An aerial viaduct being constructed over the Fresno River.

July 8, 2015
By Marc Bussanich 

New York, NY—The San Francisco Building Construction Trades Council recently signed a Project Labor Agreement with the local transit agency to electrify the length of a passenger rail corridor between San Francisco in the north to San Jose in the south, ensuring that the trades’ skilled members get the bulk of the work. 

In an interview, Michael Theriault, secretary-treasurer for the SBCTC, said that over 300 trades’ members would benefit from the project. Although non-union contractors may be employed, they would be working under the PLA that the SBCTC signs with Cailtrain.

“The PLA will provide a vehicle to ensure that a skilled and efficient workforce will produce a quality project in a timely way. At the same time the agreement will help address goals for local businesses and resident workers to perform the project,” said Theriault.

The project is part of Caltrains’ modernization program that will allow the agency to convert diesel-hauled locomotives to electric trains; it’s also a project that will allow high-speed trains one day to travel along the corridor on their way to the Los Angeles basin. The California High Speed Rail Authority is the state agency that is currently overseeing the build-out of the beginnings of the high-speed rail network in the Fresno area.

The State Building & Construction Trades Council of California played a pivotal political role in making high-speed rail a reality when on January 6 the president of the state’s building trades, former New York City ironworker Robbie Hunter, stood side-by-side with Governor Jerry Brown at a groundbreaking in Fresno.

The San Francisco Building Construction Trades Council not only welcomes the project, but it too provided political support. Indeed, SBCTC members are currently at work on the new San Francisco Transbay Terminal that is being billed as the “Grand Central Station of the West and will connect eight Bay Area counties and the sate through 11 transit systems.

“High-speed rail is key to continued growth and prosperity in California. Airports in the region are at capacity and we, along with environmental groups, are opposed to the Bay fill project to add more runways at San Francisco Airport,” said Theriault.

As with Mr. Hunter who told us that’s he disappointed that California Republicans are opposed to high-speed rail but not surprised, so is Theriault.

“I’m not terribly surprised because the Central Valley, where work has commenced, is a Republican stronghold. But Fresno’s mayor [Ashley Swearengin] is a Republican, and she supports it. I’d hope the [Valley’s] Republicans come around to see that high-speed rail is a game changer for the state.” 


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