Pact sets $1 mil threshold for construction projects.

For years, progressive members of the San Leandro City Council had sought a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA) with the area’s building trades union. On Monday, the council unanimously approved a three-year pact with the trades that city officials say will provide high wages for its residents and help build the local economy.

“It’s been a long-time coming,” said Councilmember Jim Prola. “It’s something that I’ve wanted for some time.” During the lead up to the 2010 elections in San Leandro, Prola and others attempted to pass a similar CWA, but the legislation failed by one vote.

The agreement assigns the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council as the sole bargaining representative for construction projects valued at more than $1 million. The monetary threshold was pegged at $1 million due to concerns the pact gives the trade union too much power, said San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter.

“This is a major initiative,” said City Manager Chris Zapata said of the approved agreement. Later, he called it the “third-best week” the city has had since his tenure began in 2011 and following the opening of Kaiser Permanente and the Pacific Sports Complex, both near Marina Boulevard. The agreement featured an open dialogue between the unions and the business community, added Zapata. “Although there wasn’t always agreement, there was always civility.”

The labor agreement also includes provisions that 30 percent of the workforce for projects be set aside for San Leandro residents. “We’re going to take care of families and put some young people in the pipeline for a career in the future,” said Councilmember Lee Thomas.

Monday’s night’s CWA follows a Local Inclusion Policy passed last year that favors San Leandro-based companies who bid for city contracts. And it’s also another sign the San Leandro City Council is displaying a more deliberate progressive slope after a moderate insurgency led by former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy fizzled leading to his decision not to seek re-election last fall.

Yet with no shortage of capital improvement projects either underway or in the pipeline, the lone point of contention during Monday’s discussion revolved over whether non-union companies should be required to use San Leandro residents as their core employees.

The question was broached by Cutter, but the council voiced support for keeping the provision as written. Councilmember Corina Lopez said with the number of large construction projects in the city, higher wages will help residents keep pace with rapidly-rising costs of living in the East Bay. “I think this CWA is something that is positive, obligatory, necessary, and the right way to use our tax dollars.”

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Originally posted at East Bay Citizen.