Conflict over union labor could cost Arroyo Grande reliable water source

April 20, 2021

Arroyo Grande City Councilman Jimmy Paulding


After years of meetings, the cities of Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach agreed on plans for Central Coast Blue, a regional recycled water project set to bring a reliable water source to the Five Cities area, and were set to sign an operating agreement in early April.

But that was before the Arroyo Grande City Council voted not to sign the agreement unless the other two cities agreed to hire union labor through a community workforce agreement (CWA). A CWA, also known as a project labor agreement, is a collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations for construction of a project.

Arroyo Grande City Councilman Jimmy Paulding, who recently pulled papers to run for county supervisor District 4 in 2022, spearheaded the charge for union labor. During Paulding’s last run for supervisor, unions donated more than $20,000 to his campaign.

“I really hope all the parties can agree to these changes,” Paulding said. “It is a really important project going forward.”

The Arroyo Grande City Council voted unanimously on March 23 to approve the Central Coast Blue operating agreement subject to both Grover Beach and Pismo Beach supporting a CWA.

However, the other two cities rejected their demand. The existing operating agreement already required a good faith effort to hire qualified local residents, though they did not need to be union members.

On April 13, the Arroyo Grande City Council met to discuss the project, with Paulding again noting his desire for a union labor requirement, while the remainder of the council was more interested in having more control.

During the meeting, council members discussed the importance of securing a reliable water source through Central Coast Blue. Even so, they voted unanimously to withdraw from the project unless the other cities agreed to form a management committee, subject to the Brown Act, to manage the project.

Arroyo Grande officials also discussed the possibility of purchasing water from Central Coast Blue as a non-owner agency. City staff then informed the council that their rates as a non-owner would be higher than what the owner/member agencies pay for water.

On the other side, Pismo Beach is planning to operate the facility through their public works department in order to keep the overhead low.

“Central Coast Blue is a regional project that ensures water resilience for our region and protects the precious underground aquifer,” said Pismo Beach City Manager Jim Lewis. “Just a few short years ago, our water supplies became dangerously low due to drought conditions. We again are at the precipice of drought that will devastate the residents, businesses, and local economy of our communities.

“One of the decisions that remains to be made is construction procurement by which we want to ensure that the project construction benefits the local economy. In the end, decisions must be made that ensure the project is completed, while defending the rates the families and businesses pay.”

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If there was a RIGHT time for Arroyo Grande to express their concerns with the proper future governance of Central Coast Blue, that time is now. I urge those who haven’t watched the council’s discussion on this topic — watch it. ALL of the council members said recycled water is needed. They are stakeholders in the NCMA (Northern Cities Management Area) groundwater basin and the main question is whether Pismo Beach should have exclusive decision-making authority over how recycled water from Central Coast Blue will be managed in the future. To make the governance agreement fair, Pismo should share decision-making authority with its partners. But, to this point, they have refused to write shared decision-making authority into a legal agreement. CREATE A FAIR LEGAL AGREEMENT — NOW! Besides that… A small part of the issue has to do with Labor agreements for the project, and 1 out of 5 votes on the AG City Council is Jimmy Paulding’s. So, I agree, the article focuses on the wrong aspects of the issue and why readers should be concerned.

Yes Adam,you are right. pla agrements are for the workers.Better wages ,better safety, respect ,are fews of the things that these agrements offer to local workers.Anti union commentd come from contractors who do not care too much about their employees, or from disgrunted people .

The choice is simple anf easy to make: a journeyman makes 25 per hour,with very minimal brnefits.

With a pla he will make at least 50, with benefits for all his family if he decides to go union.

I am telling all workers ,do it, join a union, for your family.

While this article rightfully points out Jimmy Paulding’s alliances and habit of serving his end game ahead of anything else, it totally misses the whole point of what the AG city council did.

As the majority partner in the proposed agreement, they realized they actually had no say and that Pismo was in control.

The AG council pointed out that the agreement was designed to avoid any further public review of a $30million or more project. Both Pismo and Grover city managers crafted it that way and their city councils agreed. Only the AG council stood up an said no.

I think that’s where the real story is. AG council took a stand against the back room dealings that Pismo and grover were happy to keep from the public.

What citizens want to know is that AG has an affordable and reliable source of water. In their infinite wisdom, Jimmy Paulding (for his personal reasons) and the rest of the sheeple council have jeopardized that.

(The jab at Paulding by Caren’s husband did not go unnoticed btw)

I remember the first time Mr. Paulding was running for supervisor, his position then was everything can be fixed if taxes and fees were just increased. I knew then he wasn’t going to be good for the average taxpayer, just for the elite and special interest groups.

Same old political shtick…. First, follow the money and when the time comes DO NOT vote for the goof. Cuz he’ll just keep following the crumbs to the trough of goodies in Sac. Finally people standing up for what’s right. High time unions get introduced to the IRS….

Another shady AG politician only looking to pad his wallet at tax payers and AG citizens expense. I am so disgusted with our incompetent “leaders” in AG that my home is up for sale and after 30 years I can not wait to get out of this corrupt area. This guy walked around the village begging for votes by making false promises to the residents including myself which he completely forgot about after we elected him. AG desperately needs a political enema.

The Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are a total scam of taxpayer money. Most, maybe 90%, of contractors in this area, are not union, but they would be prohibited from working on the project unless they and all their employees joined the union for the duration of the project. These employees and their employer would then have to pay union dues, union health care, union apprenticeship training, and pay into the union pension plan. But because they are not vested, they will never get any of this money back. It will instead go to fund the underfunded union pension plans. That is the real reason the unions are pushing these. They need the money!

Repeated studies have shown that a PLA can raise the cost of a project by as much as 30% in addition to wiping out the opportunity for local non-union contractors to work on the project.

Since local residents are paying the taxes to fund these jobs, why should they be denied the chance to work on them? They would not be denied based on race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., but because they don’t belong to a union, they can’t even bid on it? That’s total discrimination!

“local non-union contractors”

Yes, and these contractors will consistently underbid union shops and then send out undocumented workers or workers who will work for less than union wage to do the labor.

Don’t you see, that is the reason why there is such a disparity in wages in this country? So-called contractors send out cheap labor, pay them less, and then reap the benefits.

Union labor is the only way to guarantee that those who do the work will actually get the pay.

Everything you wrote is speculation with no supporting evidence. Do you have facts that local contractors working on public works projects are hiring illegal aliens? The wage disparity is not due to a binary cause, it’s due to multiple preconditions. And finally, the labor board accepts cases against all employers that don’t pay regardless if they are union or not. Basically you are 0 for 3.

Good job AG. Should have known you’d find a way to screw the pooch.

Brilliant…just brilliant.

Labor unions donated $20k to Paulding. So what? Want equitable pay in this nation? It will come with unions. Even Republican President Dwight Eisenhower knew the value of unions and union labor was instrumental in building the interstate highway system.

Unfortunately, the GOP has been stridently opposed to unions in the last 40 years while the wage gap has grown exponentially during that time—since 1978, CEO compensation rose 1,007.5%, compared with 11.9% for average workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This gap came during a time when private sector union membership declined significantly.

You go, Jimmy Paulding!

Yeah, you go jimmy, away.

I don’t know how the voters vote for people like this didn’t they read about him prior to the election. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did get elected to the BOS.

Agreed. We need a women’s union to get equitable pay. Everyone should be forced to join a union for their own good. Forced dues too of course because freedom ain’t free. We need a minimum wage, a maximum wage, and a maximum life span too. Let’s get this stuff under control folks. Trask makes a good point about the union made highway potholes. Let’s get some union water.

So, if Grover and Pismo move ahead WITHOUT Arroyo Grande (who needs the water more than the other two cities) and AG is forced to buy water at a higher rate, please explain how this is good for ratepayers?