Today, we hear from two local construction workers on what a citywide project labor agreement would mean for women and people of color within the city.
Equal Pay for Women with PLA
Another local publication recently wrote an editorial discouraging the City of Oakland from entering into a project labor agreement (PLA) with local construction unions. The column argues that the unions have been unfair to women and minorities and don’t deserve a PLA.
These are not the local unions I know.
I am a woman of color who works for Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, a member of the local Building Trades Council. I am lucky enough to work in an industry that has made great strides in pay equity.
An important factor in whether a woman will be paid the same as her male colleagues in the construction industry is if she’s a member of a union. When union representatives negotiate with contractors or developers, they make sure their members with the same skill sets, with the same levels of experience, will be paid the same wages. Workers’ pay is based off job titles and years of experience, not gender or ethnicity.
A citywide PLA will make sure that women construction workers, regardless of ethnicity or background, are paid the same as their male counterparts.
Carey Roy-Enis is a Journeyperson for Sheet Metal Workers Local 104.
Give Project Labor Agreement a Chance
Recently, another local publication has come out strongly against a citywide project labor agreement, which would ensure union work on public lands within the city. The publication blasted local unions, claiming they are generally unfair to people of color, particularly African Americans. This is an inaccurate examination of local unions.
I am an African American man who spent 15 years in prison. If it weren’t for the help of the Building Trades’ Union Joint Management and Labor Apprentice programs, I wouldn’t have been able to start a successful career or get my life back on track. I am now a member of UA Sprinkler Fitters Local 483. Few employers were willing to give me a chance, but the union gave me an opportunity to have a career. I attend a state-approved apprenticeship program, where I go to school one night a week for five years. When I graduate, I won’t have any debt.
I strongly believe Oakland will benefit from the enhanced participation of labor unions in the construction of its new and existing buildings. A citywide project labor agreement will ensure construction workers in the city, regardless of their background or ethnicity, are paid family-sustainable wages and benefits on all public projects for years to come.
Please give a citywide project labor agreement a chance.
Sadakao Whittington is a 5th Period Apprentice with UA Sprinkler Fitters Local 483.