Using PLAs to get work at SFO

The concrete work at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is covered under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). “Unions work hard to get PLAs on big projects because they create a level playing field for wage rates,” says Business Rep Stu Helfer. “It means that non-local companies can’t come to the expensive Bay Area and underbid the local wages and conditions.”

Helfer adds that he’s been able to make language improvements in the PLAs, leveraging that language for improved coverage.

As part of the union’s routine monitoring of construction work in the area, Helfer noticed that Elite, a Sacramento-based company, had set up a portable batch plant for the SFO project and had started doing work there. “We’ve dealt with them before,” he says, “each time, discovering that they were underpaying their workers based on California state’s prevailing wage rates.”

Helfer says that the union started monitoring this job and collecting data on it. He adds that the union has had to utilize some creative methods for monitoring when the work is going on, because it’s all behind security fences that the union can’t get through.

As a result of Local 853’s labor compliance monitoring and research, the 15 drivers working on that project are now being represented by Local 853 while that project is ongoing.

Helfer wanted to give credit to Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise for his long-term vision of creating a labor-compliance program at Local 853.

Helfer adds that the Labor Compliance program and the language that we’ve gained under PLAs has resulted in about 400 drivers working as Teamsters in any given month.