Long Beach Harbor Commission Looking At ‘Port-Wide’ Project Labor Agreement
Board Expected To Hold Study Session The First Week Of June
By Sean Belk - Staff Writer
May 22, 2012 – On the heels of the Port of Los Angeles recently approving a project labor agreement (PLA) covering all major capital improvements over the next five years, the Long Beach Harbor Commission is now proposing to follow in the neighboring port’s footsteps.
The Long Beach commission agreed on May 14 to hold a study session during an evening meeting in the first week of June to discuss a “port-wide” PLA. Any action on a PLA would be required at a subsequent meeting.
Harbor Commissioner Doug Drummond, a retired Long Beach police commander and former president of the Long Beach Police Officers Association who also served as a city councilmember, brought up the item, requesting the commission “rapidly” approve an agreement within days. His motion was seconded by Commissioner Rich Dines, who is a longshoreman by trade and a former ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) Council president.
“Over in the Los Angeles side, they have a port-wide project labor agreement . . . I’d like to see one on this side,” Drummond said. “I understand . . . a lot of the acrimony in meetings disappears with the adoption of a port-wide project labor agreement.”
The rest of the harbor commission, however, stated they needed more time and information to look over the issue. “I personally would like a study session on it so we can get all the facts before we go after it,” said Harbor Commissioner Nick Sramek, a senior project leader in system engineering for The Aerospace Corporation. “I’m not ready to vote on anything in a short time frame that has the impact that this has on our doing business.”
A PLA is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement, often requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages, provide health benefits, ensure no-strike rules and include apprenticeships and training opportunities. While PLAs aren’t allowed to require a potential contractor to be unionized or not, the topic has been the subject of controversy for years.
Various local governments, unions and agencies promote PLAs for ensuring local jobs, claiming PLAs make sure projects are completed safely, on time and under budget. Advocacy groups for non-union firms, however, say that PLAs are merely a way for governments to award contracts exclusively to unionized firms, claiming the agreement often forces non-union contractors out of the bid process and adds costs to projects.
In March 2011, the Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved a port-wide PLA as a blanket agreement between the port and the construction trade unions affiliated with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trade Council. The PLA covers 95 percent of the port’s $1.5 billion, five-year budget for capital improvement projects. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilmember Janice Hahn lauded the agreement.
Under the PLA, at least 30 percent of total work hours must be performed by local residents within targeted areas of Los Angeles focused primarily on residents within 10 miles of the Port. “Disadvantaged workers” residing within Los Angeles are to perform 10 percent of the total PLA work hours, while apprentices are to perform at least 20 percent of total work hours. Since 2005, Los Angeles city departments have entered into nearly 30 PLAs, covering over 180 projects.
So far, the Port of Long Beach has only officially approved a PLA contract for the port-funded Middle Harbor project, for nearly $200 million worth of work. A PLA for the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project design-build contract is currently being negotiated with the building trades and is expected to come back to the board.
For more information on the Port of L.A.’s PLA, visit www.portoflosangeles.org/business/pla.asp.
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