Posts

Citizens Group Objecting to Solar Power in Kern County Is Union Front Group

Construction trade unions in California remain distressed about how solar power is harming the environment. Their latest worry is the 150-megawatt Willow Springs Solar Project proposed for Kern County, in Antelope Valley at the Los Angeles County border.

March 8 2016 Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar LetterAn energy company called First Solar has been planning this project since 2010. In February 2015 Kern County released a Draft Environmental Impact Report for the solar project. Substantial objections to this project then emerged from an unincorporated association called “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar,” represented by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo in South San Francisco.

This group claims the county isn’t complying with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in its evaluation of the environmental impact of the solar power plant. Although the county has tried to modify subsequent versions of its Environmental Impact Report to address these objections, the association’s law firm continues to insist that the report is inadequate.

This process became absurd. At one point a change made by the county to mollify Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar even triggered a new objection – from the East Kern Air Pollution Control District!

Finally, the Kern County Planning Commission had enough and scheduled a hearing on March 10, 2016 to approve the Final Environmental Impact Report. On that morning, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted a new set of objections. Later that day, a lawyer representing “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar” warned the Planning Commission that Kern County had failed to properly evaluate the environmental impact of the solar project. Also at the meeting to speak out against the project were the head of the Kern-Inyo-Mono Building and Construction Trades Council and the head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 428 in Bakersfield.

What’s the true identity of “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar?” Construction trade unions, working under another unincorporated front group called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). A Kern County official bluntly revealed the true agenda of this fake organization at the subsequent April 12, 2016 meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors:

“The primary opposition to this project has been from law firms representing labor unions who have requested First Solar sign a Project Labor Agreement.”

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended county approval of the project despite the newly-submitted union objections. After postponing a Board of Supervisors hearing originally scheduled for March 15, county staff refined the Environmental Impact Report to address the new set of objections. The Kern County Board of Supervisors considered final approval of the Willow Springs Solar Project on April 12.

For Kern County officials, the morning of April 12 began as expected, with 31 pages of fresh objections from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph and Cardozo. But this time there was blowback: as reported later that day to the Board of Supervisors, “a variety of entities” had also submitted letters “taking issue” with how unions use the California Environmental Quality Act as leverage to squeeze Project Labor Agreements out of solar energy developers.  The letters documenting the practice can be read via the links below:

April 11, 2016 Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Kern County Board of Supervisors – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Objections to Willow Springs Solar Project

April 11, 2016 Western Electrical Contractors Association et al to Kern County Board of Supervisors – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Objections to Willow Springs Solar Project

April 11, 2016 California Construction Advancement Group to Kern County Board of Supervisors – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Objections to Willow Springs Solar Project

These letters did not shame Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar. A lawyer for Adams Broadwell Joseph and Cardozo spoke at the Board of Supervisors on their behalf and objected to alleged failures of the Final Environmental Impact Report to “disclose” things.

Of course, the REAL lack of disclosure was the true identity of “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar” and its ulterior motives. But everyone knew what was happening. A representative of First Solar openly told the Board of Supervisors that it had not concluded negotiations on a Project Labor Agreement.

Following that statement, an official with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 428 in Bakersfield claimed that since 2013 the union had signed Project Labor Agreements with First Solar, 8minuteenergy, Recurrent Energy, SunPower, and Sun Edison for construction of solar photovoltaic power plants in Kern County. Apparently he suspected that the surging unemployment of Kern County construction workers (caused by cutbacks in the petrochemical industry) was encouraging solar companies to be bolder about resisting union demands for Project Labor Agreements.

April 12 2016 Kern County Board of Supervisors Vote on Willow Springs Solar ProjectIn the end, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the Willow Springs Solar Project. Unions now have the opportunity to use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to challenge the board’s decision in court.

Solutions?

How can the State of California protect the environment while discouraging parties from brazenly abusing environmental laws to extract economic concessions from public and private developers? State Senator John Moorlach has a solution based on the concepts of openness and transparency. He has introduced Senate Bill 1248, which would require a plaintiff or petitioner in a CEQA action to disclose information about parties that provide more than $100 to fund the action. It would also require the plaintiff or petitioner to disclose the financial or business interest in the project for those parties that provide more than $100 to fund the action. See Senate Bill 1248.

With Senate Bill 1248 enacted as law, Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar, community champions of the environment, would acquire a new identity: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, demanding a Project Labor Agreement.

Sources

April 13, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph Cardozo Draft EIR Comments on behalf of Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar – Willow Springs Solar – First Solar – Kern County – Letter

March 9, 2016 Adams Broadwell Joseph Cardozo Final EIR Comments on behalf of Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar – Willow Springs Solar – First Solar – Kern County – Letter

April 12, 2016 Adams Broadwell Joseph Cardozo Final EIR Comments on behalf of Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar – Willow Springs Solar – First Solar – Kern County – Staff Report & Response

Video of April 12, 2016 Kern County Board of Supervisors Meeting – Item 4 – Request from Willow Springs Solar, LLC by First Solar: allow construction of a 150-MW solar facility


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions Pester Community Choice Aggregation Energy Programs in California

Where there is innovation, there is union interference.

Marin Clean Energy, the first “Community Choice Aggregation” program in California, is planning to build a solar farm on a “brownfield” in the City of Richmond. Only one party objected to the project on environmental grounds: “Bay Area Citizens for Responsible Solar,” a front group for California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE).

It’s just the latest in a series of environmental objections by unions to bend the policies of Community Choice Aggregators.

What Are Community Choice Aggregation Programs?

Community Choice Aggregation programs are authorized in California by Assembly Bill 117, signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002. The concept was elaborated in Senate Bill 790, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011. The California Public Utilities Commission regulates Community Choice Aggregation.

These programs allow electric customers to circumvent buying power from major investor-owned public utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). Instead, customers purchase electricity bought or generated by government-run utilities organized as a “Joint Powers Authority.”

Investor-owned utilities maintain transmission and distribution infrastructure and perform other services for customers. When a local government joins a Community Choice Aggregation program, electric customers in that jurisdiction are automatically transferred to that program unless the customer pro-actively chooses to opt-out and remain with the investor-owned utility.

Community Choice Aggregators are independently managed and directed by an appointed board that represents participating local governments. For example, the board of Marin Clean Energy includes representatives of the following governments now participating in the program: the Marin County cities of Novato, Corte Madera, Fairfax, San Anselmo, Larkspur, Belvedere, San Rafael, Tiburon, Ross, Mill Valley, and Sausalito; the Solano County city of Benicia; the Contra Costa County cities of Richmond, El Cerrito, and San Pablo; the County of Marin, and unincorporated parts of the County of Napa. Other cities in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the process of joining the program, and they will have representation on the board.

Programs such as Marin Clean Energy market themselves as having lower rates and generating more power from “renewable” energy sources, such as solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal, and small hydro. Marin Clean Energy claimed that in January 2016 its generation rates were 14% lower on average than PG&E’s generation rates and would have been even lower without a “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment” (PCIA) fee charged to customers who do not choose to remain with PG&E.

Community Choice Aggregation Is a Juicy Target for the Left

As shown by the California High-Speed Rail project, any ambitious project or program proposed in California is immediately targeted by numerous leftist interest groups that see an opportunity to advance their agenda. From the beginning, unions targeted Community Choice Aggregation programs as a vehicle to organize the “renewable energy” workforce through a so-called “Blue-Green Alliance.”

A Genuine California Union ConspiracyIn fact, Senate Bill 790 included an obscure provision – added at the demand of union lobbyists – to allow ratepayer money to be diverted into Labor-Management Cooperation Committees that fund environmental objections to energy projects and make massive contributions to campaigns to pass or defeat ballot measures.

See the October 18, 2012 UnionWatch article Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter, featuring a link to the TheTruthAboutPLAs article A Genuine California Union Conspiracy: Senate Bill 790 and the California Building Trades Council’s Ratepayer Funded Political Slush Fund, which links to the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction’s “Investigative Report: A Genuine Union Conspiracy.”

In 2012, the California Construction Industry Labor Management Trust (“CILMT”) began submitting comments to the California Public Utilities Commission about proposed regulations for Community Choice Aggregators.

Unions Don’t Like Competition

Marin Clean Energy has been targeted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 1245, which represents employees at Pacific Gas & Electric. This union argued that the Community Choice Aggregation programs would harm the environment by buying power from Shell Energy North America, which generates more than 90% of its power from non-renewable sources, including coal. For example, in a June 4, 2014 letter to the Napa County Board of Supervisors, IBEW Local 1245 demanded that the Napa County Board of Supervisors prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before joining Marin Clean Energy.

June 4, 2014 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo Demand EIR on behalf of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers IBEW Local 1245 – Marin Clean Energy – County of Napa

IBEW Local 1245 also targeted the CleanPowerSF Community Choice Aggregation program and demanded an Environmental Impact Report before the implementation of that program:

August 13, 2013 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Meeting Minutes – CleanPowerSF Community Choice Aggregation – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers IBEW Local 1245 Objections

January 30, 2013 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers IBEW Local 1245 – Community Choice Aggregation Needs Close Scrutiny

What unions really want is a Project Labor Agreement.

If You Plan to Build a Solar Plant in California, Expect Union Hassles

A position paper of the “East Bay Clean Power Alliance” entitled “Promoting a Labor-friendly Alameda County Community Choice Energy Program” calls for all construction under a Project Labor Agreement and explains how Community Choice Aggregation programs would bring construction workers into a union:

As a public program, it can prioritize public good over profit, and work with unions to generate high-road, family-sustaining jobs, utilize union apprenticeship and other entry-level job programs, and offer pathways out of poverty, especially in low income communities…A Community Choice energy program can be a unique vehicle for opening up the largely non-union community-based energy sector to union employment. This is possible because of the program’s ability to set work standards and also to aggregate smaller installation projects into larger projects more amenable to union labor agreements.

The idea is that a Community Choice Aggregation program would negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), a Sacramento-based coalition of  unions, to cover all solar construction and maintenance, large and small.

Marin Clean Energy Is Targeted with Greenmail

According to the Marin Clean Energy website, “many local solar projects are under development in MCE’s service area including MCE Solar One, Cooley Quarry, Buck Institute, and Cost Plus.” A company signatory to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers won the contract to build the Buck Institute solar project.

MCE Solar One is the biggest solar plant proposed by Marin Clean Energy: a 10.5 megawatt project to be built on a 49-acre landfill site near a refinery in Richmond owned by Chevron. According to the Marin Clean Energy website, “Local communities are gearing up for construction of the largest publicly owned solar project in the Bay Area!”

Not so fast.

Unions were targeting this project, as shown through public comment at an August 19, 2015 community meeting about the project. On September 29, 2015, a group called “Bay Area Citizens for Responsible Solar” submitted a 31-page letter plus expert testimony and exhibits objecting under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for MCE Solar One, also known as the Richmond Solar PV Project. What sounds like a community environmental organization is actually a front group for California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE).

September 29, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – DEIR Comments – Richmond Solar PV Project – Marin Clean Energy Community Choice Aggregation – Letter

September 29, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – DEIR Comments – Richmond Solar PV Project – Marin Clean Energy Community Choice Aggregation – Exhibits

Staff wasn’t impressed, as shown in the response to the union comments:

September 29, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – DEIR Comments – Richmond Solar PV Project – Marin Clean Energy Community Choice Aggregation – Staff Response

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardoza Objects to FEIR - Richmond Solar PV Project - Marin Clean EnergyAs is typical with union environmental objections, attorneys for California Unions for Reliable Energy submitted another round of comments at the last minute objecting to the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). After examining the documents at the November 19, 2015 meeting of the Marin Clean Energy board, legal counsel declared that the late submissions contained nothing new of concern. The board unanimously approved the FEIR.

One board member said “it is a sad day that CEQA has really become less and less about the environment and more and more about power. Governor Brown has tried to address this with reform to CEQA and this item follows that direction.”

November 19, 2015 Marin Clean Energy Board Minutes – Approval of FEIR for Richmond Solar PV Project

Don’t count on that reform coming anytime soon.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions Still Selectively Finding Environmental Calamity in California Solar Projects

Out of nowhere comes a new, well-funded champion of Mother Earth. A group called “Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development” has submitted two sets of letters and exhibits to Monterey County alleging serious deficiencies in its environmental review for the county’s first large solar photovoltaic power plant, the 280 megawatt California Flats.

Obviously the Monterey County Planning Commission agreed with county staff that the group’s fastidious objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) weren’t credible. Commissioners voted 8-0 on January 14, 2015 to approve the project despite a last-minute “document dump” from lawyers representing the mysterious worried residents.

There has been one brief reference to this group in one local newspaper article. Monterey County community, business, and political leaders are generally unaware of the group, who comprises it, and why it is so concerned about nature.

What can the developer – First Solar, based in Tempe, Arizona – possibly do to mollify such a group and move the project forward, free of legal obstructions? The general public may not know, but regular readers of www.UnionWatch.org have probably already figured out who is behind the front group calling itself “Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development.”

The formulaic and obviously phony name of this unincorporated organization is a giveaway. For those who need additional clues, the name of the law firm representing these concerned residents is Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, based in South San Francisco.

CURE Reference in 2015-01-13 California Flats CURE Comment on FEIR

Yes, construction unions are at it again. In this case, California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) – a project of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – is joining a few unknown individuals to object to the California Flats solar photovoltaic power plant.

Surely the power plant developer knows what it needs to do to shake off this obstacle. In electronic folders and e-mail in-boxes, a Project Labor Agreement template waits to be printed out by a First Solar representative for a signature of surrender, followed by a signature of triumph from a union representative.

But will the additional cost of construction imposed by the union Project Labor Agreement (and the complementary 30-year union Maintenance Labor Agreement) make the project financially infeasible for First Solar? Is there extra government money somewhere available to subside union monopolies for “green energy” projects?

California may struggle to reach its ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals under Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. In a few years, when California state agencies and local governments are compelled to intrude on residents’ personal behavior in order to reach those goals and save the planet, Californians can ironically blame the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the refusal of the legislature and governor to restrain union abuse of this law for financial gain.

Primary Source Documents

September 22, 2014 – California Flats Solar – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Letter

September 22, 2014 – California Flats Solar – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – All Exhibits

December 23, 2014 – California Flats Solar – Monterey County Response to California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) in Final Environmental Impact Report

December 24, 2014 – California Flats Solar – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) – Request for Records from Monterey County

January 13, 2015 – California Flats Solar – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report – Letter

January 13, 2015 – California Flats Solar – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report – All Exhibits

January 14, 2014 – California Flats Solar – Staff Report to Monterey County Planning Commission

Monterey County Resource Management Agency – Planning Department – Major Projects – California Flats Solar

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) – State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – Website

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – Website

First Solar – Website

News Coverage of Project, Including Article with One-Paragraph Reference to “Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development”

Major Solar Farm Proposed for Southeast County Ag LandMonterey County Weekly – March 7, 2013

Solar Farms on HorizonSalinas Californian – July 2, 2013

Voices of Opposition Surface as Solar Farm Proposal for South County Moves ForwardMonterey County Weekly – July 3, 2014

Draft Report Lays Out Details of Proposed California Flats Solar FarmMonterey County Weekly – August 14, 2014

Bid for Monterey County’s First Utility-Grade Solar Farm Releases Draft EIRMonterey County Herald – August 15, 2014

Monterey County Solar Farm Proposal Attracts Praise, CriticismMonterey County Herald – December 28, 2014

A separate letter from a law firm representing an organization called Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development also raised concerns about the potential for avian species such as the golden eagle and the Swainson’s hawk to mistake the reflective surfaces of the solar arrays for water, trees and other habitat, and injure themselves flying into them.

South County Solar Farm Gets Planning Commission Thumbs-Up – Monterey County Herald – January 14, 2015

Planning Commission Unanimously Recommends Approval on South County Solar FarmMonterey County Weekly – January 15, 2015

Background on Union “Greenmail” Against Solar Power Plants and Other Projects Using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants? – www.UnionWatch.org – July 16, 2013

Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting – www.UnionWatch.org – July 20, 2013

Revised List of Union Actions in 2013 Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – www.UnionWatch.org – September 3, 2013


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions Try to Monopolize California's Global Warming Solutions

California’s quest to end global climate change is inspiring many obscure, complicated, and costly regulations. And when state executive branch agencies propose new regulations to save the planet, unions are there with their own agendas.

California Can’t Let Just Anyone Check Your Dimmer Switches

The 2013 revisions to California’s Building Energy Efficiency Standards (in the California Building Standards Code, California Code of Regulations, Title 24) include new requirements for commercial buildings to reduce electricity use through lighting controls. Examples of such controls include dimmers, automatic daylight controls, occupant sensing controls, and timers.

How does the state ensure compliance with these standards? After an electrical contractor installs these lighting control systems, a professional, certified field technician must test them and produce documentation confirming that the systems work and conform with the Building Energy Efficiency Standards.

These field technicians must be trained and certified through “Lighting Controls Acceptance Test Technician Certification Providers.” Programs interested in becoming providers submit applications to the California Energy Commission to show they fulfill the requirements to be a legitimate source of technician training and certification.

Dimmer Switches Were Supposed to Brighten the Future for Unions

Government-regulated certification can benefit the public, but it is also vulnerable to political manipulation by interest groups who see it as a mechanism to control who and how many people are employed in an occupation. For example, construction trade unions have long used the California Apprenticeship Council and other executive branch agencies to resist potential training competition from Merit Shop associations, individual contractors, and even from other unions trying to expand their trade jurisdiction.

At the California Energy Commission, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union has openly declared for years that its California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP) should have a monopoly on training and certifying workers who test lighting controls for commercial buildings. As far back as November 3, 2011, the State Association of Electrical Workers/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers submitted a letter to the California Energy Commission insisting on this monopoly:

On behalf of the State Association of Electrical Workers/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, I write to urge the commission to require all advanced lighting controls related acceptance testing and documentation to be performed by California certified general electricians who are also certified by the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP), and who are performing the work while employed by a California contractor who holds a CALCTP contractor certification, and that these acceptance testing and documentation forms be modified by providing a space for the electrician and the contractor to each write his/her name, and to each attach a copy of their appropriate CALCTP certification documentation.

Providing studies and comments as academic cover for the CALCTP quest for a monopoly on lighting controls testing certification is the Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy, a project of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, affiliated with the University of California Center for Labor Research and Education, and part of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program. This state university labor institute is a descendent of a “union think tank” established in 2000 by the California legislature and Governor Gray Davis at the behest of the California Labor Federation.

Headquarters of the National Lighting Contractors Association of America is in Signal Hill, California.

Headquarters of the National Lighting Contractors Association of America is in Signal Hill, California.

Now the IBEW has competition. A Merit Shop organization not affiliated with a union called the National Lighting Contractors Association of America (NLCAA) submitted an application to the California Energy Commission to become a Lighting Controls Acceptance Test Technician Certification Provider.

Even more shocking for the unions, the California Energy Commission placed approval of the NLCAA program on its July 22, 2014 meeting agenda – with a memorandum from the Executive Director recommending approval – while the IBEW program was still tangled up in the application process.

This echoed the outcome of previous efforts of union officials to push for regulations meant to give them control of the workforce. For example, the IBEW began a multi-year push in 1999 to impose electrician certification in California that would allow them to gain control of the trade, but it found itself outsmarted and outmaneuvered by the more nimble, more innovative Merit Shop. And while the IBEW and other unions argued for years over jurisdiction for apprenticeship training in solar photovoltaic system installation, a Merit Shop contractor circumvented the system and simply applied for and won approval from the state to operate its own solar photovoltaic installation apprenticeship program.

There Ought to Be Lawyers. Quick, Send in the Lawyers

Now the Merit Shop was outwitting the unions again. The IBEW had to suppress the competition, quickly and decisively. They turned to the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – the law firm of choice nowadays for construction unions that use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to delay projects as a way to pressure the owner to sign a Project Labor Agreement or agree to other economic concessions that benefit the unions.

To stop approval of the NLCAA program, the IBEW and its lawyers simply adopted the same basic strategies they use to delay projects through CEQA. They exploited the statutory provisions for public review and comment by claiming insufficient time for review. Then they submitted an extensive set of objections right at the deadline so that the agency didn’t have enough time to review them. And just like what they do with environmental review documents, they nitpicked the NLCAA application to identify and cite every possible weakness that a judge might recognize as a meritorious basis for a time-consuming, expensive lawsuit.

The saga began on July 11, 2014, when the California Energy Commission publicly posted its agenda for its July 22 meeting. It included this seemingly routine item:

11. APPROVAL OF NATIONAL LIGHTING CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA TO BECOME AN ACCEPTANCE TEST TECHNICIAN CERTIFICATION PROVIDER. Possible approval of the National Lighting Contractors Association of America (NLCAA) as a Lighting Acceptance Test Technician Certification Provider (ATTCP). This will allow NLCAA to train and certify field technicians and employers on the Building Energy Efficiency Standards lighting control acceptance tests.

On July 17, an official with the California Energy Commission contacted the Vice President of Training for the National Lighting Contractors Association of America with some bad news:

To follow up on our conversation the Standards Section 10-103-A(f)2 requires the Commission to give all interested persons a copy of the evaluation report used in your application to become a ATTCP.  This Section also requires the Commission to give these interested persons reasonable time to review the evaluation.

The Business Meeting Agenda was posted on Friday July 11th in the late afternoon.  The Commission received notice Friday evening from a interested person that they wanted a copy of the evaluation report.

After lengthy discussions with management, legal, and our commissioners it was determined that a reasonable amount of time could not be given to the interested persons before the July 22 Business Meeting.

For this reason your item is being taken off the July 22 Business Meeting to afford adequate time for the interested party to review NLCAA’s evaluation report.

I am sorry for any inconvenience that has caused you, your business and contractors anticipating NLCAA’s approval.

A training executive with Associated Builders and Contractors sent an email to the California Energy Commission expressing concern about this mysterious development:

NLCAA has followed and met all of the application requirements and been approved to go forward to the final requirement of the application process.  Any delays in their approval will result in major negative financial impacts on our over 100 electrical contractor members, their employees and numerous other nonunion electrical contractors who need to have this certification in order to complete their current and future construction projects and meet the new state Lighting Certification requirements.

If the NLCAA’s application is removed from the Commission’s agenda, what is to stop another “interested party” from making another request to review NLCAA’s application the next time it is on the agenda, which would cause it to be removed and what would prevent this cycle from starting all over again and again and again.  Anyone can review the NLCAA’s application, but these third party reviews are not an official part of the application process and should have no impact on Commission’s approval process.

As the attached documents show, Director’s Ashuckian, Oglesby and others, after a very in depth and detailed review by their respective staffs, have previously endorsed the NLCAA as meeting the state’s requirements for an ATTCP and that their application should be accepted.

It took a week for the NLCAA to be informed by the California Energy Commission of what party derailed its scheduled approval by taking advantage of regulatory provisions regarding public review. Of course, the inquiry was from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, which represents the California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP) affiliated with the IBEW union. CALCTP scrambled to get its application posted by the California Energy Commission for public review, which happened on August 1, 2014. This began three months of antics as CALCTP lawyers and lobbyists tried to get the California Energy Commission to approve its program while rejecting the NLCAA program.

On August 19, 2014, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo provided the California Energy Commission with several pages of petty objections to the approval of the NLCAA competing program. Obviously the IBEW was setting the stage for a lawsuit against the California Energy Commission if it approved the NLCAA program. Meanwhile, the NLCAA identified numerous petty deficiencies in the CALCTP application but chose not to stoop to the tactics of its competition by commenting on them.

Items to approve of both programs were placed on the August 27, 2014 meeting agenda of the California Energy Commission but then removed on August 26. They were not even addressed on the September 10 agenda. Then both items were placed on the October 7 agenda.

Late on the afternoon of October 6, the IBEW/NECA California State Labor Management Cooperation Committee emailed ten pages of objections to approval of the NLCAA program. In response, California Energy Commission staff advised the commissioners at the October 7 meeting to delay considering approval of the NLCAA program so they could analyze the last-minute submission of union objections to the Merit Shop program.

Commissioners chose to table approval of the NLCAA program, but to their credit they also tabled approval of the CALCTP program. Public testimony at the meeting from professional lobbyists and union officials revealed the true nature of the dispute: the IBEW believes it should control who and how many people become certified as lighting control field technicians.

Public Implications of This Obscure Battle Over the Authority to Certify Lighting Controls Testers

An ordinary California resident might ask how the people of California benefit from this union-provoked controversy about who gets to train and certify workers who test lighting control systems. Unless the programs are deficient under the state’s regulations, what is the public interest in delaying approval? Workers want to be trained, commercial building owners need to comply with the law, and climate change activists seek to reduce electricity use.

What is particularly confounding is how the state’s public utilities are connected to all of this. The CALCTP is operated by the California State Labor Management Cooperation Committee for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association (LMCC/IBEW-NECA), but various entities are alleged to work in “collaboration” with it. These collaborators include Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

In effect, California public utilities are working with the IBEW to cut competition, restrict choice in training, and make testing of lighting controls for commercial building developers more difficult and more expensive.

Sources

The Exploited Regulation: 2013 California Building Energy Efficiency Standards 10-103-A – NONRESIDENTIAL LIGHTING CONTROLS ACCEPTANCE TEST TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION

2013 California Building Energy Efficiency Standards

California Building Standards Code – California Code of Regulations, Title 24

National Lighting Contractors Association of America (NLCAA)

California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP)

Public Utilities in “Collaboration” with CALCTP

California Energy Commission Staff Evaluation Reports on Applications for Lighting Controls Acceptance Test Technician Certification Providers, and Public Comments on the Applications

November 3, 2011 Letter from State Association of Electrical Workers/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Seeking a Monopoly on Lighting Controls Test Technician Certification

Donald Vial Center on Employment in the Green Economy – Union-Oriented Studies and Comments on Certification of Acceptance Testing Field Technicians for Lighting Controls 


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

 

Petaluma City Council Ignores Phony Union Environmental Objections

A coalition of Sonoma County construction unions has failed in its effort to exploit California environmental laws to discourage the Petaluma City Council from approving the proposed Riverfront Mixed-Use Project. At 1:00 am today (July 22, 2014), the Petaluma City Council voted 5-2 to approve a Final Environmental Impact Report for this project, as required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Thirty people signed up to speak about the proposed environmental approval during public comment. Representatives of the Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino Counties Building and Construction Trades Council continued their opposition to the Final Environmental Impact Report, presumably as a threat to pressure the developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. These unions are the true identity behind the unincorporated front group “Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development” that has repeatedly submitted environmental objections to the project over the past year.

In addition, a new union emerged to question the project: UNITE-HERE Local 2850, representing hotel workers. The Petaluma Riverfront Mixed-Use Project includes a 120-room hotel, and it’s likely this union wants a labor neutrality agreement or some other deal to unionize hotel employees.

In a surprise development, three representatives of the Operating Engineers union broke from the Building Trades Council position and spoke in support of the project and the Final Environmental Impact Report. In addition, a representative of a local boating group complained that the “Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development” inappropriately cited their concerns as a reason to reject the Final Environmental Impact Report. Local business groups and community organizations supported the project. A few construction company representatives and experts on construction labor law decried “greenmail,” the union abuse of the state’s environmental laws for purposes unrelated to environmental protection.

One member of the city council (Teresa Barrett) declared “I’m not someone who believes people use CEQA to stop projects.” (Councilwoman Barrett is backed by labor unions.) But another city council member agreed with the opinion of the city staff and its consultants and asserted the union objections were “allegations without substantiation.” In the end, the union threats seemed to have no impact on the final vote of the city council. One city council member claimed to vote NO as a statement about the city’s traffic problems. The other NO vote was supposedly based on a dispute over whether or not the playing fields should be natural or artificial turf.

See Petaluma City Council OKs Environmental Report for Riverfront ProjectSanta Rosa Press-Democrat – July 23, 2014

This was a high-profile fight highlighting abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The July 21, 2014 staff report for the Petaluma City Council on the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Riverside Mixed-Use Project reported on the union antics at the June 24, 2014 Petaluma Planning Commission meeting. This meeting was reported in www.UnionWatch.org in the June 24, 2014 article Union Abuse of California Environmental Laws Goes On, Unabated.

Local news media also reported in advance of the meeting about the union environmental objections:

Unions Raise Environmental Objections to Riverfront Plan – Petaluma Argus-Courier – July 18, 2014

On Monday, the Petaluma City Council will have to decide if environmental concerns raised by trade unions about the mixed-use project proposed on the Petaluma River are genuine, or a smokescreen used to delay the project following failed labor discussions.

Petaluma OK Sought for Riverfront Project Amid Union Opposition – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – July 21, 2014

But developer Basin Street Properties and others say the move is thinly veiled extortion to guarantee union jobs. Other than the unions, the project has received almost no public opposition – remarkable in a town where large-scale development nearly always draws resistance and often threats of lawsuits.

In advance of the meeting, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted yet another set of comments objecting to the Final Environmental Impact Report prepared by the city under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). See those comments here:

Union Supplemental Objections to Final Environmental Impact Report – July 18, 2014

In addition, the union front group “Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development” put this advertisement in local newspapers to scare the public:

Union Advertisement - Boy Crying about Petaluma Riverfront Project

A union newspaper advertisement featuring a boy crying about the Petaluma Riverfront Mixed-Use Project. Cheer him up with a Project Labor Agreement!

The union-backed front group Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development will have 30 days to file a lawsuit in Sonoma County Superior Court challenging the city council’s approval of the Final Environmental Impact Report.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Union Abuse of California Environmental Laws Goes On, Unabated

The Planning Commission for the City of Petaluma, California (in Sonoma County) experienced the full brunt of union abuse of environmental laws (“greenmail”) at its meeting tonight (June 24, 2014) to consider approving a prominent proposed development project.

Petaluma City HallCalling themselves “Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development,” the Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties Building and Construction Trades Council hired the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to submit objections to the proposed Riverfront Mixed-Use Development Project. At stake are 1,952 construction jobs that unions want to control, apparently by getting the developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

In June 2013, the unions’ law firm submitted a request to the City of Petaluma to extend the comment period for an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (a common tactic to drag out the environmental review process). Then it submitted objections on behalf of the unions to the city’s Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration. After the city proceeded to develop a Draft Environmental Impact Report, the unions objected to that. (See links to these sets of comments, below.)

Finally, at 4:00 p.m. on the day of the Planning Commission meeting to approve the Final Environmental Impact Report, the unions submitted more objections. Last-minute “document dumps” objecting to environmental reviews are a tried-and-true tactic of California labor unions.

Comments submitted at 4:00 p.m. on day of Petaluma Planning Commission meeting.

Comments submitted at 4:00 p.m. on day of Petaluma Planning Commission meeting.

According to these comments, construction unions are very worried about how the development will be affected by sea level rise resulting from global warming. They also have concerns about compromised air quality and other threats to the environment.

At the June 24, 2014 meeting, the lawyer for the unions defended their environmental objections against “people in the audience” who attended the meeting to expose the ulterior motivations of the unions and called for reform of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Also defending their quest to save the planet from the impact of construction were representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 551 and the Sheet Metal Workers International Union Local No. 104.

As Planning Commissioners made their comments about the proposed project before their votes, one commissioner noted the claim from a representative of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction that unions submitted last-minute environmental objections to pressure the developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement. A representative for the developer (Basin Street Properties) responded that union officials (including those who spoke during public comment) approached Basin Street Properties asking for a Project Labor Agreement, they had negotiations, but the unions rejected their offer. (View this exchange from 2:47:33 to 2:49:47 in the meeting video.)

Unless the developer of the Riverfront Mixed-Use Project surrenders to the union demands, it’s likely the Petaluma City Council will encounter the same environmental objections and abusive legal tactics when it considers approval of the project.

Union Request for Extension of Public Comment Period for Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration – June 26, 2013

Union Objections to Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration – July 25, 2013

Union Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report – February 6, 2014

Union Objections to Final Environmental Impact Report – June 24, 2014


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Union Environmental Appeal of San Jose Infill High-Rise Fools No One

Today (Tuesday, August 13, 2013) construction trade unions either showed exceptional arrogance or exceptional foolishness when they chose to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against a high-profile “infill” project in downtown San Jose.

For the past few years, some California state legislators have wanted to discourage CEQA actions meant to advance objectives unrelated to environmental protection. Even Democratic legislative leaders such as California State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) are seeking minor CEQA amendments to reduce obstacles to infill development, which is regarded by some as a wise planning strategy for the environment.

Under these circumstances, it was astonishing to see the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council appeal the San Jose Planning Director’s approval of a downtown 23-story residential “infill” project called One South Market Street. The appeal was filed by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and based on alleged CEQA violations and planning and zoning code violations.

No one was fooled. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed declared “It’s not really about the environment … it’s abuse of the environmental process.” And Councilman Johnny Khamis complained that the city council had two abusive back-to-back CEQA objections on its agenda, one with an anti-competitive motive and one with a union motive.

In the end, the city council rejected the union appeal, although two council members voted to support the unions. One of them was San Jose City Councilman Xavier Campos, who is the brother of Assemblywoman Nora Campos, who is married to Neil Struthers, who spoke at the meeting in support of the CEQA appeal as the head of the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

Groundbreaking for the project had already occurred in a ceremony on June 25, 2013. No one up to that point had indicated any concerns about permitting or environmental review. But on that same day, the law firm for construction unions submitted an objection letter. The unions formally appealed various aspects of the project on July 9 and July 12.

In an August 13, 2013 article about the appeal (Union Challenging Downtown San Jose High-Rise), the Silicon Valley Business Journal indicated that the union objections to the project were not necessarily related to environmental concerns.

So what’s going on? Sources told me the union appears to be trying to send a message after several key subcontracts on the job were delivered to non-union contractors out of Sacramento.

“The Building Trades are not opposed to more high-rises downtown. What we are opposed to is this developer generating more profits at the expense of local workers and the environment,” Neil Struthers, CEO of the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council, told me in an email.

He added: “No project should be given the ability to avoid the requirements every other developer must meet as it relates to water quality, affordable housing and traffic mitigation. Someone needs to stand up to those that have the power to gain preferential treatment from local government.”

Reportedly the contractor most objectionable to the unions is a large electrical company that works on major commercial projects throughout Northern California. Its headquarters is in Sacramento, but it has a Bay Area office in Hayward, 25 miles away from downtown San Jose via Interstate 880. Construction companies in Northern California capable of working on a 23-story high rise building tend to have a regional market – these are not hometown plumbers.

Because the City of San Jose has provided tax and fee waivers with financial value to the developer, One South Market Street is regarded under California law as a public works project. All construction companies – both union and non-union – must pay state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”) to their trade workers on this project. In California, state prevailing wage rates always duplicate the wage rates in the applicable union collective bargaining agreements for that trade in that geographical region.

In other words, local hiring or wage rates are not legitimate issues. Control of the workforce is the issue.

Presumably, the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council will continue to interfere with the project (perhaps with a lawsuit) until the developer (Market Street Tower Venture, LLC, on behalf of Essex OSM REIT, LLC) agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement or some other contract giving unions a monopoly on construction of the building.

The One South Market Street CEQA appeal shows that unions have a strong economic interest in stopping any proposals that compromise the obstructive power of CEQA. It should not be a surprise that construction trade unions are reportedly the primary obstacle to Senator Steinberg’s very modest CEQA reform bill, Senate Bill 731, but apparently Senator Steinberg was surprised, according to the August 5, 2013 article from California Forward: CEQA Roundup: Have Negotiations Really Stalled?

Steinberg himself seems to have been surprised by the opposition on the part of some labor leaders, in particular, who have pushed back against his most basic goal: Updating the CEQA process for infill projects. While the Senate leader has tried from the start to write a bill that would drive more of this type of development across the state, sources say some labor leaders view the coming infill wave as the source of a steady stream of jobs – and they are wary of losing CEQA as a tool they can use to reach project labor agreements with developers.

Reform of the California Environmental Quality Act is not an environmental issue. It’s a labor issue.

News Media Coverage

San Jose Denies ‘Greenmail’ Environmental Appeals on High-Rise ProjectSan Jose Mercury-News – August 13, 2013

San Jose Council Says ‘No’ to Union’s CEQA Challenge of One South MarketSilicon Valley Business Journal – August 13, 2013

Sources

Staff Report on Appeal of Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council to One South Market Street Project (includes June 25, July 9, and July 12 letters from law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo)

Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for One South Market Street and Mitigation Monitoring or Reporting Program for One South Market Street

Union Challenging Downtown San Jose High-RiseSilicon Valley Business Journal – August 13, 2013

California Senate Bill 731 – CEQA reform for infill development projects

CEQA Roundup: Have Negotiations Really Stalled? – California Forward – August 5, 2013

KT Properties One South Market Street

Background on One South Market Street from Silicon Valley Business Journal

CEQA Works – the coalition of environmental groups and labor unions opposed to CEQA reform

www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants?

Below is the first organized compilation of documents showing what appears to be an aggressive, deliberate union campaign to impede government approval of solar thermal power projects in California. (Organized documentation of extensive union interference with government approval of more traditional solar photovoltaic power projects in California will be released soon.)

These innovative proposed solar thermal projects were once celebrated as the future of electricity generation. In August 2007, BrightSource Energy submitted the first application for a solar thermal power plant – the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. At that time, the California Energy Commission was expecting dozens of applications for such power plants that could produce a total of as much as 24,000 megawatts of electricity. Visionaries saw California as the future “Saudi Arabia of solar.” (See Green Energy: Solar’s Big Boom – San Jose Mercury-News – September 26, 2007.) The Energy Commission subsequently received applications for 16 thermal solar power plants, listed below.

As of July 16, 2013, only one solar thermal project (Ivanpah) is nearing completion in its basic original form. Some projects have been cancelled; other projects have been postponed repeatedly, downgraded in size, or changed in concept from thermal to photovoltaic. Some companies proposing these projects have gone bankrupt and ownership has changed on some projects. An April 24, 2013 article in National Journal declared that California’s Dream to Be the Saudi Arabia of Solar Is Dead. It’s noteworthy that the California Energy Commission listing of “Large Solar Energy Projects” hasn’t been updated since September 14, 2012.

What role did unions have in this? Here’s a bit of background to put the compilation below in context.

Local Governments Approve Photovoltaic Solar Projects; The California Energy Commission Approves Thermal Solar Projects

Most of the solar projects proposed or under construction or now operating in California are “photovoltaic” or PV. A current is generated when sunlight hits panels. Many of these solar farms will generate less than 50 megawatts of electricity, although a 66 megawatt facility just opened near Lancaster and much larger ones are under construction.

Companies that want to build PV solar farms seek permits from local governments with jurisdiction over the land. Many of these projects are considered by planning commissions of counties with land in the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern, San Luis Obispo) and in desert regions (Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial). Appeals go to the county board of supervisors.

In contrast, the “siting” of solar thermal power plants must be approved by the five-member California Energy Commission, because this state agency has jurisdiction over power plants that generate 50 megawatts or more of electricity and also use heat to produce electricity. With solar thermal power plants, mirrors concentrate sunlight on a vessel to heat a liquid inside, which creates steam, which turns a turbine to produce electricity.

A Tactic to Delay Approval and Escalate Costs for Energy Companies Seeking Permits

Before the California Energy Commission approves a project, it subjects the proposal to a rigorous environmental review process. This includes three phases: (1) data collection, (2) discovery and analysis that results in a preliminary staff assessment and final staff assessment, and (3) an evidentiary hearing and decision that results in a Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision and then final approval of a license for the project.

Any member of the public can submit written comments to the California Energy Commission during the permitting or licensing process for large power plants. But California law also allows a member of the public to apply to the California Energy Commission to become an “intervenor” and play an active, integral role in the permitting process for an individual power plant. An intervenor not only participates as an interested party, but can also provide testimony and witnesses and cross-examine other parties’ witnesses, most importantly during the pivotal “evidentiary hearing.” Information provided or obtained by the intervenor becomes part of the basis for the California Energy Commission’s final decision.

Typically lasting a year or longer, the review process is supposed to be open and transparent to the public. In order to preserve the integrity and the impartiality of the Energy Commission’s licensing process, California law prohibits any private “ex parte” communication between the power plant applicant, the Energy Commission staff, and outside intervenors. No party can communicate with decision-makers except in a public hearing or public record. No behind-doors deals or discussions are allowed.

Nevertheless, some informed observers believe the process is being abused. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) was using the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to intervene in the licensing process for natural gas-fired power plants. CURE seemed to be hindering approval of these projects until unions obtained a commitment for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the project. This practice of “greenmail” was summarized in a September 6, 2004 Los Angeles Times article Struggle Over Power Plants and a September 19, 2004 Sacramento Bee article Pressure by Labor Group Alleged. The Wall Street Journal published a February 15, 2001 editorial condemning it: Power Grab.

Outside Parties Impede Approval of Thermal Solar Plants – Unions Are Prominent

As energy companies began the process of winning state approval for their proposed projects, California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) intervened in almost every case through the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. As seen below, CURE routinely filed requests for applicants to collect large amounts of data. It objected to analysis, review, and procedures. It even filed two lawsuits to stop construction of two proposed solar thermal power plants.

It was noteworthy that CURE seemed to resolve its aggressive environmental concerns about a project when unions obtained a commitment from the energy company for contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the project. This practice was reported in a June 18, 2009 New York Times article A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants and in a February 5, 2011 Los Angeles Times article Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized.

Below is a chart showing the involvement of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) in the California Energy Commission licensing process for proposed large solar thermal power plant projects. In some cases, there is an uncanny relationship between the end of CURE involvement and a Project Labor Agreement or some sort of union deal. Notice that a Project Labor Agreement was announced in 2009 for the Ivanpah power plant.

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Involvement in the Sixteen Applications to the California Energy Commission for Approval of a Solar Thermal Power Plant

1. Ivanpah Solar – Solar Partners/Brightsource, in San Bernardino County (370 MW)

2. Blythe Solar Power Project – NextEra Blythe Energy Center LLC, in Riverside County (1,000 MW)

3. Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project – City of Victorville, in City of Victorville in San Bernardino County (513 MW natural gas, 50 MW solar)

4. Beacon Solar Energy Project – Beacon Solar LLC, in Kern County (250 MW)

5. Abengoa Mojave Solar Project – Abengoa Solar Inc., in San Bernardino County (250 MW)

6. Imperial Valley Solar Project (Formerly SES Solar Two Project) – Imperial Valley Solar LLC, in Imperial County (709 MW)

7. Genesis Solar – Genesis Solar LLC / NextEra™ Energy Resources LLC, in Riverside County (250 MW)

8. Rice Solar Energy Project – Rice Solar LLC / SolarReserve LLC, in Riverside County (150 MW)

9. City of Palmdale Hybrid Gas-Solar – City of Palmdale, in City of Palmdale in Los Angeles County (520 MW natural gas, 50 MW solar)

10. Palen Solar Power Project – BrightSource Energy / Abengoa SA (former applicant Nalep Solar Project I, LLC), in Riverside County (500 MW)

11. Carrizo Energy Solar Farm – Carrizo Energy LLC, in San Luis Obispo County

12. San Joaquin Solar 1 & 2 – San Joaquin Solar LLC, in Fresno County

13. Ridgecrest Solar Power Project – Solar Millennium, in Kern County (250 MW)

14. Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System – BrightSource Energy Inc., in Inyo County (500 MW)

15. Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility – BrightSource Energy Inc., in Riverside County (750 MW)

  • California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) did not intervene. Representatives of Laborers Local Union No. 1184 expressed support for the project and looked forward to jobs.

16. Calico Solar Project (Formerly SES Solar One Project) – Calico Solar LLC/Tessera Solar (formerly Stirling Energy Systems), in San Bernardino County (663.5 MW)


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Collect Them All: Environmental Objections of California Unions in 2013

Attendees of the annual leftist “Netroots Nation” conference in San Jose, California on June 20-23, 2013 had ample opportunities to learn how to use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to advance the labor union political agenda.

They could have attended a June 22 panel (CEQA: An Example of Linking Environmental and Labor Movements) on how union and environmental movements must work together using CEQA to keep “progressivism” relevant.

Or they could have been inspired by a June 21 panel (Building Renewables, Building Workers Lives – a Door to the Middle Class) to discuss how unions can better use CEQA to attain monopoly control of small solar power plant construction.

Obviously there was no shame or worry at this conference about exploiting environmental laws for ulterior purposes. Perhaps there were even some snickers about the irony of Ronald Reagan signing CEQA into law in 1970.

But monitor the public statements of the supporters of CEQA reform, or read the news media coverage about CEQA reform, and you would barely be aware such abuses are happening.

For anyone who doubts that unions are one of the primary wielders of environmental law to attain economic objectives unrelated to environmental protection, here’s a list of union CEQA activity so far in 2013.

1. Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project, City of Pasadena

March 13, 2013 – Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE)

Here’s a chronology of how the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, representing California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), objected on environmental grounds to a municipal power plant project on one hand while negotiating a Project Labor Agreement for the same project on the other hand:

2012-2013 – Interaction Between California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and City of Pasadena – Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project

2. Napa Pipe Project, County of Napa

May 20, 2013 – Request for a Subsequent Environmental Impact Report – Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 343, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 180, pretending to be the “Napa Coalition for Responsible Development.”

I wrote about the union environmental objections to this project in my May 28, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley.

3. Agincourt Solar Project and Marathon Solar Project, County of San Bernardino

February 1, 2013 – Comments on the Initial Studies/Mitigated Negative Declarations – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “San Bernardino County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”

This one had a happy ending!

April 23, 2013 – Announcement from California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “San Bernardino County Citizens for Responsible Solar” – the Western Burrowing Owl, the Desert Tortoise, the LeConte Thrasher, and the Joshua Tree are saved – let’s build!

4. VWR International Supply and Distribution Facility, City of Visalia

February 14, 2013 – Visalia VWR Employees Vote to Join Teamsters Union

After the Teamsters Joint Council 7 and fellow plaintiffs flipped a lower court decision by winning CEQA arguments (among other arguments) on appeal in Coalition For Clean Air v. City of Visalia, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 948 won an NLRB-supervised representation election for employees of the new VWR International facility in Visalia.

Footnote 4 in the September 14, 2012 appeals court decision states that “Respondent VWR International’s brief alleges that the CEQA action was originally commenced by the Teamsters union and one of its local officers, in an effort to halt construction of the Visalia facility, fearing that its completion as a non-union facility would lead to the closure of a unionized facility in Brisbane.”

5. Pioneer Green Energy Solar Project, County of Kern

January 7, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”

Unions don’t seem to regard this project as particularly “green,” but maybe the green of money from a Project Labor Agreement will change their minds.

6. Imperial Valley Solar Company 2, County of Imperial

February 15, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Imperial Citizens for Responsible Industry” and also February 18, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184.

Two union groups going after this one. Do you ever wonder if the Sonoran desert toads know they’re being abandoned to be squashed by heavy equipment when unions get their Project Labor Agreements?

7. Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Plant, County of Mono

Enjoying its peaceful repose and diversity and rarity of species of plants and animals.January 29, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and also January 30, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report – Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local Union No. 783.

This project is getting a double whammy, including from a union whose members travel to Mono County to “enjoy its peaceful repose and diversity and rarity of species of plants and animals.”

8. Three Rocks Solar, County of Fresno

CEQA documents for proposed solar power plants in Fresno County as of August 7, 2012. A majority of these documents related to union CEQA objections.

CEQA documents for proposed solar power plants in Fresno County as of August 7, 2012. A majority of these documents related to union CEQA objections.

May 31, 2013 – Request to Fresno County Board of Supervisors to deny appeal of Planning Commission’s decision to deny Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration and conditional use permit – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Fresno County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”

As if the Fresno County Planning Department didn’t already have enough paper from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. Imagine the trees unions are cutting down to protect the environment.

9. Dignity Health Elk Grove Medical Campus Project, City of Elk Grove

January 18, 2013 – Request for all documents referenced in the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report – Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 340, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 162.

Even if the developer pays for it, is there any dignity for city employees when law firms force them to spend a huge amount of time collecting a huge pile of paper? Is this how government employees should be serving the people?

10.  World Logistics Center Project – City of Moreno Valley (added to this list on June 27, 2013)

April 5, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local Union No. 1184

This would be the largest master-planned warehouse complex in the United States, and unions want their share of the estimated $3.5 billion in construction and 20,000 permanent jobs.

11. Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Project, Imperial County (added to this list on June 27, 2013)

February 27, 2013 – U.S. District Court rejects lawsuit filed by plaintiffs that include Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local Union No. 1184

Unions decided to file a lawsuit (Desert Protective Council et al v. United States Department of the Interior et al) challenging the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Final Environmental Impact Report to overturn a May 2012 decision made by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, California Desert District, El Centro Field Office to allow 112 wind turbine generators.

12. Acheson Commons (2133 University Avenue), City of Berkeley (added to this list on July 15, 2013)

May 8, 2013 and June 13, 2013 – Requests for Zoning Adjustments Board not to approve Use Permits for the project – Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, pretending to be “Berkeley Residents for Sustainable Development.”

Allegedly the “largest apartment complex ever planned for Berkeley’s downtown,” this project moved forward after some sort of deal with the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, as reported in this July 11, 2013 article City’s Largest Apartment Building Ever Gets Go-Ahead.

13. Campo Verde Solar Project, Imperial County (added to this list on July 17, 2013)

Laborers’ International Union of North America Local Union No. 1184, et al. vs. County of Imperial, ECU7294

Laborers Local Union No. 1184 filed a lawsuit against Imperial County to stop First Solar, Inc. from building the 139-megawatt Campo Verde photovoltaic solar project. 

14. Citation Residential Project, City of Milpitas (added to this list on August 2, 2013)

A California appellate court rejected an appeal from the Carpenters Local Union No. 405 related to the union’s efforts to challenge approval of a 732-unit condominium project. See the July 16, 2013 decision in May v. City of Milpitas.

15. Cordes Ranch Specific Plan, City of Tracy (added to this list on August 2, 2013)

July 24, 2013 – Objections to Final Environmental Impact Report for Cordes Ranch Specific Plan – Carpenters Union Local No. 152.

A construction union has CEQA objections to a commercial and industrial development proposed in Tracy.

16. Palen Solar Electric Generating System in Riverside County, at California Energy Commission (added August 2, 2013)

March 26, 2013 order granting petition to intervene from Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184May 8, 2013 status report.

While California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) reached an agreement to end its interference with permitting for this solar thermal power plant, the Laborers union in Riverside County is just getting started.

17. Desert Harvest Solar Project, Riverside County (added August 2, 2013)

March 11, 2013 – U.S. Bureau of Land Management denies protest of Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184 against Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Another solar project under assault. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) has not objected to the project, perhaps because the IBEW Union Local No. 440 has the electrical work.

18. Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) Specific Plan Amendment Study, City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports (added August 2, 2013)

April 29, 2013 – Objections to the Final Environmental Impact Report – SEIU United Service Workers West; May 29, 2013 – Lawsuit Against City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports – SEIU United Service Workers West.

Another one of the those CEQA lawsuits that allegedly rarely happen. This one comes courtesy of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Service Workers West, which claims to represent 2,000 Los Angeles International Airport workers, including passenger service workers, security officers, sky caps, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors, and cargo handlers.

19. Sun Valley Energy Project in Riverside County, at California Energy Commission (added August 7, 2013)

August 5, 2013 – Request to California Energy Commission for Notices – Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184.

Better late than never. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) submitted a petition on February 8, 2006 to the California Energy Commission to intervene on this project.

20. One South Market, City of San Jose (added August 13, 2013)

Staff Report on Appeal of Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council to One South Market Street Project (includes June 25, July 9, and July 12 letters from law firm ofAdams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo)

I wrote about this union CEQA appeal in the August 13, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Union Environmental Appeal of San Jose Infill High-Rise Fools No One.

21. Avalon Bay Communities – Dublin Station – Transit Center, City of Dublin (added August 13, 2013)

Carpenters Local Union No. 713 objected to this project in order to control the work. The union filed a lawsuit after the Dublin City Council rejected their appeal. On March 7, 2013, a California Appeals Court sided with the City of Dublin in Concerned Dublin Citizens v. City of Dublin.

22. Basin Street Properties – Riverfront Mixed Use Project, City of Petaluma (added August 24, 2013)

Pretending to be “Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development,” the Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties Building and Construction Trades Council managed to delay an August 13, 2013 Petaluma Planning Commission meeting with its CEQA objections to the Riverfront Mixed Use Project.

23.  Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Water Project in Riverside County, State Water Resources Control Board (added August 27, 2013)

April 10, 2013 – Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report – Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local Union No. 1184

Water would move back and forth between two old mining pits at different elevations to generate electricity during peak hours of usage. The Laborers Union is concerned.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley

Throughout California, unions routinely use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a tool to block and delay proposed projects until the public or private developer accepts some sort of labor agreement.

This is the big-time, highly-professional “greenmail.” At stake is the control of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars. Such CEQA abuse is extensive but rarely reported by the state’s news media.

Interest groups calling for CEQA reform prefer to focus on the little outrages, such as the case in 2011 in which Andy’s BP gas station appealed to the San Jose City Council on environmental grounds after the San Jose Planning Commission approved the expansion of Moe’s gas station, located across the street.

This kind of CEQA abuse is silly, and everyone can band together and say this is ridiculous.

Union CEQA abuse is sinister. It’s a manifestation of the clash of economic ideologies. It involves implicit and sometimes explicit threats before and during negotiations leading to secret deals behind closed doors. It is the flexing of power between corporate and collectivist interests. And the unwitting and unaware individual citizen ultimately pays the price.

The latest example of union CEQA abuse about which you haven’t heard is the environmental objections of three construction trade unions to the conversion of the long-abandoned Napa Pipe manufacturing facility into a commercial and residential riverfront development. This proposed project is in the southern end of Napa Valley.

The May 21, 2013 Napa Valley Register local newspaper hinted that unions plan to use CEQA to interfere with this project if the Napa County Board of Supervisors approves it:

A coalition of union workers raised some environmental concerns with the project moving forward as planned, though.

Ellen Trescott, a lawyer with Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo in Sacramento, requested the county delay its approval so another environmental impact report could be prepared.

Trescott argued that’s warranted because Napa Pipe’s EIR analyzed a much larger version of the project, when it was proposed to be 2,500 homes. The developers shrunk it to up to 945 homes last June.

“You can only stretch an EIR so far,” Trescott said. “Don’t hastily approve this project without covering your legal bases under CEQA,” she said, referring to the state’s environmental law.

Trescott said she represents the Napa Coalition for Responsible Development, which is identified as consisting of Napa County residents Brett Risley, David Dias and Dan Huss, as well as the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 343, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 180, and other residents.

After the meeting, Trescott said the group has not yet considered the possibility of filing a legal challenge to Napa Pipe under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Gitelman dismissed the group’s contentions, citing a response letter written by Whit Manley, a lawyer working with the developers behind Napa Pipe. Manley argued that the project’s shrinkage after rounds of public input and comment in the EIR process is “an inevitable – indeed, desirable – aspect of the CEQA process.”

“CEQA is intended to inform public decisionmaking,” Manley wrote. “It is not designed to condemn projects to endless rounds of review.”

As it turns out, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo had submitted a massive set of CEQA objections to the proposed Napa Pipe development in May 2011, on behalf of “The Napa Coalition for Responsible Development,” which is “comprised of Napa County residents, including, Brett Risley, David Dias and Daniel Huss, and Sheet Metal Workers, Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 343, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 180, and their members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in Napa County.”

One could still accept the claim of the unions that they simply have “a strong interest in enforcing environmental laws such as the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) to protect its members” and – as reported in the March 28, 2012 Napa Valley Register – “Union locals for electrical workers, plumbers and sheet-metal workers lament the prospective loss of a key site from the county’s industrial past, and advocate leaving it untouched in the hopes that industry will once again take root there.”

But a May 23, 2013 letter to the editor of the Napa Valley Register from a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local No. 180 suggests an ulterior motive, and it’s not love for the environment or lamentation for the (union-instigated?) decline of California industry:

…Texas is not the only state with builders or developers who don’t intend to pay their workers a living wage. The developer of Napa Pipe built Carneros Inn and Boon Fly Café, prior to trying to develop the Napa Pipe project.

In the first phase of the Carneros Inn project, he used Napa Electric Co. and other local contractors. The business manager of Electrical Workers Local 180, Plumbers Local 343 and Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 asked the developer if he would sign a PLA (Project Labor Agreement). This means he agrees to pay the living wage for Napa County, and also agrees to use local contractors for the Carneros Inn project.

He immediately said he would not sign any such agreement. In phase two of the Carneros Inn project, he hired Rex Moore from Sacramento to do his electrical work and other out-of town contractors who will work for less than our living wage in Napa County.

I appeal to our county Board of Supervisors to not let this project go forward until this developer agrees to sign a PLA, and also agrees to only use local Napa contractors.

Regular readers of www.UnionWatch.org will laugh at the usual California union attack on Texas and recognize that the misnomer “living wage” in this letter is referring to the wages, benefits, and employer payments to other union-affiliated trust funds designated in the applicable collective bargaining agreements for each construction trade in Napa County, and not to any sort of independently determined “living wage” for the region.

Of course, the idea that a company that happens to be based in Napa Valley wine country (not a center of the construction industry) should have exclusive rights to building a major development because the project is located in Napa is absurd. The real purpose of the Project Labor Agreement is to eliminate competition and give unions a monopoly on construction.

The Napa Valley Register published a subsequent May 24, 2013 letter to the editor – “Union Pressure Leads to Labor Agreements” – submitted by me that exposed the truth to the public:

California union leaders regard the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as an essential tool to “greenmail” public and private project owners into signing union Project Labor Agreements (PLA). That’s why unions oppose any reasonable changes to CEQA at the state legislature.

The Napa Pipe mixed-use riverfront neighborhood is now a target of union CEQA actions. The law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is representing construction trade unions as it submits environmental objections to the Napa Pipe project.

If unions suddenly stop objecting to the Napa Pipe neighborhood on environmental grounds, look for the Project Labor Agreement. A May 23 letter to the editor of the Napa Valley Register from a union official (“Napa Pipe project workers deserve Napa living wages”) asks the Napa County Board of Supervisors to “not let this project go forward until this developer agrees to sign a PLA.”

One day, unions and their allies will no longer control the state Legislature, and the Napa Pipe project will be another piece of evidence to prove CEQA has become a farce.

Sources:

The notorious Andy’s BP CEQA action against Moe’s Stop Gas and Service Station in San Jose

Napa Pipe Project (developer’s site)

Napa Pipe Project (County of Napa site)

Napa County Board of Supervisors

The law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo

May 2, 2011 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo Comments on Supplemental Draft EIR for Napa Pipe Project – Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 343, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 180

The Battle Over Napa PipeNapa Valley Register – March 18, 2012

County Delays Action on Napa Pipe, but a Deal is Close – Napa Valley Register – May 21, 2013

Napa Pipe Project Workers Deserve Napa Living WagesNapa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Union Pressure Leads to Labor AgreementsNapa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections

A broad coalition opposing any changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) held a press conference today (March 12, 2013) that included the findings of a newly-released study, The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental  Quality Act.

The study was written by a University of Utah professor with a long history of academic work biased toward the construction union agenda. It was funded by the union-affiliated California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Trust. Study results were summarized at the press conference by Bob Balgenorth, chairman of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust and the former head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

This March 11, 2013 Associated Press article Coalition Forms to Defend California Environmental Law reports on what happened:

Common Ground, the new coalition group opposing reforms, commissioned a report as part of its effort to emphasize the importance of the law.

The study by Peter Philips, a University of Utah economics professor, points to the state’s record in building alternative-energy projects and maintaining construction jobs as evidence that the law is working.

“Has CEQA actually hindered construction? Far from it,” said Bob Balgenorth, chairman of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust. “If anything, it’s facilitated greater construction, a cleaner environment and a better quality of life for Californians.”

Brown and the Legislature’s Democratic leaders are negotiating changes after an attempt to pass a bill failed last year.

The governor’s office had no comment on the report, but Brown has advocated for more consistent standards in reviewing development projects.

It’s unlikely that Governor Brown is ever going to comment on the report. And the business coalition in support of CEQA reform appears to be strategical avoiding any references to unions and their abuse of CEQA to obtain labor agreements and other economic concessions. So far I haven’t seen any news reports taking a critical look at this study or its origins.

So here’s the scoop about this study, courtesy of www.UnionWatch.org:

The Author of the New CEQA Study

The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental  Quality Act was written by Peter Philips, Professor of Economics at the University of Utah. Professor Philips has specialized in research on construction labor issues, with particular attention to California.

For example, in 2012 Professor Philips had his paper The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities published in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society. This journal is published by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, an affiliate of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program. It is hosted on the web site of the union-backed California Construction Academy, a project of the UCLA Labor Center established within the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, which (as stated earlier) is an affiliate of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program. If this tangle of programs at the University of California confuses you, that’s probably the intent.

This paper is part of an ongoing lobbying campaign of the Santa Clara-San Benito Building and Construction Trades Council and a union-affiliated organization called www.SmartCitiesPrevail.org to convince the Palo Alto City Council to repeal its own policy concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called prevailing wages) on purely municipal construction projects. This is a right granted under Article XI of the California Constitution to Palo Alto and 120 other California cities that operate under their own charters. For more information on this home-rule right, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

As shown in his curriculum vitae, Professor Philips was the keynote speaker at the California International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) conference in 2012. He has spoken repeatedly at conferences about Project Labor Agreements, including the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California annual conference in 2008.

While this background doesn’t necessarily mean that Professor Philips has inaccuracies in his research and reports, one should be aware that he holds certain presuppositions and biases about economics and labor relations that may be reflected in his work.

The Sponsor of the New CEQA Study

Page 2 of The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental  Quality Act indicates that “This study was sponsored by a grant from the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust.” This mysterious group was described last year in www.UnionWatch.org (see Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter).

This is an arcane type of union-affiliated trust authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Inspired by the decline of unionized manufacturing in the Northeast, this federal law was meant to help industrial management and union officials build better personal relationships and cooperate against the threat of outside competition. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. This is an ambiguous and forgotten law that’s ripe for abuse.

Here are some of the recent top recipients of funding from the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust:

  1. $1,095,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No on Measure A, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 5, 2012 election in City of San Diego)
  2. $770,000 – UCLA Labor Center (aka UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education), part of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program
  3. $250,000 – No 98/Yes 99 – A Committee of City and County Associations, Taxpayers and Environmental Groups, League of California Cities, Californians for Neighborhood Protection, Coalition of Conservationists
  4. $164,550 – “Other” (?)
  5. $100,000 – Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future – No on V, sponsored by labor and management organizations (November 6, 2012 election in City of Costa Mesa)
  6. $100,000 – Apollo Alliance
  7. $100,000 – Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop in San Joaquin County
  8. $50,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No On Measure G, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 8, 2010 election in City of Chula Vista)

But what’s more interesting is the source of at least some of this money, if not all of it.

It’s Not Union Members that Give the Money to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust: It’s Utility Ratepayers and Contractors Working for Extorted Power Plant Owners

Since the 1990s, whenever an energy company or public utility submits an application to the California Energy Commission seeking approval of a new power plant, an organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) often “intervenes” in the licensing process. Represented by the South San Francisco law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, CURE submits massive data requests and environmental objections to the California Energy Commission. The applicant by law is required to answer CURE’s submissions, at significant cost and delay. The chairman of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) was Bob Balgenorth (see above).

If the power plant owner agrees to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California or its regional affiliates, CURE’s objections fade away and the power plant proceeds unhindered through the licensing process. If the company or utility does not surrender to CURE’s demand, then CURE’s interference and lawsuits continue.

This racket – sometimes called “greenmail” because it’s the use of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and federal environmental laws to pressure developers to sign Project Labor Agreements – is well-known to the energy industry in California and has been extensively reported in the news media over the past dozen years. (For example, see Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized – Los Angeles Times – February 5, 2011 and A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants – New York Times – June 18, 2009.) It is also documented in www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com.

For cases in which the power plant applicant succumbs to CURE’s harassment, the Project Labor Agreement that the power plant owner signs usually contains a provision requiring the owner or its contractors to make a lump-sum payment or series of payments to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust.

For example, the Project Labor Agreement signed by the Northern California Power Agency (a conglomerate of publicly-owned utilities) for the construction of the Lodi Energy Center required the agency to shell out $90,000 to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. That amount was dutifully mailed to Bob Balgenorth on August 17, 2010. (For more on this payment, see High Energy: Lodi Center Designed to be a Powerhouse for Chunk of State – Stockton Record – October 4, 2011; also, the union rebuttal on the California Building Trades Council web site – ABC Falsehoods Refuted in Letter to Stockton Record.)

And Section 13.1 of the Project Labor Agreement signed by the Southern California Public Power Authority (another conglomerate of publicly-owned utilities) for the construction of the City of Anaheim’s Canyon Power Plant required the agency to shell out $65,000 to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust.

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports these payments as “membership dues” to the Internal Revenue Service. Which brings up a question: are the local elected officials who serve as commissioners for the Northern California Power Agency and the Southern California Public Power Authority exercising their responsibilities as “members” to approve its expenditures?

It’s a tangled conspiracy. Especially intriguing is that one union official was the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, and California Unions for Reliable Energy. For more information, see the investigative report of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction at this September 23, 2011 post at www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.comA Genuine California Union Conspiracy: Senate Bill 790 and the California Building Trades Council’s Ratepayer Funded Political Slush Fund

Confused about the Conspiracy? Here’s a Chart.

A public utility or private energy company applies to the California Energy Commission for approval to build a power plant.

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) uses its “intervenor” status at the California Energy Commission to submit massive data requests and environmental complaints about the proposed power plant, as a result gumming up the licensing process and causing costly and lengthy delays for the applicant.

 ↓

Applicant for prospective power plant surrenders and agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California or its regional affiliates. California Unions for Reliable Energy releases its grip of legal paperwork and the project moves forward unimpeded and acclaimed as environmentally sound.

 ↓

The Project Labor Agreement contains a required payment or payments to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative TrustCalifornia Public Utilities Code Section 3260 – enacted by Senate Bill 790 in 2011 – allows public utilities to pass costs through to ratepayers.

 ↓

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports those payments to the IRS as “Membership Dues,” creating questions about the rights inherent for dues-paying members.

 ↓

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust makes contributions to political campaigns and studies, including The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Solutions

Is there any way this racket can be stopped? Yes. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards could promulgate regulations that establish restrictions and reporting guidelines for committees authorized by the Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978. Even better, Congress could pass legislation amending or repealing the law, and the President could sign it. Neither solution is viable for the next four years.

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

CEQA Debate Rule No. 1: Do NOT Mention Union “Greenmail”

“Here’s the plan: pretend that unions aren’t exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a tool to obtain labor agreements. Maybe no one will notice.”

Supporters and opponents of CEQA reform are straining to avoid this uncomfortable subject as influential Democrats in the California State Senate prepare to introduce an alleged reform of CEQA that would discourage abuses of the law.


Note: the second half of this article includes excerpts from my February 18, 2013 article on www.FlashReport.org entitled Highlighting the Top Union Abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Thank you to www.FlashReport.org and www.UnionWatch.org for exposing generally unreported labor public policy issues to a wider audience in California and the United States.


This moratorium on referring to union “greenmail” reached absurd levels this week, as a noted journalist in San Diego who is left-leaning but generally recognized as honestly blunt neglected to report the obvious about union CEQA abuse.

An article entitled San Diego Hotels: Labor in Revolt was posted on February 20, 2013 in the “alternative” weekly newspaper San Diego Reader. It sympathetically portrayed the quest of organizers in the San Diego-based UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 to unionize the city’s hotel workforce.

Readers learn about various adversarial tactics used by UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 to pressure hotel operators to sign union agreements. The article mentions picket lines, boycotts, telling the hotel’s customers not to return, convincing elite universities to stop investing their endowment funds in hotel corporations, using labor laws offensively against employers, and encouraging workers to express themselves in public with chants, drum-beating, and labor songs.

All of these tactics reflect a typical union “corporate campaign.” But after reading the article, I went back and read it again. I couldn’t believe what I was – NOT – reading.

It mentions nothing about the high-profile CEQA actions filed by UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 against four proposed hotel projects! Here they are, as reported in www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com:

1. Lane Field in San Diego: UNITE-HERE Local 30 Doesn’t Like a Proposed Hotel

2. San Diego Hotel Union (UNITE-HERE Local 30) Finds Environmental Calamity with San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina Ballroom Expansion

3. San Diego Convention Center Expansion: Construction Unions and Hotel Unions File 63 Pages Worth of CEQA Complaints

4. Hotel Union Uses CEQA Objections to Try to Block Proposed Fat City Hotel in San Diego

Four cases of CEQA abuse in the context of organizing campaigns! Overlooked and unreported…

An article exposing this practice could attract web readers, sell newspapers, and enhance the professional reputation of the journalist who wrote it. A news vacuum is waiting to be filled.

Soon an enterprising California reporter (or national reporter) will draw attention to labor union CEQA exploitation with an investigative article. In recent years, the New York Times did this with a June 18, 2009 article A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants; also, the Los Angeles Times did this with a February 5, 2011 article Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized.

I anticipate this future investigative article will flush out the union greenmail by either providing a broad survey of 20 years of union CEQA abuse or by focusing in-depth on one of the dozens of recent union CEQA document dumps and lawsuits against proposed projects.

Here are the top examples of union “greenmail” in 2012 and in 2013 that are ripe for investigation and exposure.

The #1 Union “Greenmail” CEQA Exploitation Case of 2012: San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Phase 3

The most high-profile union-instigated CEQA action in California in 2012 was targeted at the proposed San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Phase 3, estimated to cost $520 million, or more than $1 billion total if interest on borrowed money through bond sales is included. Unions hired the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to advance the union objections. The saga is summarized on the web site www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com:

It was known for years that the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council planned to use CEQA to delay construction of the convention center expansion until it obtained a union monopoly on construction with a Project Labor Agreement. The plans were documented in a March 2011 article It’s Out in the Open: Project Labor Agreement a Costly Possibility for San Diego Convention Center Expansion.

Sure enough, it happened. In several hundred pages of submitted letters and exhibits, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 in San Diego identified numerous problems…See the May 2012 union comments for the draft Environmental Impact report on the San Diego convention center expansion and the September 2012 union comments for the final Environmental Impact Report on the San Diego convention center expansion.

Read an account of the outrageous incidents that occurred at the September 19, 2012 meeting of the United Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners, where union leaders and their law firms brazenly pulled a “document dump” in front of the city’s civic leadership: Unions Threaten Environmental Litigation to Block San Diego Convention Center.

Press conference announcing unions dropping CEQA complaints against San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3.

Press conference announcing unions dropping CEQA complaints against San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3.

Yet all these environmental problems disappeared (except for some minor environmental mitigation in three settlement agreements between these unions and the City of San Diego) once contractors were required to sign a project labor agreement with unions as a condition of working on the project and unions won a memorandum of understanding expanding the unionization of the convention center workforce.

Mayor Jerry Sanders (who was about to leave office) held a press conference on November 8, 2012 with the county’s top union official Lorena Gonzalez (who is planning a campaign for a California State Assembly seat) essentially to announce that the union environmental extortion “greenmail” was effective. The unions made “deals” with the City of San Diego and the prime contractor (a joint venture of Clark Construction Group and Hunt Construction Group) for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Phase 3.

San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council Project Labor Agreement for San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3

CEQA Works! Unions get a Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3 and environmental concerns are resolved.

The California Coastal Commission may soon consider approval of this project, now unimpeded by earlier concerns cited by unions about how the sea-level rise caused by global warming might submerge the convention center expansion.

The #1 Union “Greenmail” CEQA Exploitation Case of 2013 (So Far): Mono County Geothermal Plants

People in Mono County are incredulous about the tremendous opposition of construction trade unions (specifically, California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and Laborers Union Local No. 783) to the Ormat Technologies proposed upgrade of its long-existing Mammoth Pacific I geothermal power plant and its proposed Casa Diablo IV geothermal power plant. Actually, every Californian should be outraged about this new round of union “greenmail.”

The web site www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com explains what has happened so far with the proposed Mammoth Pacific I plant upgrade:

At the October 11, 2012 meeting of the Mono County Planning Commission, a staff member informed the commission about “documents received just today” from the law firms of Lozeau Drury and Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. In response, one commissioner stated that “last-minute documents can’t be read in two minutes without any background.” The commission approved the project on a 4-0 vote.

On October 19, 2012, California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) appealed the Mono County Planning Commission’s decision to approve the Mammoth Pacific I Replacement Project at its October 11, 2012 meeting. CURE was represented by the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

Also on October 19, 2012, the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local No. 783 (LIUNA) appealed the Mono County Planning Commission’s decision to approve the Mammoth Pacific I Replacement Project at its October 11, 2012 meeting. The union was represented by the Oakland law firm of Lozeau Drury.

On November 13, 2012, the Mono County Board of Supervisors rejected the two union appeals of project approval. Here is the staff report to the Mono County Board of Supervisors on CURE’s appeal.

Local officials knew that Ormat Technologies has been pressured to sign Project Labor Agreements giving unions a monopoly on construction and maintenance. Unions have also harassed the company at the Imperial County Planning Commission, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, and the California Energy Commission as it seeks approval for geothermal power plants in Imperial County such as Hudson Ranch II.

In fact, the February 28, 2013 meeting agenda of the California Energy Commission includes this item:

California Unions for Reliable Energy v. Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission [that is, the California Energy Commission], Real Parties in Interest Ormat Nevada, Inc., ORNI 18 LLC, and ORNI 19 LLC (Alameda County Superior Court, RG 12610669)

On December 14, 2012, Laborers Union (LIUNA) Local No. 783 filed a lawsuit (Concerned Bishop Residents v. County of Mono) in Mono County Superior Court claiming that the Mono County Board of Supervisors violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved Ormat Technologies‘ replacement project for the Mammoth Pacific Unit 1 geothermal power plant. The lawsuit explains that Laborers Union members “regularly travel to the Mammoth Lakes area of Mono County to enjoy its peaceful repose.”

Enjoying its peaceful repose and diversity and rarity of species of plants and animals.

Enjoying its peaceful repose and diversity and rarity of species of plants and animals.

But the ultimate CEQA strike by unions against geothermal power occurred on January 30, 2013, when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management office in Bishop was crushed by an incredible pile of comments from California Unions for Reliable Energy and Laborers Union Local No. 783 objecting to the draft Environmental Impact Report / Environmental Impact Statement for the Casa Diablo IV project. The amount of paper used for these objections probably required an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA.

The comments and associated exhibits are linked at Unions’ January 30, 2013 Comments Against Geothermal Power Plant Must Have Overheated the Printers!

Kevin Dayton is the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.

“Unite Here” Union Becomes San Diego’s Leading Environmental Organization

According to its national web site, UNITE HERE represents workers in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, and airport industries.

But one might conclude, after looking at the public activities of UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 in San Diego, that UNITE HERE is actually an environmental organization, marketing itself as a much more aggressive alternative to the Sierra Club. It sees dire environmental calamity with every proposed hotel in downtown San Diego.

For the past five years, this union has been prominent in using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block or delay proposed hotels. Examples have included two proposed hotels for Lane Field, the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina Renovation Project, Ballpark Village, and the Phase III expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and the expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel. UNITE-HERE also lobbied in 2009 and 2010 for an ordinance in the City of San Diego that would allow outside parties to appeal the hotel approval decisions of the Centre City Development Corporation to the San Diego City Council.

Based on settlement agreements and other deals referenced in conjunction with hotel projects where UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 choses not to object or withdraws its objections, its CEQA concerns appear to be related to union demands for labor neutrality agreements with hotel developers. In addition, its CEQA concerns appear to be related to union demands for construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the hotel construction.

The union’s latest action is against the proposed Fat City Hotel Project.

On behalf of UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30, the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on December 5, 2012 alleging that the City of San Diego, the San Diego Planning Commission, and the Centre City Development Corporation improperly approved the proposed Fat City Hotel Project.

First proposed publicly in March 2012, this project would be a two-tower, 364-room hotel in San Diego’s “Little Italy” district. Parties initially involved in this development were Frank Fat Properties LP and Jonathan Segal (an architect), but the parties now developing the project are FC Acquisition Company LLC, which includes T2 Development and GLJ Partners. (See Fat City Hotels Property Sold, New Developer Takes Over: T2 Development Reportedly Planning a Hilton Hotel – San Diego Union-Tribune – August 28, 2012.)

As reported in the May 30, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotel Approved Over Labor Objections and in the July 26, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotels Project Wins Final OK: Planning Commission Denies Appeal from Hotel Workers, the hotel workers’ union has been pestering the hotel developers for a while:

The final opposition came from Unite Here Local 30, the local hotel workers union. There is no appeal from the commission vote.

Pamela N. Epstein, representing the union, said the project conflicted with city land-use plans, citing a maximum of hotel rooms that would be allowed in Little Italy where the site is located.

“Evidence does not support its designation as a resort hotel,” Epstein added.

But staff said the project complied with city rules and Commissioner Mary Lydon wondered why the union was involved, especially since new hotels mean new jobs.

“Why you brought this forward, to me, it’s a total miss,” Lydon said.

UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 claims that the project needs a project-specific Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Local agencies approved the project under the conclusion that the potential environmental impacts of this project were addressed in a 2006 “Program Environmental Impact Report” for future downtown redevelopment. See the San Diego Planning Commission staff report for the July 26, 2012 meeting concerning UNITE-HERE’s appeal of the Centre City Development Corporation’s approval of the project.

At some point, someone with influence in San Diego needs to shame the leadership of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 for its relentless exploitation of the state’s environmental protection laws.

The appropriate questions that reporters and public officials need to ask UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30: will the union drop its lawsuit if the developers agree to a neutrality agreement or collective bargaining agreement with UNITE-HERE for hotel employees, along with some minor “environmental mitigation” to provide camouflage for the true purpose of the CEQA lawsuit? In addition, is UNITE-HERE also asking the developers to require their contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council?

Kevin Dayton is the President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.

Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter

As explained by the League of California Cities, the California Constitution gives cities the authority to enact “charters” and thereby manage their purely municipal affairs without interference from the state. Cities have been increasingly eager to seek charters in recent years in order to free themselves from costly state mandates. Since 2007, voters have increased the number of charter cities from 107 to 121, and voters in three more cities will have the opportunity to consider approving charters on November 6, 2012.

Here are web links to the three proposed charters and the support and opposition web sites for the three proposed charters:

1. City of Escondido (San Diego County) – population 146,032

2. City of Costa Mesa (Orange County) – population 111,600

3. City of Grover Beach (San Luis Obispo County) – population 13,275

  • Charter Proposal as Presented on City Web Site: Measure I-12
  • Yes on I-12 Web Site: Vote Yes on Measure I-12
  • No on I-12 Web Site: http://www.protectgroverbeach.com

The most aggressive opponents of proposed charters are unions, particularly construction trade unions. (See Who Defeated the City of Auburn’s Proposed Charter, and How Was It Done? Answer: Three Union Entities, by Spending $56.40 Per NO Vote.) As confirmed by a California Supreme Court decision in July 2012 (State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista), charter cities have the right to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”).

In almost all cases, the state determines the wage rate by adding up all of the employer payments (including payments that are not employee compensation) indicated within the union collective bargaining agreement that applies to a specific trade within the specific geographical region that falls within the jurisdiction of the union agreement. The state does not survey contractors or workers to determine an average or median wage, nor does it consider regional wage statistics calculated by the California Economic Development Department. As a result, state-mandated construction wage rates in California are often much higher than the actual wage rates in a locality. But with a charter, a city can set its own rates for its own projects.

For a comprehensive 92-page guide about government-mandated construction wage rates in California and the status of prevailing wage policies in California’s 121 charter cities, see the recently-published 3rd edition of Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

As listed above, voters in the City of Costa Mesa have the opportunity on November 6, 2012 to consider Measure V, which would enact a charter. Mailboxes are stuffed daily with slick full-color productions telling the citizens of Costa Mesa how awful life will be if the city frees itself from the benevolent California State Legislature and adopts its own mini-constitution.  (See some of these mailers below.)

ONE entity has spent $100,000 against Measure V as of September 30. (At the rate those mailers are pouring in, it’s likely much more has been spent in October.)

The donor is the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. Have you ever heard of it?

The secretive California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is the sole direct contributor (of at least $100,000) to the No on V campaign in Costa Mesa.

What is the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust? Where does it spend its money? How does it get its money?

If you want a more detailed but still shadowy idea of how this group spends its ill-gotten money, you can read my May 31, 2012 article Where the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust Spends Its Money: Now We See How Unions Spread It. But here is a list of the top recipients:

  1. $1,095,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No on Measure A, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 5, 2012 election in City of San Diego)
  2. $770,000 – UCLA Labor Center (aka UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education), part of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program
  3. $250,000 – No 98/Yes 99 – A Committee of City and County Associations, Taxpayers and Environmental Groups, League of California Cities, Californians for Neighborhood Protection, Coalition of Conservationists
  4. $164,550 – “Other” (?)
  5. $100,000 – Apollo Alliance
  6. $100,000 – Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop in San Joaquin County
  7. $50,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No On Measure G, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 8, 2010 election in City of Chula Vista)

But what’s more interesting is the source of at least some of this money, if not all of it.

A Mysterious Union Slush Fund, Authorized by an Obscure 1978 Federal Law to Encourage Better Relationships Between Unions and Manufacturers, Gave $100,000 to No on Measure V

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed a total of $100,000 to the No on Measure V campaign. This is an extraordinarily high amount for a political contribution from one entity, especially concerning a local ballot measure! The head of the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is Bob Balgenorth, who is also head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, based in Sacramento.

This is NOT a traditional Political Action Committee. It is an arcane type of union trust authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Inspired by the decline of unionized manufacturing in the Northeast, this federal law was meant to help industrial management and union officials build better personal relationships and cooperate against the threat of outside competition. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. This is an ambiguous and forgotten law that’s ripe for abuse.

It’s Not Union Members that Give the Money to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust: It’s Utility Ratepayers and Contractors Working for Extorted Power Plant Owners

Since the 1990s, whenever an energy company or public utility submits an application to the California Energy Commission seeking approval of a new power plant, an organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) often “intervenes” in the licensing process. Represented by the South San Francisco law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, CURE submits massive data requests and environmental objections to the California Energy Commission. The applicant by law is required to answer CURE’s submissions, at significant cost and delay. The chairman of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) is Bob Balgenorth (see above).

If the power plant owner agrees to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California or its regional affiliates, CURE’s objections fade away and the power plant proceeds unhindered through the licensing process. If the company or utility does not surrender to CURE’s demand, then CURE’s interference and lawsuits continue.

This racket – sometimes called “greenmail” because it’s the use of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and federal environmental laws to pressure developers to sign Project Labor Agreements – is well-known to the energy industry in California and has been extensively reported in the news media over the past dozen years. (For example, see Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized – Los Angeles Times – February 5, 2011.)

For cases in which the power plant applicant succumbs to CURE’s harassment, the Project Labor Agreement that the power plant owner signs usually contains a provision requiring the owner or its contractors to make a lump-sum payment or series of payments to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust.

For example, the Project Labor Agreement signed by the Northern California Power Agency (a conglomerate of publicly-owned utilities) for the construction of the Lodi Energy Center required the agency to shell out $90,000 to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. That amount was dutifully mailed to Bob Balgenorth on August 17, 2010. (For more on this payment, see High Energy: Lodi Center Designed to be a Powerhouse for Chunk of State – Stockton Record – October 4, 2011; also, the union rebuttal on the California Building Trades Council web site – ABC Falsehoods Refuted in Letter to Stockton Record – a denial that the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is used for political contributions.)

And Section 13.1 of the Project Labor Agreement signed by the Southern California Public Power Authority (another conglomerate of publicly-owned utilities) for the construction of the City of Anaheim’s Canyon Power Plant required the agency to shell out $65,000 to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust.

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports these payments as “membership dues” to the Internal Revenue Service. Which brings up a question: are the local elected officials who serve as commissioners for the Northern California Power Agency and the Southern California Public Power Authority exercising their responsibilities as “members” to approve $100,000 in political contributions to the No on Measure V campaign in Costa Mesa?

But Wait a Minute…Is It Legal to Have Utility Ratepayers Fund a Mysterious Union Trust Fund that Contributes to Political Campaigns, Such as No on Measure V in Costa Mesa?

In 2009, an internal committee of the Northern California Power Agency discussed whether or not a payment to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust was an illegal gift of public funds. (Note the original amount to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust was supposed to be $150,000, but aggressive opposition to the Project Labor Agreement forced the unions to cut it down to $90,000 in order to win approval from the board of commissioners.)

To solve this uncertainty, in May 2011 State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) added a cryptic amendment at the request of union lobbyists and lawyers to the end of a large unrelated public utilities bill (Senate Bill 790) regarding “community choice aggregation.” It added Section 3260 to the Public Utilities Code: “Nothing in this division prohibits payments pursuant to an agreement authorized by the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. Sec. 151 et seq.), or payments permitted by the federal Labor Management Cooperation Act of 1978 (29 U.S.C. Secs. 173, 175a, and 186). Nothing in this division restricts any use permitted by federal law of money paid pursuant to these acts.”

No one in the California State Legislature – apparently not even Senator Leno – initially knew what this strange new provision meant. In the end, a few legislators such as Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) came to understand and reveal in floor debate that it authorized public utilities to pass on the costs of payments to labor-management cooperation committees to ratepayers. Governor Brown signed the bill into law with the language tacked on the end.

It’s a tangled conspiracy. Especially intriguing is that one union official is the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, and California Unions for Reliable Energy. For more information, see the investigative report of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction at this September 23, 2011 post at www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.comA Genuine California Union Conspiracy: Senate Bill 790 and the California Building Trades Council’s Ratepayer Funded Political Slush Fund

Confused about the Conspiracy? Here’s a Chart.

A public utility or private energy company applies to the California Energy Commission for approval to build a power plant.

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) uses its “intervenor” status at the California Energy Commission to submit massive data requests and environmental complaints about the proposed power plant, as a result gumming up the licensing process and causing costly and lengthy delays for the applicant.

 ↓

Applicant for prospective power plant surrenders and agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California or its regional affiliates. California Unions for Reliable Energy releases its grip of legal paperwork and the project moves forward unimpeded and acclaimed as environmentally sound.

 ↓

The Project Labor Agreement contains a required payment or payments to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative TrustCalifornia Public Utilities Code Section 3260 – enacted by Senate Bill 790 in 2011 – allows public utilities to pass costs through to ratepayers.

 ↓

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports those payments to the IRS as “Membership Dues,” creating questions about the rights inherent for dues-paying members.

 ↓

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust makes contributions to political campaigns, such as $100,000 to fund 100% of the No on Measure V anti-charter campaign (Committee for Costa Mesa’s Future, No on V, sponsored by labor and management organizations) in the City of Costa Mesa in 2012.

Solutions

Is there any way this racket can be stopped? Yes. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards could promulgate regulations that establish restrictions and reporting guidelines for committees authorized by the Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978. Even better, Congress could pass legislation amending or repealing the law, and the President could sign it.

In the meantime, enjoy some of the No on V mailers below, brought to you by the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust!

Is this a photo of a typical meeting of the board of directors of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust?

If the union officials running the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust had read Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?, they would have known that Mammoth Lakes is NOT a charter city.

They should have used a photo of Los Angeles and a photo of the state capitol to show who calls the shots when a California city doesn’t operate under a charter.

Is this the joint in Sacramento where the board of directors of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust goes for drinks after deciding to spend more money against the proposed Costa Mesa charter?

OK, I get it. If you’re concerned about crushing debt, government mismanagement, and lack of public accountability, vote against the charter and leave your municipal affairs to the prudent and responsible leaders of the California State Legislature.

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.

Mailers Expose Union CEQA “Greenmail” Against Solar Developers

Finally, ordinary citizens in the San Joaquin Valley learn how construction trade unions block solar power plant projects by exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Residents of Kings County (in the San Joaquin Valley of California) see local opportunities for economic growth and job creation through the construction and operation of proposed solar-powered electrical generation facilities. At the same time, local residents worry about the possibility that out-of-town developers could build or partially build these solar power facilities on former farmland but then abandon them to rust if solar energy turns out not to be profitable.

This is why the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT), a project of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC), mailed 10,000 educational pieces this week to Kings County households informing them that construction trade unions are abusing the the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to grab control of solar power construction jobs, in the process increasing costs of construction and risking the economic viability of solar energy generation in the San Joaquin Valley.

According to union front groups such as California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), the construction and operation of a solar-powered electrical generating facility has the potential to devastate the environment; that is, until the developer agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

In a press release issued today (September 25, 2012), the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow reported that it intended to make 10,000 Kings County households aware of the epidemic of union “greenmail” against renewable energy projects in the San Joaquin Valley – and specifically against Recurrent Energy‘s Mustang Solar Generation Project in Kings County.

Groups such as California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local No. 100 in Fresno exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other environmental laws to delay proposed projects. Their objective is to coerce developers to hand over monopoly control of the construction to unions through a Project Labor Agreement. The CEQA abuse racket is called “greenmail,” and it is rampant throughout California.

A San Francisco-based company, Recurrent Energy, succumbed to the union CEQA threats and signed a Project Labor Agreement for construction of the Mustang Solar Generation Project in Kings County.

Eric Christen, executive director of the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow, says the following in the September 25, 2012 press release:

For too long, construction unions have claimed, with a straight face, that solar power is bad for the environment. It’s as shameless as it is absurd. The unions block or threaten to block solar power projects using the California Environmental Quality Act – commonly known as CEQA – until the developer surrenders to the unions and agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). This is exactly what happened on the 160 megawatt solar power plant in Lemoore called the Mustang Solar Generation Project.

The press release also outlines the details of how greenmail works.

The Kings County Planning Commission had received this letter from CURE when Recurrent (Energy) first made its plans known for a Kings County project. Like rain in springtime, these implicitly threatening letters appear like clockwork as soon as a project is announced anywhere in California…The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 100 has a long history of hiring the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo out of South San Francisco to dig up alleged environmental problems with solar projects. One of the most prominent was the Fresno Airport Parking solar project in 2007.

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is cited in the Project Labor Agreement for the Mustang Solar Generation Project.

The press release concludes with the motivation for sending the mailers:

We’re going to make sure that Kings County residents and the people of California and the San Joaquin Valley know why solar power plants are so expensive, why they are taking so long to build, and why local workers don’t get to build them,” Christen added.

When will the California State Legislature reform CEQA to stop this? The Fresno Bee published an editorial on Sunday, August 5, 2012 calling for Governor Jerry Brown to take a leadership role in reforming CEQA so that unions can’t exploit it to coerce Project Labor Agreements from developers. See “EDITORIAL: Governor Again Moves Toward Needed CEQA Reform Steps – Changes to the State Law Should Be Vetted and Discussed by All Parties” – Fresno Bee – August 5, 2012.

The editorial states the following:

Brown recently has been dropping hints he is open to a significant reform of the law. It’s clearly needed, and we hope this isn’t another instance of him shooting off his mouth. California needs significant CEQA reform.

CEQA is being abused, and defenders of the law get defensive whenever anyone suggests it. The most pernicious abuse is known as “greenmail,” with groups threatening CEQA lawsuits to get labor concessions or other side deals.

Real Reform of CEQA to Stop Union Greenmail Will Be an Uphill Battle

Setting aside the last-minute proposed Sustainable Environmental Protection Act of 2012 (which was never formally introduced and probably would have little effect in stopping greenmail), the California State Legislature considered one bill in 2012 to significantly reform CEQA. On January 9, 2012, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee considered a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) – Assembly Bill 598 – which would have given the California Attorney General the exclusive authority to file or maintain a lawsuit alleging that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), negative declaration, or mitigated negative declaration does not comply with CEQA.

The committee rejected the bill on a 6-3 party-line vote, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. The hearing was an opportunity for the committee to discuss how certain parties, particularly labor unions, exploit public participation in the CEQA process to achieve objectives unrelated to environmental protection.

Assemblywoman Grove cited four specific examples of different unions (the Teamsters, the California Nurses Association, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Service Employees International Union) filing CEQA lawsuits to delay projects as leverage to extract labor concessions from businesses:

  • In 2011, the Teamsters union filed a CEQA lawsuit against VWR International, a distributor of laboratory supplies. The union, in an attempt to intimidate VWR International into signing a union labor agreement at a proposed new facility in Visalia, is using CEQA to allege that trucks entering and exiting the facility will harm the environment. This large facility is likely to employ more than 100 people in a county that has an unemployment rate over 15% and desperately needs jobs, yet there are truckers trying to stop the use of trucks! And this is after an EIR has already been approved for the process.
  • In 2009, the California Nurses Association sued Alameda County under the pretense that the county did not comply with CEQA in approving a project to demolish the deficient Eden Medical Center Hospital and other buildings and replace them with a new state of the art hospital and medical office complex. The nurses’ union did not want Sutter Health to close the San Leandro Hospital and reduce the number of beds at the Eden Medical Center. Here we see nurses protesting against a state-of-the-art new hospital.
  • The Service Employees International Union filed a CEQA lawsuit in 2007 to stop construction of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills and a CEQA lawsuit in 2006 to stop construction of Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento. Both of these lawsuits occurred in the context of SEIU organizing campaigns.
  • The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been behind numerous CEQA lawsuits filed by a Davis lawyer against proposed Wal-Mart projects in Northern California. These lawsuits are related to unions concerns over non-signatory competition for grocery sales.

Testifying on behalf of my former employer (Associated Builders and Contractors of California), I discussed how certain construction trade unions abuse CEQA as a weapon to delay projects until the owner agrees to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. The Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) and the Chambers of Commerce Alliance of Ventura & Santa Barbara were the other public supporters of the bill.

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) cited the specific example of a union using CEQA to try to force a contractor to sign a Project Labor Agreement to install solar panels at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport. Assemblyman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) adeptly exposed the Attorney General’s double standard of opposing the additional responsibilities assigned in AB 598 while remaining silent about adopting additional responsibilities through other legislation.

Legitimate environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League opposed the bill. The Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union opposed the bill in writing but did not speak at the hearing. Democrats on the committee opposed the bill, but some of them (along with the Attorney General’s office) acknowledged that some parties abuse CEQA. Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Santa Cruz) said nothing about how the Carpenters union used CEQA in a recent high-profile campaign to delay and ultimately derail the proposed La Bahia Hotel in Santa Cruz.

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.

Unions Threaten Environmental Litigation to Block San Diego Convention Center

Whatever your views concerning the wisdom of the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and the related expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, you should be outraged at the shameless stunt of top San Diego labor union officials and their lawyers at the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Board of Port Commissioners for the United Port of San Diego.

The spectacle at the Port of San Diego was a powerful illustration of how labor unions abuse the California Environmental Quality Act, commonly known as CEQA (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.), to delay projects while demanding labor agreements and other economic or labor concessions from public and private developers. It also showed how community leaders and developers are too helpless or intimidated to try to stop or evade this practice, known as “greenmail.”


A Summary of the Spectacle at the Port Commissioners’ Meeting: You Won’t Read This Story in the Mainstream News Media!

Before a crowded meeting room packed with the San Diego region’s top civic leaders – including the Mayor of San Diego, Jerry Sanders – union officials declared to the Port Commissioners that the 1400-page final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that the Port Commissioners were about to approve for the proposed project was inadequate and incomplete under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). They made this claim despite the Port’s efforts to address the original 62-page CEQA objection letter submitted by those same unions on June 29, 2012 to the Port concerning the proposed San Diego Convention Center expansion. To see the union letter AND the 374 pages of exhibits, go to the full set of Convention Center CEQA comments here. (The union submission starts at page 101 of the PDF document and ends at page 536.)

At the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Port Commissioners, top union officials made sure that all the important community leaders in the room recognized who had the power and the commitment to derail the project. An official of the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 led off the attack by declaring that the Port’s plan to comply with CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. Then a lawyer from the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo explained more specifically all of the newly discovered alleged problems with the Environmental Impact Report. She was given extra time to speak because Tom Lemmon – head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – submitted a speaker card and then transferred his speaking time to her.

Along with her comments, the lawyer for the unions brought to the podium a NEW 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) and 250 pages of referenced exhibits on behalf of “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center.” This phony, unincorporated group is actually a front for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30. Such last-minute CEQA “document dumps” at government meetings are routinely used by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of unions.

Union CEQA Documents Submitted to Port of San Diego - San Diego Convention Center Expansion

On behalf of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted a huge last-minute objection under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. The San Diego Port Commissioners approved the Environmental Impact Report anyway at its September 19, 2012 meeting.

Finally, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed into the meeting late to announce there were problems with the Environmental Impact Report for the convention center. Perhaps voters rejected her when she ran for San Diego City Council in 2005-06, but at this meeting she exercised the aggressive and coercive power of unionism as she spoke in front of the civic leaders seeking to help Mayor Jerry Sanders achieve this final economic development goal before he leaves office. Gonzalez proposed that the Port Commissioners approve a “tolling agreement” that would extend the statute of limitations for the unions to file a lawsuit. This would give unions more time to squeeze their demands out of the developers and the convention center’s public and private partners.

After these antics, the Port Commissioners recessed the meeting for about 20 minutes so Port staff could scan the document dump by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and make a preliminary determination of whether or not the unions introduced new and valid CEQA objections to the proposed convention center and hotel expansion. If the comments were serious threats, the Port Commissioners would need to table the item to approve the Environmental Impact Report.

Staff ultimately identified four potential areas vulnerable to lawsuits or appeals, but also indicated how the issues would be addressed. In the end, the Port Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Environmental Impact Report, while noting that they expected litigation and appeals unless relevant parties were able to make a deal with the unions.


Using CEQA to Attain Objectives Unrelated to Environmental Protection

What is the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council seeking with its CEQA objections? As I documented in my March 11, 2011 www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com article entitled It’s Out in the Open: Project Labor Agreement a Costly Possibility for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, union officials want a requirement for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions as a condition of working on the projects.

Since the mid-1990s, Project Labor Agreements have become the primary political scheme that California construction trade unions use to gain monopoly control over public and private construction projects. While politicians are often lured by potential union campaign support into supporting government-mandated Project Labor Agreements, ordinary citizens don’t want their local government officials forcing contractors to sign costly union agreements to work on construction projects funded by tax dollars. Most people seem to understand instinctively what has been shown through a comprehensive study of California school construction released in 2011 by the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego: Project Labor Agreements increase the cost of construction 13% to 15%. See the institute’s study at www.thecostofPLAs.com.

Since June 2010, voters in San Diego County, the City of San Diego, the City of Chula Vista, the City of Oceanside, and the City of El Cajon have all approved “Fair and Open Competition” charter provisions or ordinances that prohibit these local government entities from requiring their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of winning a contract. Voters in the City of Escondido will consider a charter provision in the November 6, 2012 election that achieves the same purpose of fair and open bid competition. People in the San Diego region clearly REJECT government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.


Unions Routinely Block Private Projects in the San Diego Region with Environmental Objections Until Developers Surrender and Agree to Sign Project Labor Agreements with Unions and Require Their Contractors to Do the Same

It’s hard to track and document the numerous threats and legal actions in the San Diego area by construction unions and other unions such as UNITE-HERE to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other environmental laws to block and delay approval of development projects until a labor agreement is signed. The negotiations and applied pressure goes on behind closed doors, and often the victimized developer is compelled to succumb in secret. To add insult to injury, the developer is often dragged to a humiliating press conference to claim publicly that signing a Project Labor Agreement with unions is a wonderful business practice.

Two companies that exposed the union greenmail to the public were SeaWorld and Gaylord Entertainment.

1. SeaWorld San Diego Theme Park expansion – threatened in 2002, but resisted, and a Project Labor Agreement was not implemented. See background information here: Unions Fail to Force SeaWorld to Sign Project Labor Agreement.

2. Gaylord Entertainment hotel and convention center at the Chula Vista Bayfront – threatened in 2007 and 2008, but resisted. Gaylord ultimately abandoned the project and commenced construction instead of a resort complex in Arizona. See Gaylord Entertainment’s 2007 withdrawal letter: Out of Chula Vista; Unions Threaten CEQA Abuse.

Other companies have dealt with CEQA greenmail against proposed San Diego projects in various ways:

1. San Diego Padres Petco Park – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 1999. The developer agreed to a Project Labor Agreement in 2000. The project magically became environmentally sound.

2. Ballpark Village – there was a Ballpark Village draft Project Labor Agreement circulating in 2005, after Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – representing the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 – identified environmental problems with the project. Four years later, the same law firm identified environmental problems with the project on behalf of UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30.

3. Poseidon Desalination Plant in Carlsbad – developer avoided union interference by agreeing to a Project Labor Agreement in 2005.

4. Downtown San Diego hotel projects, including Lane Field (Intercontinental Hotel and Aviana Suites), Sunroad Harbor Island Hotel, and San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina facilities expansion projects – the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has identified alleged environmental problems with these proposed projects on behalf of UNITE-HERE Local No. 30.

5. Palomar Power Plant in Escondido – Sempra Energy signed a Project Labor Agreement and avoided licensing delays at the California Energy Commission instigated by intervenor California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). There is also a 30-year Maintenance Labor Agreement for this power plant.

6. Otay Mesa Generating Station – see here how CURE extracted this Project Labor Agreement from Calpine.

7. Sunrise Powerlink transmission line – Project Labor Agreement implemented in 2010.

8. Pio Pico Energy Center in East Otay Mesa – The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California proudly announced on November 3, 2011 that it had extracted a Project Labor Agreement for the construction of this power plant. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) did NOT intervene in the licensing process at the California Energy Commission on this 300 MW project. It’s odd how unions see devastating environmental problems with projects related to solar energy generation, but didn’t see the need to comment on this one…

Other projects of uncertain status:

1. 655 Broadway – no Project Labor Agreement; union-only though.

2. Sapphire Tower at 1262 Kettner Boulevard (Santa Fe Parcel 6) – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 2004. (I spoke at the August 12, 2004 meeting of the Centre City Development Corporation about the union’s CEQA objections to this project.)

3. Chula Vista Bayfront project – Pacifica Companies – news media indicated that a Project Labor Agreement seemed likely.

4. Carlsbad Energy Center – threat or already agreed to Project Labor Agreement.


How Can San Diego Civic Leaders Derail the Union CEQA Attack on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion? Specific Recommendations to Four Parties.

1. San Diego’s News Media: The local news media needs to stop dancing around this issue so ordinary citizens can learn what’s happening and respond to it.  Most people think this racket is outrageous, and they will lash out against it. Even some dedicated union members are uncomfortable with the decision of their leaders to hold up projects using the California Environmental Quality Act. It just sort of feels wrong.

The union CEQA threats against Gaylord Entertainment’s proposed Chula Vista Bayfront hotel and convention center were widely reported in 2007 and 2008, and ordinary citizens were aghast. But in the case of the convention center expansion, local news media is being very cautious in their reporting, perhaps because they sense that negative publicity might jeopardize an ambitious project wanted badly by the region’s civic leaders. (For the latest examples of news media downplaying the union maneuvers, see Convention Center Project Takes a Major Step Forward – San Diego Union-Tribune – September 20, 2012 and Port Approves Environmental Report For Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – September 19, 2012.)

After the Port’s deadline on June 29, 2012 for interested parties to submit comments concerning the draft Environmental Impact Report, local news media reported on the various submissions, but neglected to mention the comments submitted by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 through Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. This was a bizarre oversight, considering that the unions submitted 436 of the 536 total pages of comments! (See Convention Center EIR Cites Numerous Impacts – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 3, 2012, Concerns Expressed on Center Expansion: Report Brings Up Aesthetics, Noise, Air Quality, Traffic – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 6, 2012, and Port Preparing Final Convention Center Environmental Impact Report – San Diego Daily Transcript – July 3, 2012.) Those comments were the true story.

2. San Diego’s Business and Political Leaders: Someone in town has to be a courageous leader and organize a broad coalition to fight back publicly against this relentless exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by local labor union officials and their lawyers. Few people were willing to even mention the subject at the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Port Commissioners – there were no heroes in a room full of congratulatory adulation. Civic leaders need to collectively speak out against this racket. In addition, they need to stop recognizing as “community leaders” those union officials who threaten to abuse CEQA to hold up projects in order to extract labor agreements. People who pull such antics don’t belong on boards of directors and executive committees of reputable community organizations.

3. California’s Leading Environmentalists: Legitimate environmental groups such as the Sierra Club of California and the Natural Resources Defense Council don’t like how state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown are pushing for changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). But if this sort of behavior keeps up, one day they’ll see the state legislature amending CEQA in a way much more radical than the relatively mild “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” that they were shrieking about in August 2012. Perhaps it’s time for environmental leaders to ask their union ideological allies to stop using CEQA to extract labor agreements from developers and governments.

4. Reasonable State Legislators and Governor Jerry Brown: California elected officials – especially those representing San Diego County – have a great anecdote here as a basis for arguing the need for CEQA reform. Imagine all the pharmaceutical conventions that will go to Orlando and Phoenix when this proposed San Diego convention center expansion is blocked by the unions’ CEQA objections. I bet comic book enthusiasts will have a blast getting together in Las Vegas! By the way, the proposed CEQA reform known as the “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” probably won’t make a difference in stopping the practice of union greenmail. More vigorous measures similar to Senate Bill 1631 (2008), Senate Bill 628 (2005), or Assembly Bill 598 (2012) will be needed to stop this racket.

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com.