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The Selma City Council just made a loud statement [Jan. 22] when they voted unanimously (5-0) to place a project labor agreement (PLA) on its police station project.

To better understand the reason for frustration, it’s easier to show a timeline:

  • On March 5th, 2018, the City of Selma was duped into approving a Community Workforce Agreement (otherwise known as a PLA) by the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings Building and Construction Trades Council for the Police Station Project. They were told this was going to create jobs for local industry professionals.
  • On August 30, 2018, the City of Selma received only one bid for $7,952,000, far exceeding the construction estimate for hard costs of $6,000,000.
  • On September 4, 2018, the City of Selma rejected the bid and authorized City Staff to revise the project and return to the City Council with a revised scope and estimated cost potentially compromising safety in a community already faced with public safety issues.

When the local contracting community that was pre-qualified for the project was surveyed why they didn’t bid, a majority said it was because of the conditions of the PLA. Many later stated they were open to bidding if the agreement could be revised with fair provisions such as allowing all state and federally approved apprentices to work on the project.

With the creators of the PLA unwilling to revise the existing agreement to add fair provisions so the local construction companies would bid on the Selma Police Station Project, the City Council needed to figure out how to proceed on a project that would cost an additional $2.5 million to $3 million of taxpayer dollars. Money the city needed to pull from other scarce resources when they were facing critical infrastructure needs.

When asked at multiple meetings if the city would consider rescinding the PLA and bidding the project without a PLA giving the local community a chance to build its community, city council members expressed doubts of doing the right thing for fear of a legal challenge by the construction unions.

Unfortunately, on Jan. 22, 2019, the Selma City Council unanimously voted out of fear to rebid the Police Station Project with a PLA knowing full well they may only once again receive one bid, this time at a much higher price.

Here is the lesson. When a member of the Building and Construction Trades Council comes knocking on your door, think twice before you sign that PLA. They are non-negotiable and contain no exit clauses. How much will they cost your community?

Michele Daugherty,

President and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 21,000 members. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC and its 69 chapters help members develop people, win work and deliver that work safely, ethically and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which ABC and its members work. Visit us at abc.org. The ABC NorCal chapter started in 1976 and now represents 500 large and small companies across Northern California. Visit us at abcnorcal.org.

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