Did Political Ambition Inspire a Sneaky Proposed Union Monopoly on Elk Grove Construction Contracts?

By Kevin Dayton | May 21, 2018 |

Special to Elk Grove News  

Behind every effort in California to give unions a monopoly on municipal construction contracts is an ambitious politician dreaming of higher office.

Apparently, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly has ambitions for higher office.

At the May 9, 2018 City Council meeting, Mayor Ly casually suggested that the city needed a “Community Workforce Agreement.” (See video below).

He brought it up during the meeting as if he just happened to think up the idea right there, out of the blue.

For those who don’t have the sudden inspiration to propose such deals, “Community Workforce Agreement” is one of numerous euphemisms unions use for “Project Labor Agreement,” a contract that construction companies are required to sign with unions as a condition of working on a public works project.

Under a Project Labor Agreement, construction companies must obtain their workers from unions. Companies must also make payments to union benefit programs and train apprentices through union programs. All workers must pay union dues and fees.

Currently in Elk Grove, both union and non-union contractors bid on public works projects in Elk Grove.

Under California law, they have to pay state-mandated prevailing wages, which are the exact wages set in the union contracts for each trade.

Non-union contractors can and do pay those prevailing wage rates. The cost is simply passed on to the taxpayer.

But they choose not to bid when governments require them to sign Project Labor Agreements.

That leaves the work to the unions, who benefit from the reduced competition and the higher prices that result. It also brings a bit of relief to their unfunded pension programs. And it also helps them fund their political programs.

Yes, construction unions have political programs. They are a valuable ally in competitive elections for offices such as state legislature and county supervisor (not to mention, mayor).

Imposing a Project Labor Agreement on taxpayer-funded contracts can earn the special attention need to win that decisive union campaign support.

There is a risk with this scheme. Ordinary voters may find out about it and then end the instigator's political career in the next election.

Perhaps that’s the reason why the agenda item for the Project Labor Agreement (aka Community Workforce Agreement) on the May 23, 2018 Elk Grove City Council meeting agenda is benignly titled “Discussion of Workforce Development, Apprenticeship Programs, Wages on Public Projects, and Related Topics.”

That’s sneaky!

How many residents of Elk Grove would read that and recognize whats truly going on?

Now you know. Are you OK with cutting bid competition and raising costs of city construction contracts so your mayor can advance his political career? Maybe you should ask him.

Kevin Dayton is a public policy and political consultant in California.  He can be followed on Twitter @DaytonPubPolicy


Here’s a link to the meeting agenda: May 23 Elk Grove City Council Meeting Agenda

Here’s a Project Labor Agreement, in case you want to read one for yourself: City of Stockton Project Labor Agreement

A perspective on Project Labor Agreement performance in the City of Stockton: Project Labor Agreements Have Failed in Stockton - August 24, 2017 in the Stockton Record

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