Jonathan HoltzmanA little known fact: Jon Holtzman, Renne Public Law Group founding partner, has decades of experience drafting, negotiating, administering and defending Project Labor Agreements (PLA). Jon combines both deep expertise in the political intricacies of labor issues with the knowledge of how to draft a PLA that is both efficient and achieves hiring goals.

PLAs, also known as Community Workforce Agreements, are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements with one or more labor organizations that establish the terms and conditions of employment for either a specific project or for all construction projects over a threshold dollar amount. Communities, contractors and labor unions typically use PLAs to ensure smooth completion of projects, to encourage local hiring, to foster robust apprenticeship programs and, more generally, to build alliances with building trade unions.

Though negotiating PLAs provides an opportunity to work collaboratively with local unions to achieve critical goals for government and the community, this work also presents unique challenges. Unless properly negotiated and crafted, PLAs can lead to economic inefficiency, discourage bidders, and fail to achieve hiring and training goals. With this in mind, RPLG endeavors to partner closely with policymakers, management and operational staff to produce PLAs tailored to the particular needs of a project, as well as the needs of the relevant public agency and its governing body.

The RPLG team has drafted and negotiated agreements covering more than $10 billion in project work, with another $10 billion in project work under negotiation. Under Mr. Holtzman’s leadership, RPLG has founded a proven track record in negotiating with building and construction trade councils and their affiliated unions.

Mr. Holtzman’s practice focuses on assisting government agencies in maintaining and expanding public services through strategic consulting and negotiation with a specialization in multi-party negotiations. For over 20 years, he has advised on, drafted, negotiated and defended numerous PLAs on behalf of municipal and public agency clients throughout California.

Among the PLAs that Mr. Holtzman has negotiated are: TJPA Transbay Transit Center Program PLA (2011), San Francisco Unified School District PLA (2013), San Francisco Housing Authority PLA (2015), City of Half Moon Bay (2016), Fresno Transformative Climate Communities Program (2016), Pinole – Hercules Wastewater Treatment Plant PLA (2015), City of Martinez PLA (Pending), Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (Pending) and Fresno Airport (pending).

“PLA’s pose a tantalizing challenge. There is great potential to harness labor apprenticeship programs for disadvantaged workers. Elected officials like PLAs for that reason, and because they build bonds with the building trades. Staff, on the other hand, are often concerned that PLAs will lead to inefficient practices, drive up costs, reduce subcontractor coverage and lead to administrative headaches. Unions are often reluctant to make clear, enforceable guarantees that local residents and disadvantaged workers will actually be hired or trained. And, minority and local contractors are often concerned that large unionized contractors who are experiences with PLAs will take all of their work. So the challenge of PLAs is not to ignore any of these voices, but to come together and help each other achieve their goals, while containing costs.”

“For years PLAs were a political football. Republican administrations in Washington banned them; Democrats encouraged them. Right wing commentators railed at them. But, PLAs have applied to more and more work, the question is no longer whether a PLA is good or bad. They are inherently neither. The question is whether you can negotiate a PLA that contains costs and leads to real achievements in the area of workforce training and hiring. If you can, it’s a good thing. If not, you should know when to walk away.”

For more information on the firm’s PLA work, read about our Government and Labor & Employment practice areas.