You might have caught an interesting Union Tribune article this weekend about the debate over whether San Diego Unified should opt for unionized workers to do construction and renovation under Proposition S, the $2.1 billion facilities bond voters approved in November.

One of the bond’s key backers, the local chapter of Associated General Contractors, said that it supported the bond on the understanding that unions would not get such an agreement:

(Executive Vice President Jim) Ryan said he asked San Diego schools Superintendent Terry Grier last year whether there would be a labor agreement. “Anything like that would have been a deal-breaker,” Ryan said.

Grier told him he didn’t believe there would be a labor agreement, Ryan said. The trade group then became the single biggest financial supporters of Yes on S. It contributed $181,000 to the campaign.

I e-mailed Grier to ask what agreement — if any — had been struck about union work. He replied that he was not aware of any agreements, formally or informally, made with the trade group about labor agreements. And he added that any agreements were not his to make:

Back in October 2008, I was asked by AGC whether the district would use a [Project Labor Agreement] with Prop S.  I replied that was a board decision.  However, given the make-up of the board at that time and the fact that we had not used a PLA with Prop MM, I did not think the district would use a PLA with Prop S.

But boards change — and the San Diego Unified board changed dramatically in November, ushering in a board majority that is sympathetic to labor unions. Whether to give preference to unionized workers is still a board decision, Grier wrote, but it will be made by a different board.


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