Statement: “PLAs deny nearly 85 percent of California’s construction workforce the ability to do public work projects … PLAs put special interests ahead of the public interest by restricting the bidding process to ONLY contractors backed by big labor unions…,” Eric Christen, executive director of Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, wrote in an editorial published in the San Diego Daily Transcript on March 1.

Determination: Huckster Propaganda

Analysis: Christen’s editorial blasted project labor agreements, or PLAs, which are pre-hire agreements used by government for some public works contracts. The San Diego Unified School District has instituted one but the county and other local municipalities want to ban them.

Much of the debate over PLAs has focused on whether they reduce costs. Opponents have argued the agreements increase costs by reducing competition. In his editorial, Christen said PLAs limit bids to only union-backed contractors and union member workers.

In fact, both of those assertions are wrong, and Christen knew it.

PLAs allow both union and nonunion companies to bid for work, and they allow both union and nonunion workers to be employed under certain conditions. For example, workers may be required to go through a union’s hiring hall or pay union fees.

In an interview, Christen acknowledged that nonunion contractors can enter bids on PLA projects and nonunion workers can work them. He said his statement was an effort to convey how the labor conditions may deter contractors from PLA projects as an “implicit form of discrimination.”

We’ve tagged the statement Huckster Propaganda, because there’s a big difference between who may bid or work and who can. Christen also knew the distinction.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to What claim should we explore next?


Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.