San Francisco Adopts Citywide Project Labor Agreement

By Paul Burton

San Francisco Mayor London Breed signed legislation January 18 mandating the City to enter into a Citywide Project Labor Agreement with the San Francisco Building Trades Council for Public Works or improvement projects. The signing took place at the Plumbers Local 38 union hall.

Under the leadership of San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Tim Paulson, an agreement was made on the citywide PLA, and it passed through the Board of Supervisors unanimously January 15.

“Any contractor who bids on projects for the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and other City agencies will have to work under the terms of collective bargaining agreements of various trade unions,” Paulson said after the Citywide PLA was passed in January.

The origination of a citywide PLA came two decades ago when the concept of PLAs were still gaining popularity as a way to ensure union wages, benefits and other protections for large-scale projects. The ordinance in its current iteration was initially introduced in February of 2017 by then-Supervisor Mark Farrell. After a series of fits and starts, Paulson, along with Building Trades leadership, worked with Mayor Breed and the Board of Supervisors to push a deal through that would benefit all trades union workers in San Francisco.

“This legislation is a historic victory for San Francisco and those who build San Francisco,” Paulson said

The PLA legislation was amended and revised over the course of almost two years of negotiations between labor and City management, and several Board meetings. The original proposal called for amending the Administrative Code “to require a citywide project labor agreement applicable to certain public work or improvement projects with projected costs over $1,000,000 or where delay in completing the project may interrupt or delay services or use of facilities that are important to the City’s essential operations or infrastructure.” The amended legislation raises the threshold for coverage under the PLA. Local Business Enterprises and minority-owned businesses will not be required to work under terms of the PLA unless the total costs of projects they work on reaches $5 million.

The citywide PLA will enable the City to avoid costly delays and additional expenses associated with public works and improvement projects that involve numerous contractors and employees in different trades, have critical timelines for completion, and require a skilled and properly-trained workforce to successfully complete the work in a timely manner. Under the PLA policy, all contractors and subcontractors must hire apprentices from State-approved apprenticeship programs and use the “Helmets to Hardhats” program to assist veterans in obtaining employment.

The PLA legislation requires the City Administrator to negotiate with the relevant trade councils, craft and labor unions, and sign a PLA on behalf of the City by September of this year, though the time to reach a deal could be extended until December 1. The PLA would cover construction and remodeling of City buildings including fire and police stations, libraries, hospitals and other infrastructure. Details of the citywide PLA that will be negotiated and finalized will cover issues such as the number of core craft workers, percentages of apprentices and local hires, and the make up of any labor-management oversight committee to deal with issues and potential disputes.

This article was originally published on

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