Public works projects involve numerous contractors and employees in different trades, have critical timelines for completion, and require skilled and properly trained workers to successfully complete the work in a safe and timely manner. To avoid delays and additional expense to the City and County of Honolulu (“City”), it is essential that the most critical public works projects proceed without labor disruptions, whether due to external labor relations factors or the frictions that can arise when a large number of contractors and their employees and subcontractors work in proximity to one another on a job site.
As the City grows in size and connects more communities via infrastructure development, the City has an overriding interest in maintaining the continuity of efficient construction work by using skilled and trained labor. In a complex and urban environment such as Honolulu, it is essential to avoid delay in completing critical public works projects so that public funds are utilized prudently and residents and visitors are not adversely impacted by interruption in public services or delay in the use of facilities that are important to the essential operations or infrastructure of the City.
A Community Workforce Agreement (“CWA”) is a form of Project Labor Agreement (“PLA”), which is a construction industry collective bargaining agreement applied to a particular public works project or set of projects. CWAs have been used for many years to achieve high-quality construction performance and the economic benefits that result from having a guaranteed source of skilled workers and avoiding work disruptions.
In the private sector, CWAs have been and are being used successfully on a variety of projects, such as the United States Navy’s privatized military housing stabilization agreement, and other large and small private developments, including the retrofitting and remodeling of existing buildings and facilities. On public works projects, CWAs have been and are being used successfully by governmental entities, including the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the State Department of Accounting and General Services.
CWAs on public works projects are open to both union and non-union contractors. A public agency awarding a project covered by a CWA may select any qualified bidder for the award without regard to whether it is otherwise a signatory to a union collective bargaining agreement.
CWAs on public works projects also promote government efficiency, thus lowering costs, in a number of ways. They prevent labor strikes or slowdowns during the life of the agreement; set work rules, schedules and conditions; build jobsite harmony by placing all contractors and workers on a level playing field; and provide for arbitration procedures to resolve grievances and jurisdictional disputes. They also increase public confidence in government procurement and improve transparency in the competitive bidding process.
The construction crafts needed on public works projects require a supply of new apprentices to perpetuate those crafts into the future. It is essential to train a local pool of skilled labor in the construction sector who will be able to competently and safely construct future public works projects. Through their apprenticeships, local construction unions provide genuine opportunities for long-term, well-paid careers in the construction industry. Entry into and employment through these apprenticeships can be facilitated by a formal understanding between the City and the local construction unions who fund and operate such apprenticeships.
In addition, veterans may be seeking employment on public works projects and training opportunities for entrance into the construction industry. Such training opportunities are available through a program known as “Helmets to Hardhats,” which is founded and operated by construction unions locally and nationally and incorporated into community workforce agreements, nationwide.
Economic exclusion and the City’s housing crisis have led, and will continue to lead, to significant displacement and out-migration of Honolulu residents. There is a need to provide economic opportunities to enable such displaced residents to return to Honolulu.
CWAs have proven to be a valuable mechanism across the United States in addressing many of these issues, and have been a major factor in producing high quality construction work and projects that are completed on time, within budget, and without labor strife or disruptions. This ordinance is intended to require the City to negotiate a CWA for certain critical public works projects in order to promote labor harmony, prevent labor disputes and slowdowns, achieve and promote efficient, high- quality construction that meets strict construction deadlines, improve City services, and ensure a steady local supply of skilled and trained labor on proprietary construction projects.
The CWA will apply to critical City projects, in which the City has a particular interest in timely and cost-efficient project completion. In particular, the CWA will largely cover critical road, wastewater, drainage, and park improvement projects. To address rising sea levels and the effects of climate change on the City’s coastline, the City must act quickly to move roads, parks, and infrastructure in-land. Moreover, to address the increasing population density in the City and the corresponding overwhelming need for affordable housing, and to prepare for the anticipated significant growth in transit- oriented development, the City must also repair and build infrastructure to support residential and mixed-use projects. The City also anticipates building large-scale projects that will provide essential services to the community. Delay in completing these projects will lead to interruption or delay of services or use of facilities that are important to the essential operations and infrastructure of the City. The CWA will help ensure that the City completes these critical projects on time and on budget.