POLB: New PLA Ensures Jobs for Skilled Workers Without Stoppages

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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Ceremonial signing of the project labor agreement. From left: Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners President Sharon L. Weissman, Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Chris Hannan.

The Port of Long Beach (POLB) and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council have finalized a new 10-year project labor agreement (PLA) that “ensures large Port infrastructure projects will continue to be built by skilled workers without any stoppages, strikes or lockouts." The previous port-wide PLA was a five-year pact adopted in 2016 and extended for two years.

To mark the milestone, POLB and the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council held a ceremony on March 9, in conjunction with an event celebrating the completion of the Port’s Pier G Wharf Improvements Project, which was completed under a PLA.

Cutting the ceremonial ribbon for the completion of the ITS Pier G Wharf Extension are, from left, Long Beach Vice Mayor Cindy Allen, Long Beach Harbor Commissioner Bonnie Lowenthal, Harbor Commission President Sharon L. Weissman, Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, Port of Long Beach Deputy Executive Director/COO Dr. Noel Hacegaba, and International Transportation Service CEO Kim Holtermand.

According to POLB, the new PLA covers construction projects valued at $5 million or more and sets hiring goals for skilled workers from Los Angeles and Orange counties, apprentices, veterans and transitional workers – single parents, the unemployed, and others. The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the new agreement in late January.

PLAs, the Port says, are common in the building and construction industry. This new agreement, which involves the Port, future contractors and unions, “sets the terms and conditions for delivering well-built marine terminals, rail improvements, roadways and other infrastructure in a timely fashion.” It does so, POLB adds, by specifying the process for swift resolution of any differences that may arise between contractors and workers, as well as potential jurisdictional disputes between unions.”

The ceremonial proclamation for the project labor agreement.

“This PLA ensures that qualified contractors will bid on new construction and create jobs that support great union careers,” said Chris Hannan, Executive Secretary of the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council, which is made up of 48 locals and union councils representing more than 140,000 skilled workers. “It is a framework for getting the most talented craftspeople on the job, so projects are built to the highest standards and last for generations.”

According to POLB, the Port implemented its first PLA in 2010. More agreements followed on a project-by-project basis until 2016 when the Port established its first umbrella—or “port-wide” —PLA for all major construction projects. Segments of Middle Harbor and the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge, both of which cost $1.5 billion, are among the infrastructure programs built under the Port’s early PLAs. Likewise, portions of the Pier B On-Dock Rail Support Facility, which will improve rail operations throughout the San Pedro Bay ports complex, are among the 17 projects valued at nearly $408 million due to be built under the new pact. Another three projects have been added since the Harbor Commission approved the agreement on Jan. 23. 

“Our track record speaks for itself,” said Darrin Lambrigger, Director of the Port’s Construction Management Division. “No work disruptions or lockouts occurred under any of the 32 projects completed to date under Port PLAs. They employed thousands of workers and paid out nearly $507 million in wages.”

Like its predecessors, the Port says its new PLA does not require contractors and subcontractors to be union shops. However, it does require them to pay prevailing wages and offer union benefits set forth in master labor agreements. Similarly, all apprentices and skilled workers earn union wages—nearly 23% higher than non-union wages nationwide, according to the AFL-CIO – regardless of union membership. They also earn union benefits that include health insurance and a pension contractors pay into wherever the job is.

The new PLA, POLB says, also builds on the Port’s workforce development initiatives, setting a goal of 40% of all construction hours worked to be performed by local residents, defined as those who live in either Los Angeles County or Orange County. It also sets a goal of 10% of all construction hours worked be performed by veterans and/or transitional workers. The latter, POLB says, refers to those who are homeless, custodial single parents, receiving public assistance, lacking a high school diploma or GED credential, unemployed, emancipated from foster care, or whose income is less than 70% of the region’s Lower Living Standard Income Level set by the federal government. Apprentices with less than 15% of the work hours needed to advance to the journey level and individuals who have successfully completed the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council’s Multi-Craft Core Curriculum Apprenticeship-Readiness Program also qualify as transitional workers, regardless of residency.

Apprentices, all closely supervised by journey-level workers, can compose up to 30% of each craft’s workforce. If possible, one in four apprentices will be in their first year of training.

Additionally, the new agreement emphasizes outreach to educational institutions, union training programs and other organizations that offer training and placement for construction jobs. This includes organizations dedicated to the advancement of underrepresented groups in the trades, such as veterans, women and communities of color. In partnership with the LA/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, the Port says it will build on its collaboration with Long Beach City College and Long Beach Unified School District to promote training and career opportunities in construction and the trades.

The Port says it also plans to work closely with union training programs in the region, such as Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 1309; the Southwest Carpenters Training Fund, the Apprenticeship Readiness Fund, and Women In Non Traditional Employment Roles (WINTER), said Adriana Ramirez, Manager of the Port’s Labor Compliance and PLA Program. “We want the economic benefits of international trade moving through our gateway to reach as many people as possible in our own backyard and extend beyond one-time-only jobs to support high-wage careers.”

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