California’s Top Construction Union Officials Love the State’s $100 Billion High-Speed Rail Project

by News on November 30, 2011

in Pro Worker Legislation, State and Local, State Legislation, Union Contracting Privileges

By Kevin Dayton/The Truth About PLAs

The November 27 Bakersfield Californian newspaper includes an opinion piece written by Bob Balgenorth, head of the California State Building and Construction Trades Council, promoting construction of the state’s proposed $98.5 billion High-Speed Rail as a better alternative to construction of freeways and airports: Bob Balgenorth: Airport, highway expansion impractical; HSR better option. He also had an opinion piece in the November 12 Merced Sun-Star: Bob Balgenorth: California can’t afford not to build high-speed rail system.

What would lead Mr. Balgenorth to make such a bold public assertion? Is it possible he has greater wisdom and foresight than the average Californian about getting a speedier ride from Madera to Corcoran after 2017?

Associated Builders and Contractors of California has long tracked reports and rumors that the California State Building and Construction Trades Council and its affiliated construction trade unions want contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions in order to work on the California High-Speed Rail Project. Either the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Board of Directors would approve a resolution requiring its contractors to sign a PLA, or political pressure could be exerted behind the scenes to convince the prime contractor to negotiate and sign a PLA (without any explicit direction from the High-Speed Rail Authority). The threat was only heightened in March 2011, when the State Senate Rules Committee appointed Bob Balgenorth to a vacant seat on the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors. (Operating Engineers Local No. 3 business manager Russ Burns also serves on the nine-member board.)

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