For an Equitable Economy

Reasons for CBA’s Success


One of the central reasons for the success of the CBA is the commitment of all the stakeholders involved. The City of Portland and its Water Bureau initially demonstrated that commitment by enacting the CBA and implementing it on the Kelly Butte and Interstate projects. Likewise, Hoffman Construction demonstrated its commitment to the CBA by its willingness to adopt the CBA, to further refine it in conjunction with the City and other stakeholders, and to ensure its continued implementation in real time. The continued commitment of the City and Hoffman (and future GCs) is central to the CBA’s continued and long-term success.

In addition to the City and Hoffman, the commitment of the various stakeholders who initially conceived and developed the CBA is vital to its success. Those stakeholders overcame long-held political differences to form the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity (“MAWE”), a historic coalition of community-based organizations, pre-apprenticeship programs, minority contractor representatives, and labor unions.14 MAWE includes business and community leaders representing a broad array of constituents in the construction industry. In terms of sheer numbers, on the labor union side alone, coalition members represent approximately 13,400 workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington, with a significant number of them living in the greater Portland Metro area.15 MAWE’s ability to mobilize substantial and sustained resources behind the CBA, its ability to facilitate the on-the-ground work of the CBA, and its commitment to securing the principles and values expressed in the CBA are another critical component to ensuring its long-term success.

Structurally, the CBA has a number of components that help to ensure it meets its goals. One is the Labor- Management-Community Oversight Committee, which complements the City’s oversight as owner in ensuring compliance with the CBA and determining priorities for allocation of CBA resource funds. The Oversight Committee includes all of the stakeholders, sets clear expectations for compliance, and supports entities’ efforts to meet their targets with real resources that develop the capacity of minority- and women- owned businesses, as well as the skills of minority and women workers. It also helps to ensure that compliance funds are used for innovations – such as the “Green Dot” program, which will help to eliminate less- obvious barriers to participation by improving worksite conditions for worker retention. As an additional benefit, the Oversight Committee is an effective tool to prevent pass through abuses that have occurred on other targeted hire and contracting programs because the stakeholders are on the ground monitoring the projects in real time.

In addition to a strong oversight committee, the CBA provides dedicated funds for recruitment and retention strategies for apprentices and journey-level workers, as well as technical assistance to M/W/DBE contractors. Those funds have significantly driven the success of the CBA, particularly in its commitment to pre- apprenticeship and ongoing worker training. As Gerry Hein put it, the City of Portland really “put its money where its mouth is” by funding these programs, and they distinguish the CBA from other targeted- hire initiatives by promoting the long-term success of women and minorities in the construction industry, both as workers and contractors.

Finally, another hallmark of the CBA’s success is flexibility. That starts with the flexibility of all of the parties to the CBA, as exemplified by the development process through which all of the stakeholders had to be flexible in their goals and focus on the larger goal. In real-time, it is exemplified in numerous ways, such as the flexibility that the Labor-Management-Community Oversight Committee exercises in tailoring compliance remedies and strategies. It is also exemplified by the flexibility of all parties in tailoring the model CBA to future projects. As one example, the model CBA originally dedicated 1.5% of total project costs to the various training, outreach, and subcontractor funds. However, the parties determined that 1.5% was more than necessary, and agreed to reduce that figure to 1% of project costs on Kelly Butte and Interstate. As recognized, the 1.5% is more funding than would be necessary to support those initiatives on larger projects, and nobody expects that the City would be held to that percentage on appropriate sized projects. One of the hallmarks of the CBA is that it may be appropriately tailored to each future project to maximize the likelihood of success for all concerned.

These aspects of the CBA are recognized in the academic literature as important components of any policy designed to increase long-term diversity within the trades and promote economic opportunity for traditionally underserved populations. As the UCLA Labor Center recently noted, the best practices of successful targeted-hire policies such as the CBA contain many of these components, including the engagement of all stakeholders, developing contractor engagement, investing in outreach and recruitment of workers and apprentices, developing comprehensive training programs, and creating an active, engaged compliance system that includes all of the stakeholders. The City of Portland was cited by the UCLA Labor Center for its successful implementation of the CBA, and the City’s use of these and other tools were held out as best-practice examples of successful targeted-hire programs.

Portland’s Community Benefits Agreement: A Proven Tool for Advancing the City’s Commitment to Workforce Equity