Project Labor Agreements

RPLG has decades of experience drafting, negotiating, administering and defending Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on behalf of all types of public entities, and nonprofit affordable housing developers. Our team has successfully negotiated and administered agreements covering more than $10 billion in project work – with billions more currently under negotiation – and has a proven track record negotiating with building and construction trades councils and their affiliated unions. We deliver agreements that achieve our clients’ objectives, including policy objectives such as local and disadvantaged hiring and training, including apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs – as well as cost-control and ease of administration.

The RPLG team enjoys negotiating PLAs because they are an opportunity to work collaboratively with local unions to achieve critical goals for government and the community, helping deliver crucial public projects and new affordable housing units. At the same time, PLAs present certain challenges: legal constraints concerning the application of such agreements; unique requirements of various craft unions and their training and referral systems; concerns of small and non-union contractors related to compliance and operations; general cost and operational challenges in the construction industry; and complex issues involved in developing hiring policies that will reach and benefit diverse populations. Our decades of experience working on PLAs have taught us the value of working closely with policymakers, management and operational staff to produce PLAs tailored to the particular needs of a project or projects and the needs of a particular public agency and its governing body. We engage policymakers and staff early in the process and communicate regularly with specifically designated individuals throughout the drafting and negotiation of the agreement, building our clients’ expertise as we move through negotiation and into implementation.

Meet Our Experts

Jonathan Holtzman
Jonathan HoltzmanFounding Partner
Julian Gross
Julian GrossPartner

Community benefits agreements

A CBA is a legally enforceable contract between a coalition of community-based organizations and the developer of a proposed project. In exchange for the coalition’s public support of the project in the approval process, the developer agrees to contribute benefits to the local community if the project moves forward. In this way, the coalition has a hand in shaping the project, while the developer builds community support and strengthens local partnerships. The result is a smoother approvals process for the developer and a better project for the community.

Coalitions of community-based organizations and other stakeholders build sufficient political leverage to shape terms of development in their communities; they then negotiate a CBA directly with project developers, providing public support to projects that will deliver a strong slate of community benefits.

Developers directly negotiate a CBA with community coalitions, gaining support for their project and building local partnerships that will benefit the project over time.

Elected officials and city staff keep lines of communication open to ensure consistency with the city’s policy goals.

Strong Coalitions. The CBAs that deliver the strongest slate of community benefits are negotiated by a credible, unified coalition of grassroots community organizations that can leverage a sophisticated campaign, including organizing capacity, media engagement, policy research, and legal capacity. Community/labor coalitions have been particularly effective.

Role of Government. CBAs supplement the existing processes by which a public entity shapes a large urban development project. City staff and elected officials can show inclusive leadership by (i) ensuring transparency around project development, (ii) indicating to developers the importance of broad community support during the project approval phase, and (iii) allowing space for CBA negotiations, without trying to control them.

Resistance to concept. City staff and elected officials may be resistant to CBAs, because they are either unaware of how CBAs operate, or are threatened by what they perceive to be a release of control over project development.

Misuse of CBAs. Developers, and city staff that are in strong support of a proposed project, may misuse the CBA concept:

  • They may characterize the Development Agreement or a portion of it as a CBA – even though it is not negotiated by, and will not be enforceable by, community representatives.
  • They may arrange for and release to the public a “CBA” between the developer and a friendly local body, such as the local chamber of commerce, that will not actually press the developer for changes to the project.

Each of these methods is an attempt to occupy space that might otherwise be filled by a robust, community-drivenCBA effort.

Importance of sufficient community leverage. Without demonstrable public pressure and legal leverage, sufficient to shape dynamics of project approvals, developers may lack incentive to negotiate.

No CBA can involve all stakeholders. Certain segments of a community may be unable or unwilling to participate in a CBA negotiation process; no one should take a CBA effort as channeling or capturing every community opinion or priority.

Enforcement. Projects can take a decade or more to come to fruition. Community coalitions may lack long-term capacity to monitor CBAs and enforce CBA terms against successors to the developer.

Our team has worked on the following PLAs across the State of California:

  • Transbay Transit Center Project Labor Agreement (2011)

  • San Francisco Housing Authority Residential Assistance Demonstration Program (2015)

  • City of Fresno Transformative Climate Communications Project Labor Agreement (2016)

  • City of Martinez Project Labor Agreement

  • Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

  • Santa Clara Valley Water District

  • City of Fresno Project Labor Agreement

City of Fresno

Project Labor Agreement

City of Fresno – In Re Project Labor Agreement for City of Fresno (2019)

Successfully negotiated a Project Labor Agreement between the Fresno Madera Kings Tulare Building Trades Council, the City of Fresno and the Fresno International Airport in order to cover a terminal and parking garage expansion. The Agreement, which includes a targeted hiring provision for disadvantaged workers, was adopted unanimously by the Fresno City Council.

State Center Community College District

Project Labor Agreement

In Re Project Labor Agreement for the State Center Community College District (2019)

Successfully negotiated a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) between the Fresno Madera Kings Tulare Building Trades Council and the State Center Community College District, covering Phase I of the construction of the West Fresno Campus. Adopted March 10, 2020, the PLA includes a hiring preference and apprenticeship opportunities for graduates of the community college district.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority

Project Labor Agreement

In Re Project Labor Agreement for Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (2020)

Finalizing negotiations on a Project Labor Agreement between the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the Santa Clara and San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council, covering a projected estimate of $7 billion dollars’ worth of Project Work. The Agreement establishes a partnership between the Authority and the Community Workforce Coordinator(s) for the purpose of connecting disadvantaged workers with hiring and apprenticeship opportunities.

City of Tracy

Project Labor Agreement (in progress)

Project Labor Agreement (in progress)

Representing City of Tracy in negotiations of a Project Labor Agreement with the San Joaquin County Building and Construction Trades Council, covering certain public works construction projects. The agreement will provide quality employment and training opportunities for local workers, and promote cost control and efficiency on City projects.

Alameda County

Project Stabilization/Community Benefits Agreement (in progress)

Project Stabilization/Community Benefits Agreement (in progress) (Partner Julian Gross)

Representing Alameda County in negotiation of Project Stabilization/Community Benefits Agreement for County public works projects, with the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council and affiliated unions.  The agreement will provide quality employment and training opportunities for local and disadvantaged workers, and promote cost control and efficiency on County projects.

San Francisco

Hub District Community Benefits Agreements

Hub District Community Benefits Agreements

Represented coalition of community-based organizations in negotiation of three legally-binding Community Benefits Agreements related to large land use development projects in the mid-market area of San Francisco. The agreements contain development commitments strengthening the projects’ affordable housing and local business commitments.

San Francisco

One Vassar Project Community Benefits Agreement

One Vassar Project Community Benefits Agreement

Represented coalition of community-based organizations in negotiation of a legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement for hotel development in South of Market neighborhood. The agreement contains developer commitments strengthening the project’s local and disadvantaged hiring requirements and workforce development funding requirements.

Alameda County A1 Bond Funds

Project Labor Agreement for Affordable Housing Projects

Project Labor Agreement for Affordable Housing Projects

Represented Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California in negotiation of a Project Labor Agreement applicable to billions of dollars of affordable housing development construction funded by Alameda County’s voter-approved bond funds.  Two years of negotiations led to a groundbreaking agreement covering labor standards for affordable housing development projects, providing local and disadvantaged employment and business opportunities, and ensuring cost control.

Los Angeles

Exposition Point Community Benefits Agreement

Exposition Point Community Benefits Agreement

Represented coalition of community-based organizations in negotiation of a legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement for the Exposition Point project, a large mixed-use development project in Los Angeles.  The agreement contains developer commitments regarding affordable housing, tenant relocation, and local jobs.