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California Construction Academy

Project Labor Agreements in Los Angeles: The Example of the Los Angeles Unified School District

By: Uyen Le, Lauren D. Appelbaum

Construction industry jobs fall into two camps – either “high‐road” or “low‐road.” High road construction jobs and contracting opportunities are regulated, safe, pay wages that can support a family, provide benefits, and create middle‐class careers. Low‐road construction jobs on the other hand are unregulated, dangerous, low‐paying and offer few opportunities for career advancement. Many public agencies and private companies are using Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) or Project Stabilization Agreements (PSAs) as a tool to ensure that construction work follows the high‐road. These agreements, which help to improve economic opportunity within local communities, provide standards for quality, safety, and cost on construction projects.

One major provider of construction projects in the Los Angeles region is the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The LAUSD has spent nearly $8.7 billion over the past 7 years on new construction and renovation projects. The LAUSD has signed a PSA and provides a good case study of PSAs in action as utilized by a large, urban employer. PLAs or PSAs are generally created with the intention of meeting certain goals around   local hiring and diversity. The LAUSD PSA established employment goals for small, local, emerging, and disabled business enterprises as well as small and minority contractors. This Research & Policy Brief will draw on a larger report published by the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy to discuss the role of PLAs or PSAs in creating high‐road construction industry employment and whether the LAUSD met the goals laid out in its PSA.