Foes of a labor pact on the San Diego Unified school renovation bond crowed when bids for the first project under the agreement came in higher than expected. Now fans of the labor deal are doing the same, after bids for the second project under the agreement came in lower than expected.

Renovating the automotive shop at Clairemont High School was estimated to cost $4.1 million, but the lowest bid for the contract came in at $2.5 million, according to a school district press release. That pencils out to roughly 40 percent under the estimate.

The work has not yet been awarded, but the company that seems poised to win, Straight Line General Contractors, is based in Oceanside and is not unionized. Its president, David Williams, said the labor pact made them uncomfortable, but they bid anyway because of the lack of work in San Diego County.

And that’s buoyed the labor pact’s advocates.

“It deflates the two major arguments that the opponents were putting out: That non-union contractors wouldn’t bid and that it would raise costs,” said Xavier Leonard, a spokesperson for the Center on Policy Initiatives, a labor-friendly think tank that supports the plan.

For both sides, it’s too soon to say that the labor deal is driving costs either way. We’ll be tracking what happens to costs under the labor agreement over the longer term.

— EMILY ALPERT

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