High-speed rail promises to create hundreds of construction jobs when it's built through Bakersfield. But, according to some area non-union contractors many of those jobs won't be filled locally.
The contract states that all high-speed rail workers must be hired through a union, and with a large number of workers, like those trained at the local Associated Builders and Contractors office, not wanting to pay union dues to participate, some argue that excludes the majority of local labor.
"This whole area will flourish under this," said John Spaulding, Executive Secretary for the Kern, Inyo and Mono Building Trades Council.
This being the construction of the high-speed rail through Bakersfield that's will employ an estimated 1,200 people, according to the local union.
"I think we are going to have a high percentage of workers of this area work on this project," said Spaulding.
However non-union contractors disagree that many of the high-speed rail workers will be local because of the labor agreement known as the Community Benefits agreement. It says all workers will primarily be hired through the local labor union hall. That includes non-union workers who wish to be a part of the contract.
As part of that hiring, non-union workers will be required to pay union dues that go toward union health care and pensions that non-union workers will not take advantage of when they retire.
Local non-union contractors say the extra dues and the uncertainty of working the unions means their company won't make any money.
"If there isn't some long-term benefit for us and short-term benefit for our employees, we won't participate," said Ed Ott, CEO of Brown Electric Corp.
If non-union workers don't get involved on the project, that may leave it up to just the union workers that only make up 800 of the 1,200 workers it's estimated will be needed to complete the project.
"Eight hundred people aren't going to be enough to build that high-speed rail," said Ott.
Ott said this is why he thinks workers will be brought in from out of state.
"Those storm chasers will mobilize to the area," said Ott. "Tent cities will go up and the trailer parks will be full and they'll be around until the project is over."
Spaulding said his organization plans to recruit for the project.
"There will be an extensive program to bring local workers on board," said Spaulding. "I don't think the fear of working under the union environment makes this a valid argument."
For the non-union contractors, it's the only argument and the reason they most likely won't be participating.
"It's not as though we're excluded," said Ott. "That is not the issue. They found some way to allow us to participate but only in a controlled environment, very structured environment, and it just isn't to my liking."
After repeated calls and e-mails to the High Speed Rail Authority it could not be reached for comment.