Members of San Diego Local 569 stand with Mayor Todd Gloria, third from the right, at a signing ceremony on Valentine's Day as San Diego became the first major city to have a blanket project labor agreement. It was the result of roughly a decade of organizing by Local 569 and the Building Trades Council to revamp the city's political landscape.

San Diego is now the first major city in the U.S. to pass a blanket project labor agreement for nearly all city-funded construction, the culmination of roughly a decade of hard work and perseverance by Local 569 and the Building Trades Council to reshape the political landscape.

"This is truly a historic moment for the city, and it's always great to start your day supporting workers and working families in our great city," Mayor Todd Gloria said at a signing ceremony on Valentine's Day. "San Diego loves its workers and working families."

San Diego has long had a reputation for anti-worker policies that included a ban on PLAs. But over the last 10 years, through the concerted efforts of Local 569 in collaboration with the Building Trades Council, the balance of power has shifted toward working people. A City Council and mayor's office that were once dominated by Republicans has shifted to an all-Democrat, pro-worker body.

"No one thought we would be able to achieve the complete overhaul of the political landscape resulting in this significant win for workers," said Ninth District International Representative Gretchen Newsom. "It was the hard work of Local 569 working side-by-side with the San Diego Building Trades to strategize political efforts that produced these wins." Newsom, a Local 569 member, served on the negotiations committee to establish the PLA along with Local 569 Business Manager and Building Trades Council President Jeremy Abrams.

Newsom said it took the whole playbook of actions including precinct walks, phone banks, mailers, educating members and building coalitions.

"For decades, San Diego was treated as a test lab for all the worst policy ideas of corporate America," said Local 569 member Carol Kim, who also serves as business manager of the Building Trades Council and worked closely with Newsom over the years to organize the political shift. "This PLA won't erase the injustices of the past, but it can write a better, more equitable future."

The new PLA, which passed the council unanimously, is the outcome of a successful ballot initiative in 2022 to overturn a 10-year-old ban on the pro-worker agreements. Known as Measure D, the initiative passed by nearly 12 percentage points, thanks in large part to the efforts of Local 569 members who worked tirelessly to get out the vote.

"Make no mistake, this was a top priority for all our members," Newsom told The Electrical Worker at the time. "They walked door to door every single Saturday and Sunday for more than two months. We phone-banked, we text-banked, we pulled out all the stops for a successful campaign while the other side was spending a lot of money against us."

The PLA, which takes effect July 1 and runs through 2031, applies to projects of $5 million or more during its first two years. After that, the threshold drops to $1 million. The city is expected to award 111 contracts for construction projects during the ongoing fiscal year that are estimated to cost about $635 million in total, reported the San Diego Tribune.

With its pro-worker provisions like local hiring goals and apprenticeship requirements, the PLA makes San Diego eligible for state and federal projects, including the billions of dollars available from legislation like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

"This PLA means more work for IBEW members in the San Diego area," Newsom said. "As the city fixes and upgrades critical community infrastructure, it will now do so with the skilled and trained members of our building trades."

With so much high-paying work now on the table for Local 569's roughly 3,600 members, Abrams said, this effort can be a blueprint for other cities.

"This journey has been one that underscores the power of solidarity and a long-term commitment to ensure high-road, family-sustaining jobs for our members," Abrams said. "Politics and policy matter, and we hope our success provides an example to our sisters and brothers in other locals who are fighting the good fight for their members."