San Diego voters have the chance to shed one of the last vestiges of the city’s Republican anti-union past this November, with a ballot measure repealing a 2012 ban on project labor agreements. It’s an important move that would bring the city in line with state contracting code, which says that in cases where municipal laws limit the use of PLAs, which govern labor standards on publicly funded projects, “then state funding or financial assistance shall not be used to support any construction projects awarded by the city.” While the state has not so far withheld funding, litigation over one recent project ended up leading to major delays and $130 million in cost overruns.
“San Diegans have been waiting a long time to see progress on addressing the backlog in repairs, improvements and new facilities that improve how our city functions and the quality of our neighborhoods,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said, endorsing the measure in September. “But San Diego’s big plans rely on state funding to make them reality, and the only way to make sure we remain eligible for funding is by saying yes on Measure D.”
Project labor agreements don’t mandate the use of union labor, but by setting minimum standards, they keep anti-union contractors from undercutting wages, benefits, and safety conditions. In San Diego, non-union contractors often bring in workers from out of state, while PLAs would call for hiring local workers, many from lower-income zip codes.
Tony Colvin, a veteran and Sheet Metal Workers Local 206 apprentice, recently wrote in support of Measure D in The San Diego Union-Tribune, highlighting how PLAs could support veterans. “The transition to civilian life can be a shock, and some of us really struggle to find our way,” he wrote. “One in 12 people experiencing homelessness in our city is a veteran. San Diego has the second-highest rate of veteran unemployment among major U.S. cities. If the city is able to use PLAs, we can create more opportunities for veterans to find rewarding work building our city and break this cycle.”
Opposition to Measure D is led by the San Diego chapter of the Associated General Contractors, a group whose PAC gives more than 90% of its contributions to Republicans, and major donors to defeating the measure include other big Republican donors. Support comes from local and state unions and labor federations, with notably little support coming from national unions.
● There could still be a railroad strike, after members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees rejected the tentative deal that averted a strike last month.
● T-Mobile is the latest anti-union company to face an independent organizing effort by its workers. Nearly 300 social media customer service workers are forming the T-Force Social Care Alliance (TSCA) and pushing for recognition, Jonah Furman reported. They follow workers at not just Starbucks and Amazon, but Apple, Trader Joe’s, REI, and Home Depot, who have been organizing.
● Why I'm organizing a union, Albany Amazon worker Sarah Chaudhry explains.
● Who's left out of the learning-loss debate, by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.
● For the new breed of company-specific unions, having the company’s name in the union is standard: Starbucks Workers United, Amazon Labor Union, Trader Joe’s United. Medieval Times is Not Having It. The company is suing the Medieval Times Performers United for trademark violate, Dave Jamieson reports. Petty, petty.
● New Jersey is moving toward passage of a bill banning nondisparagement agreements in employment.
Sign the petition to President Biden: Expand worker power.
After an eruption of even more scandals among Republican Senate candidates, FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich returns to The Downballot to discuss the effect these sorts of scandals can have on competitive races; whether Democrats stand a chance to keep the House; and the different ways pollsters create likely voter models.