The uprising is growing.

Voters in California have made it clear that fair competition and the betterment of local communities is more important than guaranteeing work to unions, regardless of value or quality.

Voters in Oceanside and Chula Vista are the most recent cities to place bans on project labor agreements (PLAs).

The Wall Street Journal reported on the two cities rebeling against project labor deals that raise costs:

By 56% to 43%, Chula Vista voted in favor of Proposition G, which bans project labor agreements. These rules let unions pre-emptively set the terms for municipal construction projects, such as requiring the contractors to consent to union representation, special benefits or pay collectively bargained wage rates. Such agreements increase taxpayer costs as competitive bidding between union and open shops is suppressed. From Boston’s Big Dig to the San Francisco airport, if it’s a project with egregious cost overruns, a project labor agreement is probably involved

Voters knew firsthand how costly and destructive this favoritism could be. In 2006, the developer Gaylord Entertainment announced plans to build a hotel and convention center in Chula Vista, only to cancel the project after two years in part because of union intransigence. With unemployment somewhere in the double-digits and cities statewide worried about bankruptcy, project labor agreements were an indulgence Chula Vista could no longer afford.

A recent $38 million water project in San Rafael considered placing a PLA on the project, but after surveying the much higher cost impacts of a PLA, decided to put the project out to competitive biding.

PublicCEO has covered both sides of the issue (Point-Counterpoint: The Case For Project Labor Agreements) yet I have yet to hear an opinion that truly makes the case for PLAs.

In fact, I would like to invite anyone to give me a straight answer as to how a project labor agreement is any different than a standard contract entered into between two parties. 

Everyday, individuals and organizations bind themselves to provide goods and services through a contract with specific terms and conditions.  You don’t need a project labor agreement that requires municipalities give public dollars to union slush funds to ensure strikes don’t occur, local employees get preference or that workers are paid prevailing wage.  You just need a good contract.

Why would any organization choose to shorten its list of potential bidders when the goal should be to find the highest quality of work at the lowest bid?  The problem is, PLAs are more about what the unions want.

I would invite anyone to offer a reason why any government should give a union a monopoly or preferential treatment at the expense of taxpayers and other businesses, especially when there’s no real benefit in return.  I’d love to hear a single sound take on the matter at

So I commend Chula Vista and Oceanside for standing strong in their revolt against what is essentially big business looking to stronghold communities.

There is simply no need for PLAs.  Let’s hope more cities follow.

James Spencer can be reached at