond projects for the San Diego Unified School District.

Proposition A, which voters will consider in the June 5 primary election, would prevent the city from making contractors sign a PLA as a condition of bidding, negotiating, awarding or performing on a contract -- unless required by state or federal contracting law or as a condition to receive state or federal funding.

The new legislation prevents the state from sending money that helps pay for construction projects to charter cities that ban PLAs -- as long as the deals carry specified protections for taxpayers. A similar bill passed previously gave charter cities, like San Diego, until 2015 to comply.

As spelled out in the state Public Contract Code, the taxpayer protections include allowing nonunion shops to bid on contracts, banning work disruptions, allowing workers to be tested for drugs, prohibits discrimination and provides for a neutral arbitrator to resolve disputes.

Scott Crosby, Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego President Scott Crosby, whose group got Proposition A on the ballot, said the new legislation has constitutional defects.

"However, that has not stopped some in the legislature from backing what should be a non-starter,'' Crosby said. "SB829 is a power grab by Sacramento politicians that will certainly be overturned by the courts.''

The State Building & Trades Council of California, which backed the legislation, applauded Brown for signing the bill.

Cesar Diaz, the council's legislative director, said the legislation eliminates any lack of clarity on PLAs over whether charter cities were covered.

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