The L.A. City Council on Wednesday approved a landmark policy authorizing the city's redevelopment agency to negotiate a project labor agreement with local building trade unions.

The unanimous approval of the policy, which was expected, marks a major victory for unions and their allies who have been pushing for project labor agreements that require new workers on construction projects to be hired through union hiring halls.

The policy covers all Community Redevelopment Agency projects that receive at least $1 million in public funds or are on agency-owned land. It also requires contractors to hire more local and low-income residents from communities immediately surrounding redevelopment projects.

"Today we are taking a big step forward to make sure that a big portion of future construction jobs in L.A. go to local residents," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in statement following the vote.

Passage of the policy was a setback for non-union contractors hoping to get a piece of the construction pie on major redevelopment projects. While a project labor agreement does not automatically shut out non-union contractors, it imposes requirements that often make working on these projects more expensive.

"We're working closely with the Community Redevelopment Agency to attempt to make this project labor agreement is less discriminatory towards non-union contractors," said Kevin Korenthal, government affairs director for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Los Angeles.

Over the next several months, representatives of the Community Redevelopment Agency will flesh out the agreement with the Building Trades Council of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. While the final agreement must be brought back to the City Council, approval is expected to be a formality.

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