Community workforce training, project labor agreement approved by split vote of Elk Grove City Council

Photo by Rodolfo Quirós |

Last night, the Elk Grove City Council approved a community workforce and training agreement (CWTA) with a rare split vote. Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen, Vice Mayor Darren Suen, and Councilmember Stephanie Nguyen were in favor, Councilmember Kevin Spease opposed, and Councilmember Pat Hume astained from the vote.

The five-year agreement with the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council (SSBCTC), the AFL-CIO Council, and its member unions dictate any capital project by the City of Elk Grove over $1 million can only be bid by companies with union workforces. The agreement does not apply to maintenance work, and according to a staff report, it promotes the "efficiency of construction operations" by prohibiting strikes and work stoppages. 

Before taking their vote, about three dozen people registered to speak during public comment. Most speakers praised the agreement, but several spoke in opposition, including Nicole Goehring of Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California, which represents non-union contractors.

Goehring noted like the SSBCTC apprentice program, which is a component of the CWTA agreement with Elk Grove, her organization also has an apprentice program. The agreement, she said, would exclude many apprentices from working on publicly funded projects.  

"This is an agreement not with the community, this is an agreement with the AFL CIO," she said. 

The only council member voting against the agreement was Spease. During city council deliberations, Spease said the agreement was a good starting point but would have preferred things like the minimum project size be increased from $1 million.

Hume, who is pro-business, is in a pitched battle with Cosumnes Community Services District Director Jaclyn Moreno for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors District 5 position, abstained from voting. Moreno has the support of many unions in her campaign.  

During the meeting, the non-union and union advocates made claims about project costs that, not surprisingly, were conflicting. The staff report prepared by Public Works Director Jeff Werner said the following:
The CWTA is likely to increase project contracting costs due to the work required to track, report, and verify worker and business qualifications, including local hire, veteran participation, and other targeted populations. Also, increased costs for non-union contractors who utilize core employees will result from the required employer contributions to union trust funds, which will likely increase their total bid amount. It is anticipated that projects may experience some delay in construction start while the contractor and listed subcontractors execute the CWTA.
The agreement culminates an almost 10-year process. During this time, current and past mayors and city council members have accepted numerous contributions from construction trade unions. 

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