For months, local tradespeople have stood before the podium at Mountain View City Council meetings voicing their support for a community workforce agreement. Now, that concept is one step closer to reality.
Community workforce agreements (CWAs), also known as project labor agreements, are contracts drawn up between labor organizations and a public agency that establish pay and work conditions for major capital construction projects.
The Mountain View City Council previously made negotiating such an agreement a top priority for the upcoming fiscal year. The council discussed what it would take to make it happen at a June 27 study session.
These labor agreements usually include standards for wages and benefits, plus requirements that union workers get hired to work on city projects, according to the staff report. CWAs also typically include provisions that prohibit workers from engaging in strikes or other work disputes, as well as procedures to resolve disputes that may arise.
At the meeting, Public Works Director Dawn Cameron said that for cities, a key benefit of establishing a CWA is including provisions related to workforce development – “specifically, including local hire targets, primarily achieved through access to apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships."
CWAs are different from collective bargaining agreements, which are established between individual trade unions and contractors. A CWA is drawn up between multiple craft unions and the public agency that’s awarding a construction contract.
In this case, if Mountain View were to establish a CWA, it would be between the city and the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, which is made up of 27 different local labor unions.
“It is intended to apply only to the city’s public works construction contracts, not to projects being constructed by other public or private sector organizations,” Cameron said.
David Bini, executive director of the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, said that “with a more ethical bidding pool provided by a CWA, the city will experience more construction that is on time and on budget.”
Bini added that by establishing a CWA, the city can provide more opportunities for Mountain View residents to access trade apprenticeship programs that lead to high-paid jobs. The city could add local hire provisions to a CWA that require contractors to hire certain categories of workers, which could include graduates of local schools, to veterans, to at-risk youth, to low income individuals, according to the staff report.
The City Council’s June 27 discussion was part of a study session, meaning no formal action was taken, but council members were largely supportive of the concept.
“I really am interested in the apprenticeship process, and helping people get educated to be the skilled workers of tomorrow,” said Vice Mayor Pat Showalter during the meeting. “To me, I’d like to maximize that as much as practicable.”
If Mountain View negotiates a CWA, it will become only the second city in Santa Clara County to do so, with San Jose having established one in 2019. Local public agencies including Valley Water and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) also put CWAs in place over the last few years.
“The leaders of these agencies are people we know and admire, and it’s not a great risk to follow in their footsteps,” Bini said.
Public agencies that enter into CWAs usually negotiate a minimum value a project must be worth before the agreement would come into effect. In San Jose, for instance, projects worth more than about $1 million are subject to the CWA. Other Bay Area cities like Berkeley have lower thresholds, with any project worth more than $500,000 being subject to the terms of the CWA. Valley Water and VTA’s both require that a project be worth $2 million before the CWA kicks in.
To figure out what to include in Mountain View’s CWA, city staff recommended that the process begin with outreach to stakeholders, like labor organizations and contractors, prior to the council providing direction.
“While research of the experience from other agencies provides good information, staff considers local outreach important to develop an agreement that best suits the Mountain View community,” the staff report said.
The city plans to do outreach this summer and return to council with the results and recommendations for the CWA in September or October 2023. Staff anticipates negotiating the agreement with the Building Trades Council will take from roughly September to December this year, with a target to adopt the CWA in early 2024.