The Fresno Unified school board voted 6-1 Wednesday to approve a project labor agreement for the construction of Juan Felipe Herrera Elementary School and a memorandum of understanding to provide stronger links between local trades unions and student career pathway programs.
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The project labor agreement, which will require the Herrera School contractor and subcontractors to employ workers from union hiring halls, will be part of the bid package that district officials hope will go to the board for approval in late May or early June.
Karin Temple, the district’s chief operations officer, said the original cost estimate for the Herrera project, now scheduled to open in August 2022 instead of August 2021, was $40.4 million in May and has been updated to $40.7 million. She said the impact of a PLA on construction costs is unknown.
On Wednesday evening, most of the trustees extolled the Herrera project labor agreement and memorandum of understanding because they will provide more education and training opportunities for Fresno Unified students in the construction trades. Under the memorandum, representatives of local unions will be more involved with designing curriculum and have more direct involvement with students at schools and on job site tours.
Several teachers have already been certified on the multi-craft core curriculum, also known as MC3, which provides apprentice-level training for students who want careers in construction.
Agreement Puts Students in Jobs Pipeline
Chuck Riojas, financial secretary/treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings Building and Construction Trades Council, said Fresno Unified is the only district in the four-county area to provide MC3 curriculum.
The memorandum of understanding represents a long-term commitment linking the district and trades unions that will put students into the workforce pipeline, Riojas said.
Students who complete career pathway programs will have priority for hiring to apprentice construction jobs under the memorandum, which also establishes priority hiring for local residents and military veterans.
More Opportunities for Students
Trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas echoed one district administrator who called the new partnership with local trades unions a “big deal.”
“This is really all about opportunities … that’s really the crux of this, is providing opportunities for our students, educational opportunities, careers into the trades,” she said. “But being able to have our own workforce, our local Fresno Unified grads, kids coming out of our system, build the future projects on our own campuses, that is what it’s all about. Providing good-paying jobs and opportunities for our students, that’s what we’re all about.”
Trustee Terry Slatic, who cast the lone dissenting votes against the project labor agreement and memorandum of understanding, questioned whether district officials had invited any other organizations, such as the Northern California chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors, to weigh in on the MOU.
District officials said that while the district has career pathway advisory committees with union and nonunion representatives, the district worked only with union representatives on the MOU.
The Northern California chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors has publicly opposed PLAs, saying they lead to higher construction costs and exclude nonunion workers who make up the vast majority of the workforce. A spokeswoman for the organization told GV Wire that the MOU excludes nonunion apprenticeship programs.
PLA Finalized for State Center’s West Fresno Campus
Riojas broke some news when he announced that Fresno Unified won’t have a monopoly on PLAs among local education agencies. He said the trades council on Wednesday finalized a PLA with State Center Community College District for the West Fresno Campus project, which could go to the trustees for ratification on March 10.
The $89 million campus in southwest Fresno is scheduled for completion in 2023.
State Center spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz confirmed that the district has a tentative agreement with the trades council that will be considered by trustees at the March meeting.
Riojas said State Center is recognized in the Fresno Unified memorandum of understanding, which specifies that the unions will endeavor to hire five new pre-apprentice and first-year apprenticeship program graduates per union per year for indentured apprenticeships, with training through State Center’s MC3 program.
“That’s the pipeline we want to create, from K through 12, to the secondary, to us,” he said.