Following on the heels of a five-year Project Labor Agreement (PLA) signed in July for the Port of Los Angeles, the board of directors of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) voted yesterday to institute a 30-year Construction Careers Policy (CCP) and PLA for LA Metro construction projects, including projects funded under Measure R, the half-cent sales tax.

The policy sets a precedent as the first of its kind for a major transit agency in the U.S., according to the authority.

The Metro CCP/PLA will target communities “hardest hit by the recession and most in need of good, new jobs,” according to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the chartered Central Labor Council (CLC) of the AFL-CIO, which brokered the deal with LA Metro, the progressive
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The policy requires that at least 30% of the jobs created go to workers from areas with high unemployment and that at least 10% go to disadvantaged workers, which include single parents, individuals without a high school diploma and those who have received public assistance.

Individuals who are hired will join multi-year apprenticeship programs in the building trades unions, says the CLC. These apprenticeships offer career-track education and experience in the construction industry as well as specialized craft training and rigorous safety standards.

The agreement also “ensures avoidance of work stoppage due to labor disputes.”

According to a LAANE unemployment analysis released in May, there is 200% unemployment in 83 zip codes in Los Angeles County and 150% unemployment in 57 additional zip codes. The new policy’s targeted hire program “will ultimately be determined by LA Metro and the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council during negotiations,” said spokeswoman Laurie Kaufman.

In November 2008, Measure R was approved by a two-thirds majority of L.A. County voters, committing a projected $40 billion in traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout the county over the next 30 years. Construction projects at LA Metro, including those funded by Measure R, total over $70 billion dollars in infrastructure investment, creating over 260,000 construction jobs, according to the CLC.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas of the Second District, which includes the cities of Baldwin Park, Hawthorne and Compton, said in a press conference following the vote that his district is suffering from extremely high levels of unemployment and has been pushing for such an agreement for years.

“Today’s vote by the LA Metro board, will ensure targeted hiring for thousands of construction jobs and authorize the authority to negotiate an agency-wide policy,” said Ridley-Thomas. “No action taken by this board, and dare I say any entity in the county, will do as much to provide not just employment, but actual career opportunities.”

In addition to the Port of Los Angeles agreement, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a CCP/PLA in May at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital, and the Exposition Line Authority approved a Construction Careers Policy in March for phase II of the Exposition Line project. The Los Angeles Department of Public Works also instituted a policy over the last year.