I know-I am not supposed to take positions on Labor Issues. I honestly do not consider the recent action by the Trustees of the SRJC to be a labor issue, but rather an issue of discrimination.
After reading the Press Democrat and a personal message from my pal Keith Woods about a meeting he attended recently at the SRJC Trustees, I threw away the Soapbox I had already written, and decided to take a chance at writing about the Santa Rosa Junior College Trustee decision to move forward on another exclusive Project Labor Agreement contract for their next big building project. Their decision discriminates against qualified local builders and subcontractors based upon their status as a union signatory contractor or not. That is discriminatory.
Here is the article from the Press Democrat this morning— link
In 2014, the ECA backed a local Bond Measure that raised over $410 million for renovating old and tired SRJC buildings on their Santa Rosa campus. I attended many meetings before advocating for support of the Bond Measure, and at each of those meetings, I asked whether all local builders and subcontractors would be allowed to bid and work on the projects after paying their taxes into the bond measure. I specifically asked if a Project Labor Agreement would be considered as a requirement to do the work, which in effect would exclude non-signatory contractors from bidding the work on an equal basis as signatory contractors.
The answer, every time, was that “no discussion of including a Project Labor Agreement has taken place. All qualified General Contractors and Subcontractors would be allowed to bid on the work.”
Based on those assurances, I recommended a “YES” Vote on the Measure that raised over $400 million to replace aged buildings on the SRJC Campus.
“Holy Shenanigans Batman”. The Trustees passed a PLA on the very first project (Burbank Auditorium) and the ability of non-signatory contractors to participate and bid on a level playing field on a huge local project was gone.
Now the SRJC has decided the next building will also be bid and constructed under a PLA. My pal Keith Woods, heard the Trustees were voting on the next $78 million project and attended the meeting. It should be noted that I participated in closed door sessions and public sessions with Frank Chong and Keith Woods prior to the first PLA, and we were assured there would be a “study” conducted as to the cost effectiveness of the first project, the reconstruct of the Burbank Auditorium. This “study” will be part of the basis for deciding whether to continue with the PLA being put in place on future projects. If the “study” showed that there was no cost difference and no discrimination to non-signatory contractors, the Trustees would consider extending the PLA requirement on the next project.
No such study has been done.
Why am I even writing about this? Our ECA Members do not work on above ground projects and we have many signatory contractors that are able to bid on the surface work and infrastructure work on these SRJC projects with or without a PLA in place. So why even get involved?
My involvement is not professional as a representative of the ECA. I never spoke out publicly against the original PLA. I have not monitored the 1-year late project completion of the Burbank work. I did not attend or have discussions about the Trustees latest vote. No-my interest is purely ideological. I am concerned that the Trustees have decided to give the $410 million projects to a limited number of contractors, and that flies in the face of what I believe are the ideals of a Junior College. The institution of the SRJC should be open to all students, and open to all bidders, to attend, use as a resource, and to sharpen their estimating pencils and possibly construct the publicly funded work that is going on. To limit the contractors allowed to bid on the work, flies in the face of “inclusion” that the SRJC should be promoting to their students and to their workers. I believe that Project Labor Agreements, as written by the SRJC for the publicly funded work, is discriminatory. I disagree with any discriminatory policies by the SRJC whether it be to accept students or accept bidders.
For over 100 years the SRJC has had no labor problems, no shoddy work problems, and no late construction completion problems on any of their building projects. Suddenly, with the election of labor friendly Trustees, this century old practice of inclusionary bidding is now a problem that requires a Project Labor Agreement? No, this is blatant payback of a special interest group and I would argue that if “non signatory favoring Trustees” were elected and tried to pass a policy that excluded union workers, it would be no different. It would require someone to speak out against that discriminatory policy. It would be discriminatory to favor only union contractors as well as favoring nonunion contractors. A College should do everything they can to avoid discrimination and promote inclusion.
On a personal note-
Thirteen years ago, my Mom passed away. My Father, Sister and I decided to gift $10,000 to the SRJC Trustees to help fund their newly constructed library on campus. Our family and our business, Kirkwood-Bly, Inc., had a long-standing relationship with the SRJC in funding scholarships, attending, and supporting their endowments.
The actions of the current Trustees in passing discriminatory PLA’s, flies in the face of what the SRJC has stood for over the last century. My family will never contribute another dime to the Trustees unless and until the Trustees recognize that giving special interest groups carte blanche to build their projects is wrong. This is not a union vs nonunion issue. It is discrimination-plain and simple. If the Trustees can eliminate qualified contractors from bidding on their work, how far behind can they be on limiting enrollment to certain favored students?
The Trustees lost a very supportive Family on this poor decision—-
That’s All Folks