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IID Puts Project Labor Agreements to Rest

-Editorial

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors discussed the status of the project labor agreements with local unions at their first meeting of 2021.

At the Dec. 1st meeting, the board approved the project labor agreement that was approved by a vote of 3-2 having Director Norma Galindo, Erik Ortega, and Alex Cardenas voting in favor. The board agenda memorandum’s staff recommendation stated: “Presented for board consideration and action.”

At a special meeting held on December 29, 2020, the board reported out action taken in a closed session. On a motion made by Director Hamby and seconded by Director Gonzalez, the following motion was adopted with Directors Hamby, Hanks, and Gonzalez voting yes with Directors Galindo and Cardenas voting no:

“I move to declare that the Board’s December 1, 2020 meeting on action item 25 is vague, unclear, and ambiguous and that the board did not properly enact an action on Item 25 on December 1, 2020, and that this item is placed on the information agenda for January 5, 2021,” Hamby stated.

The determination made by the present Board is not, in any way, an action to cure, correct, or rescind the actions of the prior board based on any alleged Brown Act violations.

The action taken on December 29th was a determination that the December 1st board action on Item 25 failed to identify which, if any PLAs, side letters, addenda, or other documents were moved for approval, and that the board could not impliedly approve “the PLA” as multiple PLAs and other documents were available for board consideration and action.

None of the aforementioned documents, or any others, were identified for approval in the board action. Additionally, there were no specific staff recommendations that could have been referenced for approval in the December 1, 2020 motion that would have necessarily constituted a clear and unambiguous board action. In sum, no specific action or item was identified for approval for Item 25 on December 1, 2020.

“As a practical matter, the current Board of Directors has determined that no action was taken on Item 25 on December 1st and that there are no existing approved project labor agreement or other related agreements with Trade Councils and IBEW, Local 47 associated with Item 25,” IID Attorney Frank Oswalt told the board.

In October of 2019, the board directed the negotiation of project labor agreements concerning general construction capital projects and outside line work. The board’s direction was to negotiate the agreements with a 10-year duration. The board appointed a committee, which included Director Norma Galindo and Erik Ortega to oversee and coordinate with the IID’s negotiators. The negotiators reached a provisional understanding with the labor groups, met with the board committee, who have reviewed the agreements. There are two basic sets of agreements: one, which embodies terms, negotiated with the Imperial County and Riverside-San Bernardino building and construction trade councils and the other with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 47 covering outside line work.

IID-funded public construction projects can 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 proper and timely manner. Construction delays caused by labor disputes can result in increased construction costs and delayed project completion. Project labor agreements are a vehicle for preventing such labor disputes.

Last year, when Erik Ortega was IID board president, requested the legal department develop a legal opinion on whether the Imperial Irrigation District may implement a policy requiring IID construction contractors to implement a project labor agreement as a condition of the award in connection with IID’s solicitation of public construction services.

A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) is a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project. Before any workers are hired on the project, construction unions have bargaining rights to determine the wage rates and benefits of all employees working on the particular project and to agree to the provisions of the agreement.

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