Executive Officer's Forum
Protecting our work
Bob Alvarado, Executive Officer
As more and more large projects are covered under Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) in California, some trades try to use jurisdiction procedures in Washington DC to claim work that belongs to us. We now have an agreement with the National Building and Construction Trades that will resolve this issue.
There are three key provisions that will protect our work. First, disputes will be settled by a list of local arbitrators familiar with the industry. Second, local area practice on assignment of work to one craft or another will be given the same standing as the "Green Book," a record of jurisdictional assignments sometimes dating back 100 years. Finally, the hearings will be held locally, without requiring the time and expense involved in traveling to Washington DC.
Another good aspect of this agreement is that the National Building Trades has given us authority (when we agree) to change the language in existing agreements. Some we won't and some we will, but the new "Northern California Plan" will be part of all PLAs going forward. We have worked, and will continue to work, with other trades and local Building Trades Councils for the benefit of all workers, but not at our own members' expense. I believe that all trades, and the industry as a whole, benefit from a local process to quickly resolve disputes, away from the jobsite.
There has been a lot of coverage in this paper of the efforts to support local projects throughout the region, and to win work for union carpenters. These efforts are not just local; for several years now, we have had a partnership with the California School Boards Association. This year, we are expanding to include the City Managers Association and the California League of Cities. We are sponsors of the League's convention, and on their policy advisory board. In addition to supporting websites that serve as one-stop shops for the truth about prevailing wages and PLAs, we're getting involved at a high level to counter the city-by-city attack from the ABC.
In one market, however, we are going backwards, and we may well have no choice but to take on affordable housing developers. Historically, we have had a good relationship, but things have deteriorated to the point we might have to fight. If you hear someone say "carpenters don't support affordable housing," take it with a grain of salt.
Let's be clear: We support affordable housing, but not when the developers are abusive and oppressive toward their workers. Some of them are turning into what we fight against every day. Destroying carpenters' standard of living and driving them to the poor house to lift others out of poverty is not the answer, and we won't stand for it.
Contract 2011-2015 update
Meanwhile, we continue to work on getting employers signed to the extended agreement, and the results are very encouraging. Looking at the latest reports on the percent of hours and the number of employers signed to the extended agreement to 2015 tells me we are clearly on the right track. We still have work to do, and there is no doubt that some won't come onboard without a fight, so stay tuned. Our website at www.NCCRC.org is updated with the full list every week, so keep in touch and up to date.