Tonight (August 26, 2014) the Watsonville (California) City Council voted 6-1 to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council for city projects with a cost exceeding $600,000. The (unsigned) Project Labor Agreement was provided to the city council at the meeting.
The city council also voted 7-0 for a vague adjunct “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council about promoting “pre-apprenticeship” training.
This vote was a follow-up to a city council vote on October 8, 2013 to proceed with a Project Labor Agreement policy. (For details, see Watsonville City Council Imposes Requirement for Construction Contractors to Sign Project Labor Agreement with Unions.)
Tied in with the Project Labor Agreement is a Memorandum of Understanding about creating pre-apprenticeship programs. This MOU was poorly drafted and peppered with flaws:
1. It does not define a pre-apprenticeship program.
2. It establishes an “ultimate goal” for unions to develop a pre-apprenticeship program “for use toward meeting the City’s local hire goal,” but the city’s local hiring ordinance requires “qualified individuals” to be enrolled in a certified state or federally approved apprenticeship program or be classified as journey persons with at least five years experience in their craft. It does not recognize pre-apprenticeship programs.
3. It requires the City of Watsonville to provide the unions with contact information for community groups that “advocate for training in careers to better one’s life.” Why aren’t the unions aware of these groups already? And why doesn’t the MOU simply list local recruitment sources and community organizations acceptable under the city’s local hire ordinance? That ordinance – enacted by the city council in 2002 with backing from the same construction unions – requires contractors on certain public works construction contracts “to make good-faith efforts” to employ local workers “with the assistance of the Employment Development Department, and/or local recruitment sources, and/or local union hiring halls, and/or community organizations designated by the City to hire qualified Tri-County Residents…” Ironically, unions are regarded as one of the groups that advocate for training.
4. It cites alleged data from the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) that “community members” in and around the City of Watsonville showed “significant interest” in entering an apprenticeship program for the construction trades, but insinuates that unions can’t find these people without assistance from the city. Why can’t the unions use the data from this state agency to recruit people for their pre-apprenticeship programs?
5. The City of Watsonville only makes the unions accountable to the MOU to the extent that the unions have to keep a list of individuals who have “gone through the program” and give a report once a year to the city about “how the program has performed.” There is no independent evaluation of the program. Compare this to the local hiring ordinance, which requires contractors to do the following:
…keep, and provide to the City, on forms acceptable to the City, an accurate record documenting the good-faith effort of complying with the provisions of this Chapter. Said records shall include: a listing, by name and address of all local recruitment sources contacted by the contractor, the date of the local recruitment contact and the identity of the person contacted, the trade and classification and number of hire referrals requested, the number of local hires made as a result of the contact, and the identity and address of the person(s) hired pursuant to the contract.
When one city council member and one public speaker suggested that the Memorandum of Understanding should include more provisions for performance accountability, the head of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council complained he was being “torpedoed.” Union-backed city council members focused on rhetoric and praised the “innovative,” “groundbreaking,” and “historical” policy. After the vote, some of them posed for photos with the group of union officials who attended the meeting in support of the policies. Look for these photos in the next union newsletters and in future campaign mailers.
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 www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.