Project Labor Agreements improve lives
By Sheri Williams
Building Trades members came together with partners and politicians recently to celebrate the success of Project Labor Agreements in Sacramento and highlight how they are helping to build stronger communities and more diverse unions.
“Project Labor Agreements are changing lives in the community,” said Kevin Ferreira, executive director of the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council, at the event. “These programs are building middle class jobs and putting people to work from our neighborhoods. They make the Building Trades stronger, and they make Sacramento stronger.”
Ferreira pointed out that, working with the Sacramento City Council, the Building Trades hammered out a citywide Project Labor Agreement that will ensure the Building Trades have a deal in place on all major projects in the future. Upcoming projects include the new federal courthouse, a professional soccer stadium and multiple large projects in the Railyard developments. The Building Trades also have a long-standing agreement with the school district. Those projects will ensure Building Trades members have work for years to come, he said, and make it imperative the Trades train new members.
Through Project Labor Agreements, the Sacramento trades have added more than 500 apprentices to their ranks over the past year, with a focus on inclusivity and diversity. More than 100 of those new union members are formerly-incarcerated individuals, who are rebuilding their lives through the dignity of a middle class job. The apprenticeship programs have also welcomed more female members and veterans, and low-income members. Ferreira said that last year, 46 percent of Building Trades members locally were people of color, a number that has grown to more than 50 percent with the new apprentices.
Morgan Conner Cato, an apprentice who recently joined the trades, said he is grateful for the apprenticeship pathway.
“This program for me in particular has been very life changing,” he said.
Cato said a few months ago, he was unemployed and struggling. But he went through a pre-apprenticeship program and decided he wanted to become a sheet metal worker.
“It’s been a blast of an experience to say the least. I’m learning so much new stuff and I’m really putting myself in a better position not just for the right now but also for my future and my children’s future,” he said.
Ferreira said the success of Project Labor Agreements in Sacramento and around the state is partially due to the support of Labor-friendly politicians who value unions.
“I’ve worked hard with my colleagues in the Legislature, the state Department of General Services, and the Governor to ensure that the development of new state buildings and the renovation of existing state buildings continue to align with the values and goals of our city, and our county and our state,” said state Senator Richard Pan. “Most importantly, a commitment by the state of California to enter Project Labor Agreements as a prerequisite to build on state building projects.”
Pan said collaboration between state and local leaders along with the Building Trades has made Project Labor Agreements a pivotal part of new projects in the Sacramento region, as a way to ensure that new building benefits the community in holistic ways.
“We said, ‘Let’s make sure that happens, and we are going to work together to make things successful,’” said Pan. “These apprenticeships in the trades have lifted thousands out of poverty into a life that has given our citizens the opportunity to do well for themselves, provide good lives for their families, and again, we need to continue to build the middle class here in Sacramento and in the state of California.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg also lauded the accomplishments of Project Labor Agreements.
“This is a city that supports Organized Labor and the Building Trades,” said Steinberg. “We are proud to have a citywide Project Labor Agreement here.”
Steinberg said the agreement was the “right thing to do” for the city and residents.
“Why is it the right thing to do? Look at what’s happening in the city,” said Steinberg. “It is growing leaps and bounds. This is such an incredible, exciting time. … You can’t be serious about inclusive economic development, neighborhood-based economic development, if you are not willing to train, apprentice and hire the people that come up from our neighborhoods. And who does that better than anyone? It’s the Building Trades, and the Sacramento Sierra Building Trades especially.”
Sacramento City Councilman Steven Hansen spoke about the large numbers of construction projects currently happening in the city, highlighting that while there are many state projects, the city is also working on a new convention center and a revamp of the Memorial Auditorium and other projects.
“We want them to be built in ways that mean they are safe, that they are putting good people to work with good jobs, and that is what is happening here today,” he said.