The Goleta City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve a project labor agreement policy for city projects estimated to exceed $5 million, a threshold that will be adjusted annually by the California Construction Cost Index.

Project labor agreements, or PLAs, are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements negotiated with labor organizations to set out the terms and conditions of construction projects.

The draft PLA policy provisions presented during Tuesday’s council meeting showed that all PLAs will provide local hiring goals and support for state-approved joint apprentice program opportunities for Santa Barbara County residents. Taxpayer protection provisions also will be included in the PLA, such as nondiscrimination provisions and guarantees against strikes, lockouts and similar labor disruptions.

“You can create opportunities for your local workforce to be more discerning,” Mayor Pro Tempore James Kyriaco said. “I see project labor agreements as an opportunity for a more discerning worker to have more opportunities to work on more projects.”

Councilman Roger Aceves was the one vote against adopting the PLA.

“The one thing that really bothers me the most is how this ends up being anti-local,” Aceves said. “When you have a local construction owner who’s been in the city of Goleta for 50 years … and he won’t bid a PLA, how far will that trickle down to other companies, and what harm are we doing to our local companies and our local employees?”

Aceves was referring to a public comment from Eric Christian, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, who named multiple local construction companies that reportedly refuse to bid on PLA projects.

While there were several public comments speaking in support of adopting a PLA policy, there also were some public commenters who opposed PLAs, including owners of local construction companies.

This policy will begin the negotiations of a master PLA, rather than a PLA applied on a project-by-project basis.

While a PLA would apply to projects estimated to cost more than $5 million, a PLA would not apply to road maintenance projects; sidewalk projects and other projects in the public rights-of-way; parking lots and parks and open space hardscapes projects; projects for which the existence of a PLA would jeopardize state, federal or other public funding sources; projects identified by the Goleta City Council for exclusion because of time-sensitive funding requirements or permits; or projects put out to bid before the master PLA is negotiated.

Additionally, the PLA would cover only construction craft workers, and PLAs would not prohibit any qualified contractors or subcontractors from bidding to work.

Non-union contractors can bid on projects with a PLA but would need to sign onto and be covered by the PLA during the project.

Some upcoming projects in Goleta that would apply for a PLA include the Goleta train depot project and the construction of Fire Station 10 in western Goleta.

Because the council has voted to proceed with the PLA policy, the next steps involve beginning negotiations with the Tri Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, using Santa Barbara’s project labor agreement as a base.

Once the master PLA is fully negotiated, it will return to the Goleta City Council for consideration. 

“To me, this is about ensuring good wages and, along with the wages, benefits, overtime pay, establishing appropriate working conditions — the types of things that our workers deserve to live in this area,” Councilman Kyle Richards said.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at