Political Advocacy

What Does the ABC NorCal Advocacy Team Do?

  • Represent members and the merit shop philosophy at local legislative meetings, hearings, press conferences and other forums 
  • Educate the community about local legislation, candidates and elections 
  • Ignite grassroots efforts (letter campaigns, phone calls, legislative visits) to support critical issues 
  • Political fundraising to support construction-friendly candidates and legislation 
Where Do You Come In?
As a constituent, you have a vital role to play in the legislative process. When you take the time to write, call or visit representatives in-person, they listen and take what you say into consideration.

Your story CAN change their view on the issues that affect you, your employees and your community.

Open Competition

Why is open competition in construction so important?
An unrestricted, competitive bidding process levels the playing field. Everyone has equal opportunity to bid on work.

With open competition, costs go down and quality goes up. Taxpayer funds are used efficiently and money is invested back into the community. As a result, community prosperity increases.

Work also stays local with open competition. Restricted competition narrows the field and supports the minority. The numbers don’t add up so jobs go to folks outside of the community.

Studies and real-life examples show that construction projects that don’t have an open competition bidding process are 12-20% more costly.

Here’s a recent example.

In September of 2014, the Pinole City Council approved a union-negotiated Project Labor Agreement (PLA) by a 4-0 vote for the construction of the joint Pinole-Hercules Water Pollution Control Plant Upgrade despite education efforts that explained that the PLA would decrease local opportunities for the majority of construction workers in Contra Costa County and increase costs. The City of Hercules voted against the PLA.

Eight contractors originally pre-qualified to bid the project. The recently released bid results show that only two bids were received and they were 11% and 29% over the engineer’s estimate of $39M ($43M and $49M respectively).

A differential of $4M+ that could go into other community projects.

Success Stories

Hartnell College rescinds PLA for $28.8M science building
In what was a terrific example of grassroots mobilization, local ABC NorCal contractors and the Salinas Chamber of Commerce voiced their concerns with the college's Governing Board's decision to require a project labor agreement (PLA) on the project. 

Their collective voice reached Trustee Elia Gonzalez-Castro, who requested that the topic be revisited and then made the motion to rescind the PLA. She argued that everyone should have access to the project just as all students have access to Hartnell College.

WETA removes PLA on $22M Vallejo ferry building
The San Francisco Water Emergency Transportation Association Board (WETA) initially voted to use a project labor agreement (PLA) on the proposed North Bay Maintenance and Operations Facility along the Mare Island waterfront. It was a rushed process. After learning that the PLA item was to be revisited in closed session on July 18 due to complications reaching an agreement with the unions, NorCal's advocacy team along with several other community groups moved to educate Board members and requested that the labor agreement be revisited in an open session. 

The WETA board reconvened and  ABC NorCal asked that certain provisions be added to the agreement so as to not discourage nonunion contractors from bidding on the project. A debate followed and ultimately an agreement could not be reached with the unions. In the end, WETA removed the labor agreement from the bid specifications.

Quickie Election Rule

The National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) "quickie" or "ambush" election rule went into effect on April 14, 2015. Under this ruling, the amount of time between when a union files a representation petition and an election takes place is drastically reduced from the current average of 38 days. 

The following resources cover the recent ruling:
ABC Members: Please contact us for the NLRB Tool Kit. Let us know if you would like access to counsel; we are happy to provide you with referrals.

What is a PLA?

A Project Labor Agreement (PLA), also known as Community Workforce Agreement or Community Benefit Agreement, is a bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the employment terms and conditions for a specific construction project. 

PLAs typically require that employees hired for the project are referred through union hiring halls, that nonunion workers pay union dues for the length of the project, and that the contractor follow union rules on pensions, work conditions and dispute resolution.

Fast Facts
  • 84% of California's construction workforce does not belong to a union. So when a PLA mandates that all workers be hired through a union hall, there's a very good chance that the project is not going to employ a local workforce.

  • PLAs restrict the bidding process. Restricted bidding means less competition. Less competition means higher costs. When the project in question is a public works project, the funding comes from local taxpayers. So ultimately you and your neighbors are the ones paying for unnecessary and inflated construction costs.

  • Under a PLA, all apprentices must come from state-approved union programs. So young and emerging professionals training with a state-approved merit shop program (like ABC NorCal's), cannot be employed.
ABC NORCAL responds to SAC Arena PLA

What is the ABC NorCal PAC?

The ABC NorCal Political Action Committee (PAC) is a group of members who donate funds to help elect state and local pro-merit shop candidates or support ballot initiatives that uphold fair and open competition. ABC NorCal PAC funds also:

• Nurture relationships with state and local elected officials and future merit-shop champions.
• Maintain political balance on local governing boards.

ABC NorCal PAC Success Stories

Election of Candace Andersen to Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors

When Gail Uilkema vacated her seat on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, we quickly identified the need to support former Danville Mayor, Candace Andersen's candidacy. Her opponent, Tomi Van de Brooke, had been the key vote in 2011 for a project labor agreement at the Contra Costa Community College District that shut out local small businesses and workers from the long-standing, district-wide competitive bidding process.  

ABC NorCal members hosted a fundraising event in support of Candace; more than 80 local construction professionals attended and close to $16,000 was raised. Our advocacy team also spearheaded several grassroots campaigns to educate the community about the candidates and their positions.

Thanks in part to ABC NorCal's support, Candace Andersen defeated Tomi Van de Brooke by a wide margin - 59.61% to 28.35%. 

Election of Andy Vidak to State Senate District 16
ABC NorCal PAC dollars came into play not once, but twice in the extremely close special election race for the State Senate District 16 seat formerly held by Michael Rubio. The initial max investment in Andy Vidak’s campaign yielded a runoff with Leticia Perez, and the second tipped the scales in favor of Vidak: 51.9% to 48.1%.

Senator Vidak recognizes ABC as one of the pivotal groups who helped him get elected to the State Senate.

Position Statements

ABC NorCal on California Prevailing Wage
The Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California Chapter (ABC NorCal) believes all workers deserve a fair wage for work performed.  More >>

ABC NorCal on Union-Only PLAs
Project labor agreements (PLAs) discourage or prohibit merit shop contractors from competing for and winning construction project contracts. Construction contracts with PLAs are almost always awarded exclusively to unionized contractors and their all-union workforces.
More >>

ABC NorCal on Private PLAs
ABC NorCal supports the choice of the private owner, developer, company, corporation or contractor to require the use of Project Labor Agreements on projects without the influence/interference of labor unions and their tactics. More >>

ABC NorCal on CEQA Abuse
In 1970, Governor Ronald Regan signed the California Environmental Act (CEQA) with the intent to “develop and maintain a high-quality environment now and in the future, and take all action necessary to protect, rehabilitate and enhance the environmental quality of the state.”  More >>


Measuring the costs of project labor agreements on CA schools
According to a study released by the National University System Institute for Policy Research, California school construction projects built using PLAs experienced increased costs of 13-15 percent, or $28.90 to $32.49 per square foot, compared to projects that did not use a PLA. 
More >>

2012 Charter Cities Report

Compiled and presented by the California Construction Compliance Group.
More >>