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Locals to get first dibs on SLO wastewater project 

Trade workers on the Central Coast will get first priority for work on the massive renovations planned for San Luis Obispo's wastewater treatment plant, as the SLO City Council adopted its first-ever Community Workforce Agreement on Nov. 13 for the project.

click to enlarge FOR HIRE The SLO City Council approved its first-ever Community Workforce Agreement for upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant (pictured) on Nov. 13. - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SLO
  • Image Courtesy Of The City Of Slo
  • FOR HIRE The SLO City Council approved its first-ever Community Workforce Agreement for upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant (pictured) on Nov. 13.

The agreement formalizes an employment structure that will prioritize the hiring of local contractors and workers, starting from within the city, then out to SLO County, Santa Barbara and Monterey counties, and Ventura County.

"Under the terms of a Community Workforce Agreement like the one recommended here, the union hall has the legal authority and commits to prioritize local workers for employment on the city's project," a city staff report stated.

SLO negotiated the agreement with the Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 33 craft unions in SLO, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. Per its terms, the trade unions will be the sole source of craft labor for the $114 million project, but non-union members may participate by registering with the union halls.

"It's going to change a lot of people's lives," tradesman David Baldwin said during public comment on Nov. 13. "These agreements do help communities. That's what they're all about. More young families are going to get a stay and work here; there's going to be more opportunities for apprentices here; our local workers are going to work here."

While unions supported the agreement, non-union contractors weren't so excited about it. Cordelia Perry, executive director of the SLO County Builders Exchange, spoke out in opposition to it, saying project labor agreements (PLAs) raise project costs and disadvantage non-union contractors.

"PLAs become costly on construction projects. ... It's a waste of taxpayers' money," Perry said. "[PLAs] ensure a lot of your local contractors won't bid on this project."

SLO anticipates that administering the agreement will cost between $325,000 and $498,444. The City Council supported it unanimously.

"We know that there are agreements that don't work and there are agreements that do work," Councilmember Carlyn Christianson said. "We ultimately wanted to protect local hire, not ... to engage unions. We wanted to try to keep our workforce for this very large project local because ... what we see going forward is a very possible recession and a very specific and very real loss of jobs and training through the Diablo power plant closure." Δ

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