Project Labor Agreement Requirement Downplayed in Pro-Bond Campaigns

Project Labor Agreement Requirement Downplayed in Pro-Bond Campaigns

Who decides what action items are on a school board agenda? A case in Monterey County, California reveals that unions think they can make some of those decisions.

In November 2014, voters in the Salinas Union High School District authorized the district to borrow $128 million for school construction by selling bonds to investors. By March 2015, the elected board of trustees revealed their plan (never mentioned during the campaign to pass the bond measure) to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions as a condition of working under a contract to build a new high school. In late May, the board voted 6-1 to direct the district to negotiate the Project Labor Agreement with union officials.

But apparently union leaders never intended to participate in serious give-and-take “negotiations” with the district for this union deal. They wanted it their way.

Union officials and their lawyer failed to agree with district administrators and their lawyer on numerous matters, as revealed during lengthy board discussions at summer board meetings to clarify the board’s will on specific provisions in the Project Labor Agreement.

On August 18, it looked like the negotiations were over and an agreement had been reached. The Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO emailed a notice to the community announcing a board vote on August 25.

2015-08-25 Monterey Bay Labr Council

Information about the Project Labor Agreement being ready and scheduled for final board approval must have come from inside sources. The district had not posted the August 25 board agenda yet, and a draft agenda was not available to the public.

That notice was a surprise to local construction companies, who did not have a representative invited to take part in the negotiations for the Project Labor Agreement despite being one of the three parties that would need to sign it. But as unions warned in their notice, the opposition planned to “be there in full force.”

Assuming that union leaders had connections with the school district and influence to get items on the agenda, leading opponents of the Project Labor Agreement dutifully circulated the union notice among hundreds of community leaders in Monterey County who did not support it.

But on August 21 – three days later – when the Salinas Union High School District released the August 25 board meeting agenda, there were no items about a Project Labor Agreement. The union information was wrong.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

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