By Sheri Williams
The city of Sacramento in August adopted a citywide labor agreement that will ensure all major public construction projects use union labor.
Called the Local Hire and Community Workforce Training Program, the agreement will require big city-funded construction projects work with union labor and pay union wages and benefits.
“This is an important agreement both for the city and our high-trained construction workforce,” said Kevin Ferreira, head of the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades. “It will ensure Sacramento’s future is built to the highest standards, while protecting middle-class jobs and boosting the local economy.”
The agreement covers all citywide capital projects with greater than $1 million in construction costs. The city estimates that about 10 to 15 projects will be covered by the agreement during the first 18 months. That includes the recently-approved Convention Center and Community Center Theater project, which is estimated to cost about $350 million. Golden 1 Center was also built under a project labor agreement.
“We have witnessed the success of these programs as evidenced by the recent construction of the Golden 1 Center,” Armando Guerrero of the Sheetmetal Workers told the City Council during discussions.
The agreement sets a goal that at least 50 percent of the combined journey-level apprentice hours on a project are worked by local residents. That figure is determined on a craft-by-craft basis. The highest priority will go to residents of the city of Sacramento, followed by county residents. Third priority goes to tradespeople living in the nearby counties of Yolo, Placer, El Dorado, Amador, Sutter, Yuba, Nevada, Sierra and San Joaquin.
In addition, the agreement sets the goal that 20 percent of total apprenticeship hours will go to workers from targeted zip codes within the city. These are economically disadvantaged areas. Currently, the building trades have about 2,034 people enrolled in apprenticeship programs in Sacramento County. Many trades are currently accepting applications for apprenticeship programs in anticipation of future needs in the industry. The Building and Construction Trades train about 90 percent of all apprentices in the Sacramento region.
The Helmets to Hardhats program, which trains veterans in the construction trades after they leave military service, will also receive a priority. Other groups that will be targeted include former foster youth, those on public assistance, youth interns, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
A report by city staff found the agreement will have other benefits as well. The report said it would increase the efficiency of construction projects and prevent strikes and work stoppages.
A recent study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center on community college construction projects between 2008 and 2015 showed such deals also are good for local governments. The study examined how having labor agreements affected the outcomes on community college construction projects.
“PLAs do not reduce the number of bidders nor do they raise costs on California community college projects,” it concluded.
Another study, done in 2011 by the Cornell University School of Industrial Relations, looked at project labor agreements nationwide and found that both public and private ones, “provide value for government and corporate purchasers of construction services – getting the best work for the money with far greater likelihood of on-time, on-budget performance.”