Courtesy of AGC San DieGO
San Diegans will vote on June 5 on whether to ban PLAs on public works.

Seeking to follow what its surrounding county did in 2010, the city of San Diego will decide on June 5 the fate of Proposition A—whether to ban the use of project labor agreements, or PLAs, in public works not linked to state or federal funds. The measure is supported by local contractor groups but already has spawned state legislation that seeks to curb its impact.

Some San Diego officials have warned the measure could have consequences for the city. In April, state Controller John Chiang said that, if Prop A passes, $158 million the city received last year for construction projects would be cut.

The Associated General Contractors of San Diego disagrees. "It's not going to stop state funding," says Jim Ryan, chapter executive vice president. "There's an ordinance in the initiative that says [if Prop A compromises state funding], it will not be enforced."

But the measure already prompted the state to enact last fall a union-supported bill that does not require any city to enter into a PLA. It would withhold state construction funds from those that enact a blanket ban. Then, in April, the state Senate passed SB 829, which would get rid of blanket bans altogether and is focused on Prop A, industry observers say. It had strong backing from the state's Building and Construction Trades Council.

A spokesman for the bill's sponsor, Michael Rubio (D), defends PLAs in assuring project stability and minimizing public inconvenience. But says AGC's Ryan, "What's at stake is money, not the quality of services. Unions know that SB 829 is unconstitutional, or they would not have launched such a vigorous campaign to protect it."