On Thursday, the Fresno City Council will consider a resolution to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for Airport FAT Forward projects, including a $45 million parking structure and a $70 million terminal expansion.
We applaud the goal of the councilmembers who proposed the agreement to employ local, economically disadvantaged, pre-apprentice and entry-level hires, veterans and women-owned businesses and look forward to helping to make sure it does just that.
With the craft professional demand in California at 519,323, through August 2021, over $1 billion worth of taxpayer-funded construction work in the region and the airport project that needs to come in on time and on budget, the city cannot afford to craft an agreement that is not inclusive of the entire construction community.
Traditionally, PLAs include a variety of provisions that actually discourage many local construction firms from bidding. In short, construction firms owned by women, veterans, and minorities — being generally smaller and non-union — need not apply.
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When non-union contractors bid on work, they base the bid on their crews’ talent, training, experience, commitment to quality and track record of performing work safely and ethically. Should a non-union company be granted a PLA contract, it must attempt to complete the work using workers sent by a union hall that the company has no previous experience with. This forces contractors to potentially use someone with a different (possibly lower) skill set or ability. It also gives out-of-town union workers priority over non-union workers living closer to home.
As a result, local skilled, trained and certified workers miss out on work in their backyard that they have spent their careers performing. The taxpayer, too, suffers when PLAs are put into place because the agreement shrinks the number of bidders for projects to just a few, and, often, to only one, thereby inflating the cost of every project.
One example is the recent Selma police station project bid under a traditional PLA. The city received only one bid for $7,952,000, far exceeding the construction estimate for hard costs of $6,000,000, rejected the proposal and now plans to rebid the project March 14th with an expected much higher price.
We do not want to see a similar situation happening in Fresno, especially for the airport expansion. We look forward to working with Fresno to ensure the agreement will create pathways and opportunities for not only those wanting to enter the trades, but for all existing workers and apprentices in the region.
Nicole Goehring is community and government relations director for the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California chapter. ABC is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Website: http://www.abcnorcal.org/