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Watsonville City Council: Projects over $600,000 to require union agreement

By Donna Jones-Santa Cruz Sentinel

WATSONVILLE — Watsonville will be the first city in the Monterey Bay with a union-friendly ordinance governing public works projects.

The ordinance, approved on a 5-1 vote Tuesday, will require what’s known as a union-negotiated project labor agreement, or PLA, on public works projects costing more than $600,000.

The decision came after the council heard from numerous speakers, for and against the proposal.

Backers said the ordinance would increase opportunities for local residents, especially in regard to apprenticeships.

Opponents argued it would narrow the bidding process, and put nonunion contractors and workers at a disadvantage.

Nicole Goehring, government affairs director for the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., called the ordinance “exclusionary,” and urged the council to reject it.

“We have members who have workers that live in the city,” she said. “We’re for increasing work opportunities for all people.”

Union representatives, who vastly outnumbered opponents at the meeting, said their organizations were the ones that could ensure opportunities for local workers.

Andy Hartman, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 234, had several of the union’s apprentices stand up. He said the apprentices work 40-hour weeks and attend school two nights a week for five years to earn their journeyman status.

“This is the future workforce here,” he said. “That’s what we need to encourage.”

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