Public entities in CA may require apprentices on its public works projects be indentured in a joint labor-management apprenticeship program

Associated General Contractors of America, San Diego Chapter, Inc. v San Diego Unified School District (2011), 195 Cal. App. 4th 748, upheld as lawful a policy of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD).  This policy requires bidders, on certain construction projects, to employ apprentices trained in a state-approved joint labor-management apprenticeship program. The policy is contained within a project stabilization agreement (PSA) between the Board of Education (BoE) and local building trades unions.

This case provides excellent support for any public entity in California to require apprentices on its public works projects be indentured in a in a joint labor-management apprenticeship program.

The Court of Appeals found that in establishing a regulatory scheme governing apprentices, the Legislature intended to set minimum educational and training standards for apprenticeship programs.  However, it also found that the statutes explicitly allow a program to exceed those standards. As such, the Court dismissed Associated General Contractors of America’s argument that SDUSD invaded the California Department of Industrial Relation’s regulatory power by entering into an agreement favoring one qualified program over another. Nor did the Court find anything in the prevailing wage laws (PWL) restricting a public entity from requiring apprentices employed on its construction project to participate in a particular apprenticeship program.

In a particularly notable portion of the decision, a boardmember at the hearing in which the BoE adopted the PSA, questioned the commitment of non-union contractors to the workers being trained through the non-union apprenticeship programs and lauded the work of the joint apprenticeship programs. He said in part: "Ninety percent of the graduates of apprenticeship programs in San Diego County are coming out of the union programs. Nearly a hundred percent of women and people of color who graduate from apprenticeship programs are coming out of the union apprenticeship program. The non-union contractors frequently state the claim that 85 percent of the industry in San Diego County is non-union. So, whether that’s true or not, if 15 percent of the industry is producing 90 to a hundred percent of the graduates, that’s real commitment".

Sharon Seidenstein

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