Proposed restrictions on county contracts pass first vote

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed an ordinance that bans certain agreements with organized labor on county work projects.

If passed on a second reading, county officials will not be allowed to enter into Project Labor Agreements with local construction unions.

The supervisors voted unanimously to pass a law themselves, instead of letting voters decide the issue in an election, in part to a avoid spending thousands of dollars to put the item on the ballot.

Despite the vote, the supervisors asked for a cost estimate for putting the issue of PLAs on the ballot in the November general election, suggesting that voters could eventually decide the question anyway.

The new law “ensures fair competition on county construction projects,” Supervisor Bill Horn said.

Drew Wells of Helix Electric told the Board of Supervisors that to qualify for PLA projects, contractors have to hire union workers and contribute to private and labor-sponsored benefit plans.

“We will not bid on a PLA project,” Wells said.

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education entered into a PLA for work performed under voter-passed Proposition S, a $2.1 billion bond measure.

Among other things, the PLA requires contractors to hire workers from San Diego County, including a specified percentage from certain ZIP codes deemed “economically distressed.”

That PLA came under fire because it was not part of the ballot language.