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Merit Shop Builders Group Challenges Council on Parcel Tax Endorsement

A nine-county parcel tax is intended to fund, among many projects, restoration of the Crab Cove shore line.

A nine-county parcel tax is intended to fund, among many projects, restoration of the Crab Cove shore line. (Google Street View)

An otherwise routine City Council endorsement of a regional parcel tax tomorrow night has become more complicated.

The San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority previously approved a nine-county, $25 million per-year parcel tax for the June ballot, and Alameda City Council is set to consider an endorsement referral item from Councilmember Jim Oddie tomorrow night.

But a trade organization, Associated Builders and Contractors, Northern California chapter, (ABC NorCal), is opposed to the proposed use of Project Labor Agreements in the restoration contracts funded by the tax.

Nicole Goehring, Community and Government Relations Director for ABC NorCal, has asked city council to hold off on the endorsement until the Restoration Authority determines if it will required contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLA) with the Alameda County Building and Trades Council, as a requirement of working on tax-funded projects.

ABC NorCal is a “merit shop” organization, one that promotes the philosophy of awarding projects to the lowest and most qualified bidder, regardless of labor affiliation.

Asked to elaborate on her letter to City Council, Goehring filled Action Alameda News’ inbox with information and supporting documents critiquing PLAs—more than can be included in total here.

In summary, she wrote, “Project Labor Agreements create barriers for local, minority and women-owned construction employers and their employees from participating in building their community because they contain provisions that do not allow for the utilization of their own workforces.

“Furthermore, studies show these types of agreements increase project costs – anywhere from 10-30% above prevailing wage because they restrict competition. Open competition is healthy and increases quality. It levels the playing field and local money is invested into the community.

“And finally, PLAs potentially exclude the men, women, and veterans who have chosen to enter into state approved, unilateral apprenticeship training programs in pursuit of a construction career from the opportunity to work and gain the invaluable on-the-job training experience that provides stability for them, their family and their community.”

She told Action Alameda News by e-mail, “It is going to be difficult to pass a two-thirds parcel tax in nine counties, especially if a PLA is imposed. 11 entities in California have banned the use of PLAs including the cities of Fresno, San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside and El Cajon by majority vote.”

Goehring told city council that the Restoration Authority is also expected to make a decision on PLAs tomorrow night, and urged council to hold off on endorsing the tax.

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