The North County Times has endorsed Proposition A, which would reaffirm the county’s current policy of not requiring project labor agreements.

The pre-hire agreements are pacts between a government and labor unions on public works contracts. In exchange for requiring contractors to pay for benefits or hire workers through union hiring halls, labor makes concessions like promising to prevent costly strikes.

But Prop. A supporters say project labor agreements deter nonunion companies from bidding on construction contracts. That reduces competition, the argument continues, and increases costs to taxpayers.

To quantify how much of the industry would be deterred, the Times’ editorial board wrote Sept. 24:

Nationwide, it is estimated that nearly 85 percent of all construction companies would be eliminated if “project labor agreements” were required. Avoiding the practice keeps the path open for all construction companies to bid on projects.

OK, two assertions from that argument caught my attention. First, I’ve never seen Prop. A supporters say 85 percent of construction companies are nonunion. They typically say 85 percent of construction workers don’t belong to a union, a statistic that comes from government surveys.

And second, project labor agreements don’t prohibit nonunion companies from winning contracts that use them. Prop. A supporters usually argue that they deter companies from bidding rather than eliminating them altogether.

So after the editorial published, I called Times Editor Kent Davy. He declined to say where the newspaper got the 85 percent statistic, but later called me back and said the newspaper would publish a correction. The editorial mistakenly referred to companies instead of workers, Davy said.

The distinction is crucial because workers don’t bid on contracts. The amount of competition for contracts depends on the number of companies, not workers. And regardless of which company receives a contract using project labor agreements, both union and nonunion workers can be employed.

For more information about the debate over Prop. A and project labor agreements, check out the video below.

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Please contact Keegan Kyle directly at or 619.550.5668 and follow him on Twitter:

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