I was surprised by the junk mail I received last week sent by big corporate contractors from outside the area spewing lies about Community Workforce Agreements! The only statement that they got right was my address.
Let me share with you the truth. A Community Workforce Agreement is only for a specific type of project. These are defined as prevailing wage jobs that are larger and more complicated construction projects. These projects, in a fiscally responsible world, should only have bidding contractors that can field a trained and qualified workforce. Those contractors should preferably employ a workforce that has completed a state-approved apprenticeship program.
Studies show that CWA’s are a positive move for the communities that they serve. The folks that sent this junk mail want you to believe that these construction corporations are on par with organized Labor. Let me point out the differences.
The Local Union I work for has been representing and training the residents of Santa Barbara County for over 100 years. My job is to represent the working people performing pipe trades work, Union and non-Union alike. Big corporate construction companies are only interested in extracting profit.
In my opinion, it is no secret that the top pipe trades contractors in Santa Barbara have always been signatory contractors. These are the companies that pay head of household wages and abide by the state-mandated equal opportunity guidelines by our inclusion of women and minorities and almost all returning vets that apply to our programs. And by the way, our programs provide head of household wages and benefits every single day on all their projects.
So, what’s all the fuss about? These big construction corporations and contractors, many of whom are not even from this area, are not satisfied with taking most of the low-hanging fruit, they want it all. That sounds a lot like corporate greed to me. They pay a noisy mouthpiece from outside our community to stir up hate and spread misinformation.
The facts are projects that are affected by CWA’s are rarely done by local contractors, most of them are not financially qualified (bonded or insured) to do them. These projects are performed by big contractors from Los Angeles and very often out of state. When that happens, they bring in their cronies (also from outside the area) to perform most of the sub-contracting work. That leaves little or no opportunity for local workers to participate.
Don’t believe the nonsense that nonunion shops would be prevented from bidding on these projects. That is against the law. You might see fewer bidders because those that participate in wage theft and are violators of state labor laws are not interested in bidding on a level playing field.
The entire community owes many thanks to our local political leaders for being fiscally responsible with County tax dollars by understanding that the taxpayers deserve the best quality craftspeople working on their projects. Local working people need this opportunity, now more than ever.
Michael Lopez is the business manager for UA Local 114 Plumbers, Pipefitters, Pipe Trades Apprentices.