Ten minutes prior to the start of a December 15th, 2009 board meeting of the Riverside Community College District in California, board members are handed a 52-page document filled with millions of dollars in projects to be funded by the district’s taxpayers, who themselves are struggling under the state’s 12.4% unemployment rate. The document, a draft Project Labor Agreement (PLA), will commit long-term construction and ancillary projects for the next several years to labor unions.
At least twenty-three members of the public, many of them local private business owners who oppose the PLA, have attended to publicly comment on the proposal. Two of the board members have never even seen the PLA prior to today, and have asked for a special session to review it. Despite opposition from the public, and the concern voiced by those two board members, the remaining three board members have moved that the Board of Trustees authorize Chancellor Greg Gray to negotiate the final PLA with the Riverside and San Bernardino Building and Construction Trade Councils. Board Trustees Virginia Blumenthal and Janet Green dissented.
So, without adequate time for all to review the draft, without any backup analysis provided to justify the use of up to $350,000,000 in Measure C taxpayer funds, without giving the public reasonable time to voice their opinions, and with an unemployment rate of over 12% when non-union workers are in even greater need of jobs than union workers…why would three of Riverside’s five board members vote to move forward with a final negotiation anyway? Why the rush? Residents and business owners in Riverside are wondering the same thing, and hope to have the chance to weigh in before the PLA’s final draft is signed.