On September 26, members of SMART SM Local 206 joined with union employees from the San Diego Building Trades to help La Mesa, California, become the first city in San Diego County to ratify a citywide project labor agreement (PLA), ushering in a historic victory for local workers.

The PLA was unanimously accepted and would guarantee union wages, benefits, and rights for all construction workers on city of La Mesa public works projects. The PLA was negotiated between the city of La Mesa and the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council.

“Personal politics aside, most of our members know and understand that our local will only endorse and support labor-friendly candidates and legislation,” said Local 206 Business Manager Dave Gauthier. “When we support those that support livable wages and a full family benefit package, our members and our communities do better as a whole.”

Project labor agreements organize complex construction projects, create jobs for residents of the community, and supply the specialized trades workforce needed for challenging jobs, which benefits workers, contractors, project owners, and citizens alike. They also assist in completing projects on schedule and within budget, thereby saving money for the taxpayer. Project labor agreements enable locals, including historically underrepresented and underprivileged populations, enter the middle class by offering union-protected wages and benefits for all workers. Local unions also gain from them because many PLAs include mandates for union hiring halls.

Members of Local 206 and other construction trades workers attended the La Mesa City Council meeting on September 26 to testify in favor of the La Mesa PLA, demonstrating the impact SMART members’ participation in politics has. Such activism will be essential as local unions try to take advantage of a politically supportive environment for labor and financing from federal legislation that President Biden signed into law. Gauthier said that promoting pro-labor laws, such as PLAs, aids in demonstrating the union advantage to all working people.

“Explaining the benefits of local hire and project labor agreements is actually pretty easy when speaking to working-class people,” he said. “When you tell folks that these agreements benefit their neighbors who wake up early every morning and lace up their work boots, and when they understand that their tax dollars are then being redistributed in the local economy, you can really see the light come on in their eyes. They get it, and then they get what we in labor are all about.”