Martinez, Calif. is the first city in Contra Costa County to negotiate a project labor agreement covering all public works jobs with a $250,000 threshold.

Located above San Francisco, Contra Costa County encompasses some of California’s industrial towns, like Richmond, home to a Chevron refinery and Pittsburg, honoring the erstwhile industrial giant 3,000 miles away, still home to a modern steel mill.

These facilities and a U.S. Navy weapons station in Concord have provided jobs for members of Martinez Local 302 for generations.  While some school districts had negotiated project labor agreements, the local had never succeeded in negotiating a PLA covering public works in any of the county’s towns or cities.

Everything changed in November, when the Martinez City council approved a PLA that will immediately be applied to underscore union-scale wages and benefits and a percentage of local hiring for building trades work on a waterfront park project.

“We brought city council members to our training center and we pushed the issue of putting local folks to work,” said Local 302 Business Manager Ronald Bennett.

Local political leaders had seen scores of workers come in from Sacramento and other towns to work on a Shell refinery project and were drawn to a proposal that would put more local citizens to work in the historic California Gold Rush way station.

Jason Lopez, a member of Martinez, Calif., Local 302, works on a public works job moving a computer server to a new location.

Construction trade members showed up in healthy numbers at a November council meeting prompting Mayor Rob Schroder to create an ad hoc committee to look into the feasibility of a PLA. 

Bennett says Local 302 Assistant Business Manager Bob Lilly kicked off the local’s advocacy of PLAs in the county, in Pleasant Hills, an adjacent town where he has lived for many years.

While Martinez Mayor Alan Shear originally wanted a $1 million trigger before a job could qualify for a PLA, the council approved a measure providing for any job costing more than $250,000 to be covered by a pre-hiring bargaining agreement.

The Martinez PLA contains a goal of 25 percent local hires. The Contra Costa Times reported that Greg Ferre, an officer of the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades, told the city council, “You are setting the gold standard for citywide project labor agreements.”

Bennett says he’s optimistic that the Martinez PLA will be the first of many in the county.