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California Construction Unions Saved the Planet Again in 2015

California construction trade unions continue to protect the environment from the scourges of renewable energy and infill development. A chart below provides examples of their achievements for the planet in 2015.

Meanwhile, 2015 ends with the annual chatter at the state capitol that “maybe next year” will be the year that the California legislature amends the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to end such nonsense. Inspiring this goal for 2016 is an August 2015 study, In the Name of the Environment: Litigation Abuse Under CEQA, which provides new evidence about the distortion of this law by unscrupulous parties.

California’s environmental laws give the public significant authority in ensuring that state agencies and local governments appropriately protect the environment when considering new projects or programs. Allowing the public to play a key role in environmental protection is a check and balance against government ignorance, incompetence, and corruption.

But giving the public a legal role in environmental protection provides a powerful weapon for organizations or individuals who have selfish or ideologicial motivations to prevent construction. It also allows businesses to hinder the growth and prosperity of their competition. And it gives organizations an opportunity to extort private developers and public agencies into making payouts or granting economic concessions that aren’t related to environmental protection. (This practice is sometimes called “greenmail” because it is blackmail using environmental laws.)

The most-feared wielders of California’s environmental laws are labor unions. If you doubt this, note over the years how often corporations and business groups condemn all kinds of CEQA abuse in public without ever mentioning unions as a chief ringleader of the practice. A typical example is this April 15, 2015 op-ed in the San Diego Union-TribuneCEQA Reform: Don’t Allow Gaming of the System.

A deal is announced to end union environmental objections to the Phase 3 construction of the San Diego Convention Center. The project was never built.

A deal is announced to end union environmental objections to the Phase 3 construction of the San Diego Convention Center. The project was never built.

A reader would not learn that one of the most aggressive advocates of union CEQA abuse victimized one of the co-authors of that op-ed with one of the most notorious examples of union CEQA abuse. Read the www.UnionWatch.org story at Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (with its front group California Unions for Reliable Energy, or CURE) remains the primary obstacle to CEQA reform, not environmentalists or even other unions that routinely use CEQA to win concessions. They are the gatekeepers to CEQA exemptions granted for government agencies and private developers. Two kinds of projects have risen above state environmental protection: major league professional sports facilities and high-speed rail. It is not coincidental that construction trade unions have Project Labor Agreements or Project Labor Agreement commitments on such work.

Here’s a chart of construction union activity in 2015 involving the California Environmental Quality Act or the Warren-Alquist Act (for power plant licensing at the California Energy Commission).

 

Table A-1California K-12 School Districts Ranked by
Enrollment
2013-2014
RankDistrictTotal
1Los Angeles Unified School District646,683
2San Diego Unified School District129,779
3Garden Grove Unified School District92,354
4Long Beach Unified School District79,709
5Fresno Unified School District73,543
6Elk Grove Unified School District62,888
7San Francisco Unified School District58,414
8Santa Ana Unified School District56,815
9Capistrano Unified School District54,036
10Corona-Norco Unified School District53,739
11San Bernardino City Unified School District53,365
12San Juan Unified School District49,114
13Oakland Unified School District48,077
14Sacramento City Unified School District46,868
15Riverside Unified School District42,339
16Clovis Unified School District41,169
17Sweetwater Union High School District41,018
18Stockton Unified School District40,057
19Fontana Unified School District39,470
20Kern High School District37,318
21Poway Unified School District35,629
22Fremont Unified School District34,208
23Moreno Valley Unified School District34,170
24San Jose Unified School District32,938
25San Ramon Valley Unified School District31,954
26Mt. Diablo Unified School District31,923
27Anaheim Union High School District31,659
28Irvine Unified School District31,392
29Twin Rivers Unified School District31,035
30West Contra Costa Unified School District30,596
31Lodi Unified School District30,349
32Bakersfield City School District30,076
33Temecula Valley Unified School District30,016
34Chino Valley Unified School District29,937
35Chula Vista Elementary School District29,806
36Orange Unified School District29,473
37Montebello Unified School District29,062
38Saddleback Valley Unified School District29,028
39Desert Sands Unified School District28,999
40Visalia Unified School District28,267
41William S. Hart Union High School District26,983
42East Side Union High School District26,760
43Rialto Unified School District26,225
44Glendale Unified School District26,168
45Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District25,595
46Vista Unified School District25,377
47Pomona Unified School District25,311
48Antelope Valley Union High School District24,619
49Chaffey Joint Union High School District24,598
50Tustin Unified School District24,059
51Torrance Unified School District23,947
52Hesperia Unified School District23,735
53Palm Springs Unified School District23,332
54Colton Joint Unified School District23,322
55Manteca Unified School District23,188
56Downey Unified School District22,698
57Murrieta Valley Unified School District22,698
58Hayward Unified School District22,555
59Ontario-Montclair School District22,521
60Lake Elsinore Unified School District22,258
61Grossmont Union High School District22,220
62Compton Unified School District22,106
63Palmdale Elementary School District21,956
64Newport-Mesa Unified School District21,905
65Hemet Unified School District21,414
66Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District21,366
67Redlands Unified School District21,326
68ABC Unified School District20,998
69Oceanside Unified School District20,980
70San Marcos Unified School District20,452
71Pajaro Valley Unified School District20,438
72Madera Unified School District20,415
73Val Verde Unified School District19,841
74Conejo Valley Unified School District19,727
75Hacienda la Puente Unified School District19,642
76Folsom-Cordova Unified School District19,527
77Alvord Unified School District19,390
78Jurupa Unified School District19,330
79Escondido Union School District19,204
80Anaheim City School District19,164
81Cupertino Union School District19,079
82Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District18,960
83Coachella Valley Unified School District18,878
84Napa Valley Unified School District18,610
85Pasadena Unified School District18,586
86Antioch Unified School District18,352
87Baldwin Park Unified School District18,316
88Simi Valley Unified School District17,821
89Alhambra Unified School District17,617
90Panama-Buena Vista Union School District17,469
91Ventura Unified School District17,366
92Oxnard Union High School District17,148
93Tracy Joint Unified School District16,935
94Oxnard School District16,916
95Cajon Valley Union School District16,601
96Huntington Beach Union High School District16,343
97Burbank Unified School District16,332
98Santa Maria-Bonita School District16,026
99Paramount Unified School District15,681
100Santa Barbara Unified School District15,593
101Central Unified School District15,584
102Santa Clara Unified School District15,298
103Modesto City Elementary School District15,259
104Lancaster Elementary School District15,149
105Rowland Unified School District15,055
106Vallejo City Unified School District14,996
107Modesto City High School District14,969
108Lynwood Unified School District14,776
109Pleasanton Unified School District14,768
110Walnut Valley Unified School District14,532
111Salinas Union High School District14,437
112Apple Valley Unified School District14,401
113Fullerton Joint Union High School District14,396
114West Covina Unified School District14,213
115Turlock Unified School District14,127
116Porterville Unified School District14,119
117Victor Valley Union High School District13,889
118Chico Unified School District13,739
119Ceres Unified School District13,694
120Fullerton Elementary School District13,678
121Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District13,653
122Etiwanda Elementary School District13,652
123Natomas Unified School District13,630
124Inglewood Unified School District13,469
125Yuba City Unified School District13,366
126Bellflower Unified School District13,149
127Whittier Union High School District12,983
128Evergreen Elementary School District12,857
129Vacaville Unified School District12,837
130Rocklin Unified School District12,738
131San Dieguito Union High School District12,645
132Palo Alto Unified School District12,527
133New Haven Unified School District12,459
134Alum Rock Union Elementary School District12,386
135Covina-Valley Unified School District12,274
136Victor Elementary School District12,181
137La Mesa-Spring Valley School District12,144
138San Lorenzo Unified School District12,070
139San Mateo-Foster City School District11,858
140Gilroy Unified School District11,840
141Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District11,632
142Upland Unified School District11,380
143Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District11,289
144Las Virgenes Unified School District11,259
145Santa Rosa High School District11,244
146Sanger Unified School District11,204
147Franklin-McKinley Elementary School District11,193
148Carlsbad Unified School District11,049
149Alameda Unified School District11,020
150Menifee Union Elementary School District11,011
151Pittsburg Unified School District10,969
152Oak Grove Elementary School District10,921
153Fremont Union High School District10,792
154Merced City Elementary School District10,788
155Lucia Mar Unified School District10,710
156San Jacinto Unified School District10,698
157Monterey Peninsula Unified School District10,653
158Perris Union High School District10,510
159Berkeley Unified School District10,442
160Adelanto Elementary School District10,378
161Milpitas Unified School District10,281
162Los Banos Unified School District10,260
163Roseville Joint Union High School District10,223
164Bonita Unified School District10,146
165Lompoc Unified School District10,076
166Woodland Joint Unified School District10,055
167Merced Union High School District10,039
168Los Alamitos Unified School District9,914
169Saugus Union School District9,911
170Roseville City Elementary School District9,820
171Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District9,779
172Kings Canyon Joint Unified School District9,775
173Sequoia Union High School District9,693
174Marysville Joint Unified School District9,647
175Arcadia Unified School District9,582
176Westminster School District9,503
177Tulare City School District9,497
178Escondido Union High School District9,442
179Morongo Unified School District9,439
180El Monte Union High School District9,388
181Redondo Beach Unified School District9,364
182Castro Valley Unified School District9,361
183Greenfield Union School District9,345
184Azusa Unified School District9,277
185Lincoln Unified School District9,277
186Calexico Unified School District9,263
187Beaumont Unified School District9,256
188Alisal Union School District9,153
189Dublin Unified School District9,151
190El Rancho Unified School District9,129
191Salinas City Elementary School District9,125
192Western Placer Unified School District9,116
193South San Francisco Unified School District9,111
194East Whittier City Elementary School District9,064
195Redwood City Elementary School District9,042
196El Monte City School District9,031
197Ocean View School District9,010
198Morgan Hill Unified School District9,000
199Westside Union Elementary School District8,941
200Hawthorne School District8,809
201Davis Joint Unified School District8,626
202San Leandro Unified School District8,617
203Sylvan Union Elementary School District8,565
204Brentwood Union Elementary School District8,562
205Hueneme Elementary School District8,396
206San Mateo Union High School District8,321
207Liberty Union High School District8,087
208Novato Unified School District8,029
209Washington Unified School District7,978
210Centinela Valley Union High School District7,878
211Snowline Joint Unified School District7,826
212Santa Maria Joint Union High School District7,782
213Berryessa Union Elementary School District7,758
214Glendora Unified School District7,733
215South Bay Union School District7,646
216Campbell Union School District7,642
217San Luis Coastal Unified School District7,636
218Delano Union Elementary School District7,600
219Campbell Union High School District7,453
220Pleasant Valley School District7,401
221Mountain View Elementary School District7,345
222Jefferson Elementary School District7,111
223Claremont Unified School District7,046
224Lennox School District7,022
225Manhattan Beach Unified School District6,890
226Huntington Beach City Elementary School District6,864
227El Dorado Union High School District6,810
228Sunnyvale School District6,787
229Culver City Unified School District6,757
230Newhall School District6,739
231Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District6,715
232Moorpark Unified School District6,703
233Dinuba Unified School District6,580
234Paso Robles Joint Unified School District6,555
235Santee School District6,472
236Selma Unified School District6,447
237San Gabriel Unified School District6,410
238Magnolia Elementary School District6,403
239Ukiah Unified School District6,349
240Fountain Valley Elementary School District6,305
241Lawndale Elementary School District6,300
242Newark Unified School District6,196
243Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District6,145
244Lakeside Union Elementary School District6,135
245Whittier City Elementary School District6,124
246El Centro Elementary School District6,101
247Patterson Joint Unified School District6,024
248Brea-Olinda Unified School District5,977
249Temple City Unified School District5,953
250Hanford Elementary School District5,934
251Barstow Unified School District5,920
252Alta Loma Elementary School District5,917
253Monrovia Unified School District5,903
254National Elementary School District5,829
255Perris Elementary School District5,821
256Ramona City Unified School District5,697
257Hollister School District5,669
258Shasta Union High School District5,561
259Union Elementary School District5,533
260Santa Rosa Elementary School District5,466
261Santa Paula Unified School District5,459
262Encinitas Union Elementary School District5,445
263Sulphur Springs Union School District5,437
264Windsor Unified School District5,415
265Acalanes Union High School District5,402
266Travis Unified School District5,398
267Petaluma Joint Union High School District5,397
268Rosedale Union Elementary School District5,397
269Tulare Joint Union High School District5,325
270Oakdale Joint Unified School District5,292
271Orcutt Union Elementary School District5,269
272Charter Oak Unified School District5,158
273Buckeye Union Elementary School District5,157
274Fallbrook Union Elementary School District5,113
275Mountain View Whisman School District5,065
276Garvey Elementary School District5,051
277La Habra City Elementary School District5,022
278Kerman Unified School District4,997
279Buena Park Elementary School District4,985
280Oakley Union Elementary School District4,946
281Rio Elementary School District4,946
282Sierra Sands Unified School District4,944
283Benicia Unified School District4,924
284Soledad Unified School District4,915
285Jefferson Union High School District4,906
286Atwater Elementary School District4,855
287San Ysidro Elementary School District4,842
288Moreland School District4,825
289South Pasadena Unified School District4,767
290Santa Cruz City High School District4,731
291Atascadero Unified School District4,722
292Central Elementary School District4,701
293Oak Park Unified School District4,693
294Los Altos Elementary School District4,675
295San Rafael City Elementary School District4,635
296Sonoma Valley Unified School District4,635
297San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District4,613
298Banning Unified School District4,599
299New Jerusalem Elementary School District4,536
300Center Joint Unified School District4,533
301Little Lake City Elementary School District4,512
302North Monterey County Unified School District4,493
303Centralia Elementary School District4,491
304Del Mar Union Elementary School District4,399
305Coalinga-Huron Unified School District4,367
306Burton Elementary School District4,347
307Tehachapi Unified School District4,272
308Paradise Unified School District4,265
309Delano Joint Union High School District4,235
310Martinez Unified School District4,221
311Ravenswood City Elementary School District4,216
312Beverly Hills Unified School District4,212
313Tamalpais Union High School District4,165
314Lindsay Unified School District4,163
315Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District4,155
316Julian Union Elementary School District4,142
317Placer Union High School District4,137
318Central Union High School District4,106
319Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District4,083
320Wiseburn Unified School District4,065
321La Canada Unified School District4,058
322Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District4,043
323Norris Elementary School District4,041
324Cypress Elementary School District3,990
325Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District3,978
326Bassett Unified School District3,959
327Waterford Unified School District3,954
328Lemon Grove School District3,922
329Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District3,900
330Imperial Unified School District3,898
331Duarte Unified School District3,896
332Albany City Unified School District3,881
333Lake Tahoe Unified School District3,881
334Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District3,881
335Brawley Elementary School District3,878
336Oro Grande Elementary School District3,857
337Gateway Unified School District3,853
338Hanford Joint Union High School District3,845
339Amador County Unified School District3,825
340Dixon Unified School District3,808
341Mountain Empire Unified School District3,804
342Fillmore Unified School District3,774
343Eureka City Schools3,722
344Goleta Union Elementary School District3,701
345Rescue Union Elementary School District3,700
346Rim of the World Unified School District3,695
347Galt Joint Union Elementary School District3,693
348Ripon Unified School District3,680
349Loomis Union Elementary School District3,636
350Rincon Valley Union Elementary School District3,632
351Enterprise Elementary School District3,622
352Walnut Creek Elementary School District3,608
353Wasco Union Elementary School District3,584
354Richland Union Elementary School District3,530
355Lafayette Elementary School District3,525
356Romoland Elementary School District3,505
357Del Norte County Unified School District3,502
358El Segundo Unified School District3,477
359McFarland Unified School District3,469
360San Carlos Elementary School District3,457
361Greenfield Union Elementary School District3,448
362Redding Elementary School District3,440
363Lammersville Joint Unified School District3,433
364Parlier Unified School District3,418
365Cambrian School District3,378
366Cabrillo Unified School District3,373
367Eastside Union Elementary School District3,353
368Eureka Union School District3,338
369Los Gatos Union Elementary School District3,320
370Burlingame Elementary School District3,304
371Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District3,302
372Corcoran Joint Unified School District3,293
373Santa Rita Union Elementary School District3,292
374Stanislaus Union Elementary School District3,292
375Fruitvale Elementary School District3,259
376Mill Valley Elementary School District3,242
377Lemoore Union Elementary School District3,228
378Lowell Joint School District3,209
379Spencer Valley Elementary School District3,205
380Palo Verde Unified School District3,177
381Coronado Unified School District3,169
382South Whittier Elementary School District3,153
383Pacifica School District3,150
384Mendota Unified School District3,146
385Solana Beach Elementary School District3,146
386San Marino Unified School District3,143
387Konocti Unified School District3,130
388Standard Elementary School District3,121
389Arvin Union School District3,101
390Calaveras Unified School District3,079
391Laguna Beach Unified School District3,074
392Southern Kern Unified School District3,043
393Empire Union Elementary School District3,034
394Nevada Joint Union High School District3,003
395San Benito High School District3,003
396Washington Unified School District2,993
397Exeter Unified School District2,979
398Lamont Elementary School District2,958
399Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District2,946
400Lucerne Valley Unified School District2,921
401Menlo Park City Elementary School District2,904
402Nuview Union School District2,894
403Escalon Unified School District2,849
404Riverbank Unified School District2,835
405Dehesa Elementary School District2,809
406San Bruno Park Elementary School District2,796
407Weaver Union School District2,796
408Roseland School District2,755
409Piedmont City Unified School District2,706
410Mojave Unified School District2,696
411Delhi Unified School District2,686
412Ocean View School District2,682
413Ojai Unified School District2,680
414Oroville City Elementary School District2,678
415Rosemead Elementary School District2,668
416Keppel Union Elementary School District2,641
417Farmersville Unified School District2,626
418King City Union School District2,623
419Mountain View Elementary School District2,611
420Reef-Sunset Unified School District2,606
421Livingston Union School District2,602
422Salida Union Elementary School District2,576
423Castaic Union School District2,568
424Orinda Union Elementary School District2,529
425Cucamonga Elementary School District2,517
426Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District2,502
427Carmel Unified School District2,492
428Templeton Unified School District2,487
429Scotts Valley Unified School District2,482
430Fowler Unified School District2,477
431Gonzales Unified School District2,477
432Millbrae Elementary School District2,469
433Bear Valley Unified School District2,453
434Fallbrook Union High School District2,439
435Maricopa Unified School District2,438
436Jefferson Elementary School District2,425
437Fairfax Elementary School District2,412
438River Delta Joint Unified School District2,404
439Savanna Elementary School District2,392
440Petaluma City Elementary School District2,379
441San Rafael City High School District2,365
442Santa Cruz City Elementary School District2,361
443Lemoore Union High School District2,340
444Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District2,334
445Ross Valley Elementary School District2,320
446Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District2,296
447Woodlake Unified School District2,291
448Bonsall Unified School District2,287
449Marcum-Illinois Union Elementary School District2,283
450Linden Unified School District2,278
451Silver Valley Unified School District2,278
452Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint Unified School District2,277
453Oroville Union High School District2,272
454Galt Joint Union High School District2,263
455Orland Joint Unified School District2,254
456Hilmar Unified School District2,253
457Carpinteria Unified School District2,239
458Robla Elementary School District2,231
459Chowchilla Elementary School District2,190
460Red Bluff Union Elementary School District2,163
461Hughson Unified School District2,146
462Plumas Unified School District2,130
463Live Oak Elementary School District2,108
464Taft City School District2,079
465Saratoga Union Elementary School District2,069
466West Sonoma County Union High School District2,069
467Auburn Union Elementary School District2,060
468Soquel Union Elementary School District2,054
469Gridley Unified School District2,051
470Gorman Elementary School District2,050
471Corning Union Elementary School District2,043
472South Monterey County Joint Union High School District2,033
473Pacific Grove Unified School District2,012
474Dixie Elementary School District1,999
475Yosemite Unified School District1,982
476Byron Union Elementary School District1,963
477Helendale Elementary School District1,959
478Earlimart Elementary School District1,952
479Willits Unified School District1,942
480Bishop Unified School District1,939
481Muroc Joint Unified School District1,936
482Golden Valley Unified School District1,923
483Old Adobe Union School District1,886
484Anderson Union High School District1,885
485Winton School District1,885
486Brawley Union High School District1,878
487Fort Bragg Unified School District1,873
488Bellevue Union Elementary School District1,872
489Gustine Unified School District1,863
490Moraga Elementary School District1,852
491Alpine Union Elementary School District1,845
492Newcastle Elementary School District1,844
493Golden Plains Unified School District1,831
494Mariposa County Unified School District1,806
495Armona Union Elementary School District1,804
496Los Nietos School District1,767
497Live Oak Unified School District1,757
498Beardsley Elementary School District1,753
499Central Union Elementary School District1,748
500Wasco Union High School District1,747
501Northern Humboldt Union High School District1,739
502Grass Valley Elementary School District1,733
503John Swett Unified School District1,699
504Kelseyville Unified School District1,681
505Middletown Unified School District1,667
506Healdsburg Unified School District1,650
507Wright Elementary School District1,622
508Riverdale Joint Unified School District1,620
509Red Bluff Joint Union High School District1,601
510Holtville Unified School District1,597
511Pioneer Union Elementary School District1,577
512Lakeport Unified School District1,556
513Hillsborough City Elementary School District1,546
514Reed Union Elementary School District1,546
515Winters Joint Unified School District1,521
516Larkspur-Corte Madera School District1,504
517Hermosa Beach City Elementary School District1,479
518Colusa Unified School District1,456
519Pierce Joint Unified School District1,443
520Willows Unified School District1,443
521Mark West Union Elementary School District1,433
522Caruthers Unified School District1,428
523Piner-Olivet Union Elementary School District1,419
524Thermalito Union Elementary School District1,409
525Cloverdale Unified School District1,394
526Las Lomitas Elementary School District1,386
527Mesa Union Elementary School District1,385
528Fortuna Elementary School District1,381
529Williams Unified School District1,377
530McCabe Union Elementary School District1,368
531Wheatland School District1,341
532Wilsona Elementary School District1,333
533Black Oak Mine Unified School District1,314
534Sierra Unified School District1,309
535Denair Unified School District1,293
536Twin Hills Union Elementary School District1,286
537Guadalupe Union Elementary School District1,282
538Palermo Union Elementary School District1,275
539Lakeside Union School District1,274
540Saint Helena Unified School District1,269
541Placerville Union Elementary School District1,249
542Heber Elementary School District1,233
543Pleasant Ridge Union Elementary School District1,229
544Kentfield Elementary School District1,223
545Kingsburg Joint Union High School District1,222
546Valle Lindo Elementary School District1,222
547Cascade Union Elementary School District1,202
548Calipatria Unified School District1,196
549Mammoth Unified School District1,193
550Plumas Lake Elementary School District1,189
551Fall River Joint Unified School District1,169
552Aromas/San Juan Unified School District1,164
553McKinleyville Union Elementary School District1,141
554Pixley Union Elementary School District1,122
555Hart-Ransom Union Elementary School District1,109
556Sonora Union High School District1,101
557Summerville Union High School District1,097
558Mother Lode Union Elementary School District1,088
559Keyes Union School District1,085
560Cottonwood Union Elementary School District1,083
561Chawanakee Unified School District1,068
562Fortuna Union High School District1,066
563Blochman Union Elementary School District1,063
564Evergreen Union School District1,063
565Arcata Elementary School District1,059
566Taft Union High School District1,059
567Edison Elementary School District1,056
568Bennett Valley Union Elementary School District1,048
569Rio Bravo-Greeley Union Elementary School District1,035
570Hope Elementary School District1,031
571Orange Center School District1,031
572Chowchilla Union High School District1,026
573Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District1,025
574Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District1,025
575Susanville Elementary School District1,012
576Yreka Union Elementary School District984
577Meridian Elementary School District978
578Esparto Unified School District976
579Oak Grove Union Elementary School District975
580Spreckels Union Elementary School District974
581Durham Unified School District960
582Corning Union High School District959
583Liberty Elementary School District958
584Terra Bella Union Elementary School District946
585Jamul-Dulzura Union Elementary School District945
586Waugh Elementary School District942
587Washington Union Elementary School District933
588Mupu Elementary School District917
589Sebastopol Union Elementary School District898
590Orchard Elementary School District890
591Raisin City Elementary School District883
592Nevada City Elementary School District879
593Lassen Union High School District873
594South Bay Union Elementary School District869
595McSwain Union Elementary School District865
596Borrego Springs Unified School District864
597Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District858
598Strathmore Union Elementary School District858
599Westside Elementary School District854
600San Miguel Joint Union School District849
601Kernville Union Elementary School District840
602Needles Unified School District835
603Calistoga Joint Unified School District832
604Modoc Joint Unified School District823
605Vineland Elementary School District823
606Columbia Elementary School District820
607Sundale Union Elementary School District820
608Mark Twain Union Elementary School District816
609Placer Hills Union Elementary School District801
610Banta Elementary School District795
611Mattole Unified School District780
612Kings River-Hardwick Union Elementary School District778
613Southern Humboldt Joint Unified School District776
614Planada Elementary School District766
615San Pasqual Valley Unified School District759
616El Tejon Unified School District744
617North County Joint Union Elementary School District742
618Wheatland Union High School District735
619Cardiff Elementary School District731
620Sutter Union High School District726
621Bret Harte Union High School District723
622Hamilton Unified School District719
623Penn Valley Union Elementary School District717
624Harmony Union Elementary School District714
625Antelope Elementary School District712
626Pollock Pines Elementary School District706
627Gravenstein Union Elementary School District704
628Laton Joint Unified School District704
629Coast Unified School District703
630Stone Corral Elementary School District702
631Emery Unified School District695
632Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School District691
633Yreka Union High School District670
634Ravendale-Termo Elementary School District665
635Sonora Elementary School District660
636Trinity Alps Unified School District660
637Scott Valley Unified School District658
638West Park Elementary School District657
639Grant Elementary School District655
640Richgrove Elementary School District651
641Gold Trail Union Elementary School District637
642Union Hill Elementary School District634
643Alpaugh Unified School District629
644Portola Valley Elementary School District629
645Buellton Union Elementary School District626
646Tipton Elementary School District612
647Chatom Union School District597
648Solvang Elementary School District591
649Pacific Union Elementary School District588
650Siskiyou Union High School District579
651Cutten Elementary School District577
652Vallecito Union School District577
653Pacheco Union Elementary School District575
654Lost Hills Union Elementary School District574
655Alta Vista Elementary School District573
656Los Molinos Unified School District567
657Briggs Elementary School District561
658Columbia Union School District556
659San Pasqual Union Elementary School District553
660Luther Burbank School District552
661Mendocino Unified School District551
662Biggs Unified School District542
663Anderson Valley Unified School District540
664Happy Valley Union Elementary School District537
665Knightsen Elementary School District532
666Camino Union Elementary School District529
667Palo Verde Union Elementary School District529
668Pleasant View Elementary School District522
669Sausalito Marin City School District521
670Upper Lake Union Elementary School District521
671Shoreline Unified School District519
672Oak Valley Union Elementary School District518
673Mt. Shasta Union Elementary School District517
674Le Grand Union High School District505
675Soulsbyville Elementary School District503
676Loma Prieta Joint Union Elementary School District496
677Ferndale Unified School District494
678Camptonville Elementary School District489
679Woodville Union Elementary School District481
680Franklin Elementary School District477
681Los Olivos Elementary School District471
682Gold Oak Union Elementary School District463
683Jamestown Elementary School District462
684Kings River Union Elementary School District462
685Monson-Sultana Joint Union Elementary School District461
686Tulelake Basin Joint Unified School District460
687Brittan Elementary School District457
688Brisbane Elementary School District456
689Curtis Creek Elementary School District449
690Meadows Union Elementary School District449
691Montecito Union Elementary School District448
692Woodside Elementary School District438
693Jacoby Creek Elementary School District427
694Washington Colony Elementary School District427
695Liberty Elementary School District414
696Kit Carson Union Elementary School District411
697Oak View Union Elementary School District411
698College Elementary School District408
699Rockford Elementary School District407
700Gerber Union Elementary School District404
701Laytonville Unified School District404
702Eastern Sierra Unified School District399
703Vallecitos Elementary School District396
704Round Valley Unified School District394
705Foresthill Union Elementary School District393
706Le Grand Union Elementary School District392
707Pacific Union Elementary School District385
708Summerville Elementary School District385
709Westwood Unified School District382
710Bayshore Elementary School District378
711Arcohe Union Elementary School District374
712Lone Pine Unified School District374
713Island Union Elementary School District373
714Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified School District372
715Ross Elementary School District367
716Westmorland Union Elementary School District363
717Bella Vista Elementary School District355
718Forestville Union Elementary School District354
719Alview-Dairyland Union Elementary School District352
720Sunnyside Union Elementary School District352
721Arena Union Elementary School District347
722Seeley Union Elementary School District345
723Ballico-Cressey Elementary School District344
724Buttonwillow Union Elementary School District343
725La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District340
726Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District339
727Chualar Union School District337
728Freshwater Elementary School District336
729Elverta Joint Elementary School District334
730Rio Dell Elementary School District331
731Janesville Union Elementary School District328
732Colfax Elementary School District320
733Lakeside Union Elementary School District318
734Lassen View Union Elementary School District314
735Fort Sage Unified School District313
736Maxwell Unified School District312
737Sequoia Union Elementary School District305
738Butte Valley Unified School District302
739Upper Lake Union High School District302
740East Nicolaus Joint Union High School District301
741Warner Unified School District297
742Mountain Valley Unified School District296
743Pioneer Union Elementary School District292
744Shandon Joint Unified School District292
745Lagunitas Elementary School District286
746Manzanita Elementary School District284
747Maple Elementary School District282
748Springville Union Elementary School District278
749Sunol Glen Unified School District278
750Twain Harte School District274
751Guerneville Elementary School District270
752Millville Elementary School District266
753Lucerne Elementary School District263
754Cinnabar Elementary School District257
755Waukena Joint Union Elementary School District257
756Geyserville Unified School District253
757Clay Joint Elementary School District250
758Trona Joint Unified School District250
759South Fork Union School District249
760Junction Elementary School District246
761Weed Union Elementary School District244
762Richfield Elementary School District243
763Southside Elementary School District243
764Somis Union School District237
765Hope Elementary School District236
766Wilmar Union Elementary School District234
767Cuyama Joint Unified School District233
768Potter Valley Community Unified School District230
769Semitropic Elementary School District230
770Johnstonville Elementary School District227
771Loleta Union Elementary School District227
772Richmond Elementary School District226
773Traver Joint Elementary School District226
774North Cow Creek Elementary School District225
775Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union Elementary School District223
776Scotia Union Elementary School District220
777New Hope Elementary School District216
778Shaffer Union Elementary School District209
779Columbine Elementary School District208
780Pond Union Elementary School District208
781Di Giorgio Elementary School District207
782Butteville Union Elementary School District205
783Black Butte Union Elementary School District204
784Elk Hills Elementary School District203
785Capay Joint Union Elementary School District201
786Dunham Elementary School District201
787Pleasant Grove Joint Union School District201
788Montague Elementary School District200
789Monroe Elementary School District197
790Winship-Robbins School District197
791Paradise Elementary School District196
792Cayucos Elementary School District193
793Ducor Union Elementary School District191
794Grenada Elementary School District190
795Big Pine Unified School District189
796Blue Lake Union Elementary School District188
797Buena Vista Elementary School District187
798Big Valley Joint Unified School District186
799Douglas City Elementary School District186
800Trinidad Union Elementary School District184
801Hydesville Elementary School District183
802Princeton Joint Unified School District177
803Golden Feather Union Elementary School District176
804Chicago Park Elementary School District173
805Lake Elementary School District173
806El Nido Elementary School District172
807Alvina Elementary School District171
808San Antonio Union Elementary School District170
809Mt. Baldy Joint Elementary School District167
810West Side Union Elementary School District166
811Shasta Union Elementary School District165
812Baker Valley Unified School District162
813Two Rock Union School District161
814Plaza Elementary School District160
815Cold Spring Elementary School District158
816Fieldbrook Elementary School District157
817Julian Union High School District157
818General Shafter Elementary School District153
819Point Arena Joint Union High School District153
820Browns Elementary School District150
821Kenwood School District150
822Merced River Union Elementary School District150
823Clear Creek Elementary School District149
824Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District146
825Nuestro Elementary School District145
826Valley Home Joint Elementary School District144
827Three Rivers Union Elementary School District143
828Shiloh Elementary School District141
829Tres Pinos Union Elementary School District141
830Big Springs Union Elementary School District137
831Gratton Elementary School District137
832Round Valley Joint Elementary School District136
833Happy Valley Elementary School District134
834Pleasant Valley Joint Union Elementary School District133
835Ballard Elementary School District132
836Magnolia Union Elementary School District130
837Mission Union Elementary School District129
838Plainsburg Union Elementary School District129
839Reeds Creek Elementary School District126
840Cuddeback Union Elementary School District123
841Latrobe School District123
842Burrel Union Elementary School District121
843Midway Elementary School District120
844Mountain Elementary School District120
845Alexander Valley Union Elementary School District119
846Belleview Elementary School District118
847Vista del Mar Union School District118
848Bolinas-Stinson Union School District117
849Roberts Ferry Union Elementary School District117
850Happy Camp Union Elementary School District116
851Bangor Union Elementary School District114
852Surprise Valley Joint Unified School District114
853Pacific Elementary School District108
854Stony Creek Joint Unified School District106
855Alta-Dutch Flat Union Elementary School District103
856Howell Mountain Elementary School District101
857Southern Trinity Joint Unified School District101
858Lagunita Elementary School District100
859San Ardo Union Elementary School District100
860Outside Creek Elementary School District99
861Twin Ridges Elementary School District97
862Big Sur Unified School District96
863Burnt Ranch Elementary School District96
864Snelling-Merced Falls Union Elementary School District96
865Pine Ridge Elementary School District95
866Lakeside Joint School District93
867Leggett Valley Unified School District92
868Kirkwood Elementary School District91
869Bradley Union Elementary School District89
870Junction City Elementary School District89
871Monte Rio Union Elementary School District89
872Mulberry Elementary School District85
873Allensworth Elementary School District84
874Knights Ferry Elementary School District84
875Whitmore Union Elementary School District84
876Alpine County Unified School District83
877Raymond-Knowles Union Elementary School District83
878Saucelito Elementary School District82
879Owens Valley Unified School District81
880Dunsmuir Elementary School District79
881McKittrick Elementary School District78
882Pioneer Union Elementary School District74
883Canyon Elementary School District68
884Mountain Union Elementary School District68
885McCloud Union Elementary School District66
886Castle Rock Union Elementary School District61
887Horicon Elementary School District61
888Igo-Ono-Platina Union School District57
889Garfield Elementary School District58
890Santa Clara Elementary School District56
891Dunsmuir Joint Union High School District55
892Nicasio School District55
893Delphic Elementary School District54
894San Lucas Union Elementary School District52
895Big Creek Elementary School District51
896Lewiston Elementary School District51
897Feather Falls Union Elementary School District50
898Pope Valley Union Elementary School District50
899Caliente Union Elementary School District49
900Peninsula Union School District43
901Hornbrook Elementary School District42
902Manchester Union Elementary School District42
903Belridge Elementary School District40
904Big Lagoon Union Elementary School District40
905Linns Valley-Poso Flat Union School District40
906Willow Creek Elementary School District39
907Junction Elementary School District37
908Gazelle Union Elementary School District36
909Graves Elementary School District36
910Bridgeville Elementary School District35
911Death Valley Unified School District35
912Oak Run Elementary School District33
913Fort Ross Elementary School District32
914French Gulch-Whiskeytown Elementary School District32
915Flournoy Union Elementary School District30
916Citrus South Tule Elementary School District29
917Bitterwater-Tully Elementary School District27
918Kneeland Elementary School District27
919Seiad Elementary School District27
920Montgomery Elementary School District26
921Cienega Union Elementary School District25
922Desert Center Unified School District24
923Mountain House Elementary School District22
924Laguna Joint Elementary School District18
925Willow Grove Union Elementary School District18
926Indian Diggings Elementary School District17
927Indian Springs Elementary School District16
928Kashia Elementary School District16
929Elkins Elementary School District15
930Hot Springs Elementary School District15
931Little Shasta Elementary School District14
932Orick Elementary School District13
933Coffee Creek Elementary School District12
934Forks of Salmon Elementary School District11
935Jefferson Elementary School District11
936Trinity Center Elementary School District11
937Maple Creek Elementary School District10
938Klamath River Union Elementary School District9
939Silver Fork Elementary School District9
940Union Joint Elementary School District9
941Green Point Elementary School District8
942Panoche Elementary School District7
943Bogus Elementary School District6
944Blake Elementary School District5
945Lincoln Elementary School District5
TOTAL6,180,666

 


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.

California Unions Masquerade as Community-Based Environmental Groups

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a labor issue. That’s why unions are prominent opponents of any amendments to CEQA that would restrict or prohibit using the law to achieve objectives not related to environmental protection.

Phony Union Tree HuggerUnions routinely use CEQA as a tool to pressure public agencies and private developers (or their agents) to sign collective bargaining agreements, project labor agreements, maintenance labor agreements, labor neutrality agreements, and other union contracts. Some of these agreements even include lump-sum payments to union-affiliated organizations.

Massive objections under CEQA to Initial Studies/Mitigated Negative Declarations and Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports can delay a construction project and increase costs of environmental review and project development. If a public agency or private developer is still resisting the union demands after the governing board for the lead agency approves the Final Environmental Impact Report, unions may challenge the agency’s environmental review in court. This litigation can delay the project for years and increase costs.

There is a way to avoid the delays and cost increases. As soon as the public agency or private developer agrees to the union demands, the objections to the environmental review disappear, get withdrawn, or are “mitigated” with a mild settlement agreement. Some developers are experienced victims and agree at the very beginning of the CEQA process to sign a labor agreement in order to avoid costly, time-consuming hassles.

This practice is called environmental permit extortion, although colloquially it’s called “greenmail” because it’s exploiting environmental laws to “blackmail” the owner of a proposed project into giving up something of economic value and/or its negotiating position with employees and contract employees. Of course, defenders of the practice regard it as “social justice.” Under their perspective, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a more effective law than the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to “level the playing field” against corporate control of capital.

Which Unions Are Active in Objecting to Projects Under CEQA?

Some unions such as the Carpenters, the Laborers, UNITE-HERE, the SEIU United Service Workers West, the California Nurses Association, and the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) tend to identify themselves as the party making the CEQA objections. Others such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Sheet Metal Workers, and the Plumbers and Pipefitters prefer to hide their public identity behind the names of unincorporated front groups that sound like local neighborhood grassroots opposition.

There are several groups in the state that hire lawyers to object to projects under CEQA with absolutely no identity whatsoever beyond a phony generic name and a simple web site. Some or all of these groups may be union front groups. In particular, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) tends to be very stealthy when it engages in CEQA actions to stop Walmart stores.

When to Become Suspicious of an Alleged Environmental Group Objecting to a Construction Project Under CEQA

How do you know if CEQA objections are probably coming from a union organization?

  1. The organization objecting to the project is not involved in development or implementation of environmental policy or activity on a state or local level.
  2. A web search of the organization finds nothing.
  3. The organization is unincorporated and has no legal identity.
  4. The individuals affiliated with the organization have no history of public involvement with environmental issues; for example, there is no record of the individuals speaking at meetings of public agencies or writing letters to the editor of the local newspapers.
  5. A web search of the individuals affiliated with the organization finds the names in on-line union newsletters.
  6. The organization submits objections at the very last minute, demands extensions to submit comments, and demonstrates no interest in reaching a compromise with the public agency or developer.
  7. Union officials and lobbyists are attending public meetings as part of the environmental review process but not making any statements.
  8. The developer admits that union representatives have contacted its executives to discuss negotiations for labor agreements.
  9. The first written communication to the agency about the environmental review (for example, a request for public records after the first public notice under CEQA) includes the names of unions involved with the organization.
  10. Objections come from law firms with a history of representing unions on environmental concerns.

Flush ‘Em Out: The Real Union Identities of 25 Environmental Front Groups

Here’s a chart of some environmental organizations that are actually union front groups.

Group Name and Link to Document Real Identity
Antelope Valley Residents for Responsible Development Palmdale residents Kathy MacLaren, Ira Lockshin, Fidel Granillo, David Sazegar, Maurice Washington, Walter Andrew, Cari Bailey, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and their members and families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Palmdale, Antelope Valley and Los Angeles County.
Brentwood Residents for Responsible Development Brentwood residents Jaime Gonzalez, Chad Andrews, Dustin Cabihi and Charles Knox, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 159, Sheet Metal Workers Local 204, and their members and families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Brentwood and Contra Costa County.
Coalition for Responsible Development Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, Local 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union, Local 340 and Sheet Metal Workers Union, Local 162 and their members and their families and other individuals who live and work in the City and County of Sacramento. Petitioner Brian Lujan is a member of the Coalition for Responsible Development who lives in the City of Sacramento approximately 2 miles east of the Project site. Petitioner Gary Krula is a member of the Coalition for Responsible Development who lives in the City of Sacramento approximately one mile east of the Project site. Petitioner Frank Albert is a member of the Coalition for Responsible Development who lives in the City of Sacramento approximately one mile north of the Project site.
The Coalition for Responsible Equitable Economic Development (CREED LA) Sheet Metal Workers Local 105, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11, Southern California Pipe Trades District Council 16, and their members and their families who live and work in the City of Los Angeles. Individual members of CREED LA and its member organizations include Thomas Brown, Shomari Davis, Luther Medina, and John Ferruccio, who live, work, recreate and raise their families in Los Angeles.
Coalition for Responsible Mammoth Development James Bailey and Perry Brown, and California Unions for Reliable Energy and its members and their families.
Concerned Dublin Citizens An unincorporated group of concerned citizens, Robert Klein (a member of the group), and Carpenters Local Union No. 713.
Emeryville Residents for Responsible Development International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342, and Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Emeryville and Alameda County.
Fresno County Citizens for Responsible Solar Fresno County residents Jeff Taylor, Carrie Taylor, and Vaughn Laymon, and California Unions for Reliable Energy (“CURE”) and its local union affiliates and the local union members and their families that live and/or work in Fresno County.
Gilroy Citizens for Responsible Development Craig Simmons, Mike Conti, Eric Colemen, William Bradley, William Culbertson, and John Sandoval, and groups including Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, and Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, and their members and their families who live and work in the City of Gilroy and surrounding areas.
Hanford Residents and Workers for Responsible Development Clint Champlin, Antony David, Bryan Wilson, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 100, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 246 and Sheetmetal Workers, Local 162.
Milpitas Coalition for Responsible Development Residents Ricardo Bauzon, Tot V. Tran and Albert Thompson of the City of Milpitas, Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 393, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 332, Sheetmetal Workers, Local 104 and their members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Milpitas.
Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development Monterey County residents, such as Manuel Ramos, Robert Greene, and California Unions for Reliable Energy (“CURE”) and its members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in Monterey County.
Napa Coalition for Responsible Development 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.
Oakley Coalition for Responsible Development Residents of the City of Oakley, including James Fessenden, Patrick Jensen, Hershel Barton, George Seligman, Daniel Gutierrez, Robert Howard and Virgil De La Grange, UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 302, Sheet Metal Workers, Local 104 and their members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Oakley and Contra Costa County.
Placer Citizens Against Gridlock Robert Bell, Ricky Williams, and Steven Bonner.
Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development  Mitch Clarey, Frank Cuneo, Richard Kenney, Roger Burk, the Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, its affiliated local unions, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Petaluma and Sonoma County.
Redwood Citizens for Responsible Development Vic Torreano, a resident of Redwood City, the Building and Construction Trades Council of San Mateo, and the Council’s members and families who reside, work, and/or recreate in Redwood City.
Richmond Residents for Responsible Development Timothy Doyle, Donald Drown, Fynrare Fletcher, Andrew Harris, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Richmond and Contra Costa County.
Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (“SAFER California”) “Participating unions,” Ian Ostrov, who lives and works in the vicinity of the Project, Gene Sewell who lives and works in Arroyo Grande, California.
Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (“SAFER California”) “Participating unions”…the members represented by the participants in SAFER California live, work, recreate and raise their families in Solano County, including the City of Benicia.
San Benito Residents for Responsible Development San Benito County residents, such as John Barber, Wallace Barnes, James Brown, Miguel Bustos, Bryan Daniel, L. Earl Davis, Randall Dike, Heath Guaracha, Richard Hodges, Valentin Ivanov, Andres Laureano, Steven Luiz, Jose Martinez, Robert Rovella, Gilbert Sanchez, Charles Schlesinger, Jaime Urzua, and California Unions for Reliable Energy (“CURE”) and its members and their families and other individuals that live, recreate and/or work in San Benito County (collectively, “San Benito Residents”).
San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center San Diego County resident Billie Johnson, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, and UNITE HERE Local 30, and their local union affiliates and union members and their families who live, recreate and/or work in the City of San Diego and San Diego County.
San Jose Residents for Responsible Development City of San Jose residents Mark Ross, Daniel Kiefer, Eddie Maxie, Conrad Pierce, Jeffrey Funston, Michael Smith and William Serpa; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families; and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County.
Santa Clara Residents for Responsible Development David Clark, R.C. Crawford, Phillip Francisco, Victor Galvez, Matt Hancoc, Ricci Herro, Gregory Small, Robert Stuhr, Corey Quevedo, Scott Thomas, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families and other individuals who live and work in the City of Santa Clara and Santa Clara County.
Sunnyvale Residents for Responsible Development An unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions; City of Sunnyvale residents Jack X. Jones, Cheryl Pollock and Bob Rule; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families; and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara County.
Sutter Coalition for Responsible Development Sutter County residents including John Coots, Danny Fennel, Ian Trotti, Jerrick Upton, Derek West, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry (“UA”) Local 228, UA Local 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 340, Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 162 and their members and their families, and other individuals that live and/or work in Sutter County.

 


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.

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.

How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 2

Part 1 of “How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento” described how unions obtained a monopoly on construction of the arena through a backroom deal for a Project Labor Agreement. Part 2 describes how unions are likely to win representation of the food and service workers at the new downtown Sacramento arena. Part 3 will outline how unions will likely target the ancillary development around the arena.


Will food and service employees at the new downtown Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Center have union representation? UNITE HERE claims to represent 25,000 concessions workers at 50 stadiums, serving over half of all major league sports teams, for employers such as Aramark, Levy, SMG, Centerplate and Ovations.

It is intent on making sure it does not lose the one major league professional sports team in Sacramento – the Kings of the National Basketball Association.

Surprisingly, the March 26, 2013 non-binding term sheet between the owners of the Sacramento Kings basketball team and the City of Sacramento does not specifically address the relationship between the Kings owners and the arena employees. It only states that the owners “may elect to hire a private management company experienced in the management of comparable facilities to manage the ESC, subject to the reasonable approval of the City.”

Unions are vigilant. The Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin reported the following on May 21, 2013:

In a letter sent to Sacramento City Council members, staff and allies in March, the Sacramento Central Labor Council asked that specific language be incorporated into any pre-development agreement for a sports and entertainment complex in the city.

Provisions included that the development team members and operators provide guarantees that current employees at the Sleep Train Arena be retained at the new arena, that Labor peace guarantees be upheld for all hotel and food and beverage enterprises associated with new arena development with relevant unions in Sacramento County and that sustainable wages and health benefits for employees working at the arena facility and ancillary developments. Other provisions also were outlined.

What the Sacramento Central Labor Council wants is a “Community Benefit Agreement” with a service worker retention policy, similar to what’s in the Community Benefit Agreement covering the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) L.A. Live Sports and Entertainment District Project in Los Angeles. (That development includes the Staples Center, home to two professional basketball teams and a professional hockey team.)

Former Kings owner Maloof Sports & Entertainment began using Levy Restaurants in 2010 to provide food and beverage service at what is now Sleep Train Arena, where the Kings currently play. Sacramento’s UNITE HERE Local Union No. 49 claims to represent 300 food-service workers at Sleep Train Arena.

This union is likely to use a few strategies to keep control of the workforce in the new downtown Kings arena. In fact, it is already implementing one of these strategies.

Holding Up the New Arena with Environmental Objections

On January 31, 2014, UNITE HERE Local 49 submitted a letter to the City of Sacramento with comments about the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) prepared in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). After listing a variety of failings in the DEIR, the union letter asserted that “Due to the various inadequacies described herein, the DEIR is substantially inadequate in its overall consideration of the potential environmental impacts of the project, particularly with regards to the ancillary development around the ESC (hotel, residential, office, commercial).”

Also noted in the letter is the union’s concern about “the approximately 300 food-service workers at Sleep Train Arena who are most directly impacted by the project.” This of course is the real concern, and UNITE HERE will certainly be looking for a deal with the Kings ownership to make the environmental objections go away.

Incidentally, unions are involved in another fight over control of concessions for a sports complex in Sacramento. On February 28, 2014, the board of directors of the California Exposition and State Fair approved a proposal by Ovations for construction of a multi-use sports facility to host the Sacramento Republic Football Club Division III professional soccer team.

Union officials complained at the board meeting during public comment that Ovations had not yet reached an agreement for union representation of concessions workers at the facility.  To pressure Ovations, they could appeal the board’s approval of a “categorical exemption” for the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), thus delaying the construction and ensuring the facility isn’t ready well into the team’s 2014 season.

State Legislation

Labor unions throughout California are constantly worried that entertainment and sports facility management will try to cut costs (or “boost profits”) by ending their obligations to collective bargaining agreements. One prominent example in California is Honda Arena in Anaheim, where the Ducks professional hockey team plays.

On June 27, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 71, a budget trailer bill that included a special provision pushed by UNITE HERE and added at the last-minute without committee hearings:

Existing law, the Displaced Janitor Opportunity Act [of 2001], requires contractors and subcontractors, as defined, that are awarded contracts or subcontracts to provide janitorial or building maintenance services at a particular job site or sites, to retain, for a period of 60 days, certain employees who were employed at that site by the previous contractor or subcontractor. The act also requires that employees retained for that 60-day period be offered continued employment if their performance during that 60-day period is satisfactory. The act authorizes an employee who was not offered employment or who has been discharged in violation of these provisions by a successor contractor or successor subcontractor, or an agent of the employee, to bring an action against a successor contractor or successor subcontractor in any superior court of the state having jurisdiction over the successor contractor or successor subcontractor, as specified.

This bill would, until December 31, 2014, apply the provisions of the Displaced Janitor Opportunity Act to every contractor, as defined, that provides food and beverage services at a publicly owned entertainment venue, as defined.

This provision was carefully written to target one specific entertainment and sports facility: the Honda Arena, owned by the City of Anaheim.

Senate Bill 71 was signed three days before the in-house operator Anaheim Arena Management took over food and beverage service operations of the Honda Arena from a contractor, Aramark Sports and Entertainment.

With Democrats still hovering around a two-thirds super-majority in the California State Assembly and State Senate, this provision could be amended so that 2014 becomes 2015, thus entangling the new Kings arena in a policy originally targeted at the Honda Arena.

Litigation

Senate Bill 71 provided unions with a tool to retaliate against Anaheim Arena Management. On August 20, 2013, union workers filed a class action lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court against Anaheim Arena Management to get back-pay and interest. In addition, UNITE HERE Local 11 sued Anaheim Arena Management to get the former Aramark workers back in their old jobs.

Anaheim Arena Management was accused of only retaining 75 of the 568 food and beverage service workers previously employed by Aramark. A judge imposed a temporary restraining order, but ultimately Anaheim Arena Management prevailed in court against the union.

Pressure from the Sacramento City Council

Unions may have leverage through the provision of the non-binding term sheet stating that Kings ownership “may elect to hire a private management company experienced in the management of comparable facilities to manage the ESC, subject to the reasonable approval of the City.” Could “reasonable approval” require a commitment for unionized food and beverage service workers? If a Community Benefit Agreement is not in place and the Kings ownership decides to contract out its operations at the arena, the approval process at the Sacramento City Council could be a place for UNITE HERE to apply pressure. It appears this option would not be available to UNITE HERE if the Kings ownership decided to manage operations in-house, as was done at Honda Arena in 2013.

Sources

Proposed, Non-Binding Terms of a Potential Transaction for Entertainment and Sports Center in Downtown Sacramento

Arena Project Will Have Labor Jobs, Mayor Says – Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin – May 21, 2013

UNITE  HERE Local 49 CEQA DEIR Comments on Kings Arena – January 31, 2014

Community Benefits Agreement for the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment District Project

Senate Bill 71 (2013)

UNITE HERE litigation against Honda Center in-house operations management: Temporary Restraining Order and Class Action Complaint for Damages

 


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 Threatens to Block Apple, Inc. “Spaceship” with Environmental Lawsuit

Perhaps the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West deserves grudging praise and respect for refusing to bow to American idols.

Few groups have the gumption to challenge or criticize Apple, Inc., one of America’s most admired corporations. Apple generally gets away with commercial activity that the Left would slam relentlessly if practiced by other large corporations.

For example, Apple is proceeding mostly unhindered with its plan to build a massive complex called Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, a city located in Silicon Valley and within the San Francisco Bay Area. The region is notorious for traffic congestion and anti-growth sentiment.

Apple Campus 2 ("the Spaceship"), as depicted on the web site of the City of Cupertino.

Apple Campus 2 (“the Spaceship”), as depicted on the web site of the City of Cupertino.

Local fans of Apple commonly refer to the edifice – first proposed to the Cupertino City Council in 2011 by Steve Jobs – as “the spaceship.” An article in the October 16, 2013 San Jose Mercury-News explained why a “2.8-million-square-foot behemoth beside Interstate 280” that would normally be tangled in significant controversy is able to move forward without excessive hassle:

During a public-comment session, most speakers wholeheartedly supported Apple, not surprising since Cupertino is a veritable company town, with Apple offices spread far and wide. “As my mom used to say, ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you,'” longtime resident Carol Baker told the council. “If we don’t honor Apple with this building, they’ll leave. There’s no reason for them to stay here and be loyal to a community that doesn’t support them. But if they left, it would be a disaster for the city.”

Not many corporations get to be “honored” in a San Francisco Bay Area community with “a four-story ring of curved glass housing up to 14,200 employees.” Apple gets that privilege.

There is a sour note among the hymns of praise, however, and it comes from a union. The Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) wants to organize the employees of Security Industry Specialists, which provides security services for some of the celebrated high-tech firms of Silicon Valley – Google, eBay, Twitter, and Apple.

SEIU-USWW has targeted these high-profile companies using the traditional strategies of a union corporate campaign, including protests at shareholders’ meetings, paid advertising and public relations, social media, informational pickets, letters from local politicians, and filing unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.

Now the SEIU-USWW is turning to what might be the most powerful weapon in the union organizing arsenal in California – “greenmail,” or environmental permit extortion through exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The union submitted a short warning letter dated July 19, 2013 in response to the City of Cupertino’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Apple Campus 2. It then submitted another letter dated October 2, 2013 in response to the Final Environmental Impact Report. The Silicon Valley Business Journal recognized what was happening:

What about CEQA? Is anyone going to challenge this thing on environmental grounds? Actually, maybe. But don’t look at the Santa Clara/San Benito Building and Trades Council (the group, headed by Neil Struthers, is a vocal supporter of the project, which is using union labor.)

Buried in public comment documents is a response from an attorney for SEIU-United Service Workers West. That union has protested on behalf of security guards stationed at the Google campuses in Mountain View. (They are actually subcontractors of Security Industry Specialists.)

“…USWW is a stakeholder in this Project, and worker and labor organizations like USWW have a long history of engaging in the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) process to secure safe working conditions, reduce environmental impacts, and maximize economic benefits,” wrote Gideon Kracov, an attorney for the union. (Kracov is leading a CEQA challenge of an expansion at Los Angeles International Airport on behalf of SEIU-USWW.)

Kevin Dayton, who heads up Labor Issues Solutions and blogs about what he calls union “greenmail,” called the comment “a shot across the bow.”

“Anyone can reasonably speculate that the union would use CEQA as leverage to get security workers organized,” he told me.

At the October 15, 2013 Cupertino City Council meeting at which the Apple Campus 2 project was approved, a representative of the SEIU-USWW expressed an ominous warning in front of a sea of supporters.

Is the threat credible? As referenced in the Silicon Valley Business Journal article, the Los Angeles attorney who is handling the Apple 2 Campus environmental comments for SEIU-USWW filed a CEQA lawsuit on behalf of SEIU-USWW on May 29, 2013. That lawsuit challenges the approval of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Specific Plan Amendment Study based on alleged violations of CEQA. The SEIU-USWW is trying to organize employees of companies such as Aviation Safeguards and Menzies Aviation that provide contract services for airlines at LAX.

The Service Employees International Union- United Service Workers West has 30 days after the City of Cupertino files its Notice of Determination (that the city council approved the project) to file a lawsuit against the city based on alleged deficiencies in the environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Will the “iconic” Apple spaceship be stopped by professional union organizers for security guards?

Sources

Anticipation High for Apple Spaceship Approval, But Questions Linger – Silicon Valley Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Cupertino Council Clears Huge Apple ‘Spaceship’ Campus for Liftoff – San Jose Mercury-News – October 16, 2013

SEIU-USWW Letter on Draft Environmental Impact Report for Apple 2 Campus

SEIU-USWW Letter on Final Environmental Impact Report for Apple 2 Campus

SEIU United Service Workers West v. City of Los Angeles et al.

Security Industry Specialists – Union Facts (Corporate Site)

Security Industry Specialists: Another Bad Apple Contractor, But Right Here at Home – Stand for Security Blog of SEIU – February 21, 2013

USWW Security Officers Stand Up to SIS Security Contractor at Apple Shareholder Meetingwww.seiu-usww.org – March 2, 2013

Apple Security Officers Demand Company’s Support in Organizing – Labor’s Edge Blog of California Labor Federation – March 5, 2013

SEIU Protests at GoogleMountain View Voice – June 6, 2013

Security Officers, Netroots Nation Activists Call on Google to Help Fight Silicon Valley Income Inequality – Stand for Security Blog of SEIU – June 20, 2013

Outside the Gates: Unions Versus Big TechSF Weekly – July 3, 2013

Security Officers Seeking to Reduce Income Inequality Praise Tech Company’s Decision to Choose Socially Responsible Contractor (Yelp) – Stand for Security Blog of SEIU – September 12, 2013

Unions to Protest Outside Twitter TomorrowSF Weekly – October 9, 2013

Protesters at LAX Allege Unsafe Working Conditions, Unfair Labor PracticesDaily Breeze – March 21, 2012


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 Files Lawsuit Exploiting ObamaCare in California for Organizing Purposes

Add ObamaCare to the list of laws that California unions are exploiting for “corporate campaign” strategies to coerce labor agreements or exert pressure during labor disputes.

On September 4, 2013, the National Union of Healthcare Workers sued the California Health Benefit Exchange to boot Kaiser Permanente from the list of 12 health plans approved for participation in the exchange. Unions are abusing the California Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which implements the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) in California and sets standards for health plans to qualify for participation in the program.

A copy of the lawsuit – National Union of Healthcare Workers v. California Health Benefit Exchange – is available on the National Union of Healthcare Workers web site. Here are excerpts from the September 9, 2013 announcement from the National Union of Healthcare Workers claiming their motivation for the lawsuit:

NUHW Sues California’s Healthcare Exchange to Protect Patients

Earlier this year, Kaiser Permanente was cited for numerous serious deficiencies by the California Department of Managed Healthcare (DMHC) in areas critical to providing effective patient care in its mental health services, including its failure to ensure clinically appropriate care to Kaiser enrollees.  In June, the DMHC took the unprecedented step of fining Kaiser $4 million, the second highest fine in the agency’s history.

Despite notifying the Exchange twice in writing regarding Kaiser’s serious deficiencies, the Exchange never replied to our concerns, and, we believe, in violation of federal and state law and its own regulations, contracted with Kaiser as a plan to be offered when Obamacare is soon implemented.

Our goal is simple: before Kaiser is allowed to enroll thousands more patients through Obamacare, it should demonstrate to the DMHC that it can take care of the millions of Kaiser patients who are already paying Kaiser for their care…I want Kaiser to provide the highest quality care possible, rather than focusing on how to increase Kaiser profits at the expense of patient care.

Business publications were not fooled. In reporting the lawsuit, the San Francisco Business Times observed that the National Union of Healthcare Workers “last April lost a ‘do-over’ election to represent 45,000 workers at Kaiser Permanente.”  A September 5, 2013 article in the Sacramento Business Journal about the lawsuit (Union Seeks to Block Kaiser from Health Benefit Exchange) noted that the National Union of Healthcare Workers is in “contentious contract negotiations with Kaiser.” It quoted a Kaiser representative:

The union continues to make unfounded allegations as part of their protracted labor negotiations with Kaiser Permanente, and this behavior does nothing to further the negotiations that should be taking place at the bargaining table.

Adding to the evidence that the lawsuit was not really about standards of mental health services, The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C. reported on September 9 (in the article “AFL-CIO Convention Avoids Healthcare Union’s Protests”) that “the bitter struggle” between the union and Kaiser manifested itself at the AFL-CIO annual convention:

In a Sept. 6 letter sent to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, obtained by The Hill, NUHW leaders said they were “alarmed to learn that the AFL-CIO will be featuring Kaiser Permanente and its trademarked ‘Instant Recess’ during the AFL-CIO’s upcoming convention in Los Angeles, in effect holding Kaiser up as a model employer.”

“Multiple affiliates of the AFL-CIO are currently in the middle of an epic struggle at Kaiser to defend standards that workers have fought decades to establish. We again request that you and the rest of the AFL-CIO stand with us and not with this multi-billion dollar HMO,” said NUHW officials in the letter…

“This is the same employer that has been fined by the state for $4 million for patient care violations. … They are also at the bargaining table with us trying to demand the elimination of defined benefit pension plans and health plans for retirees,” Borsos said. “Hardly the kind of employer that should be honored by labor.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a California union has recognized the state implementation of ObamaCare as a new law ripe for exploitation. It’s part of union organizing culture in the state. A prominent law firm for labor unions has produced multiple editions of a guidebook entitled Using The California Labor Laws Offensively: Organizing Through Enforcement Of State Employment Laws.

This guidebook only limits itself to the California Labor Code, which it describes as “a potent weapon of worker advocacy.” It acknowledges that union-backed “amendments to the Labor Code during 2000-2004 substantially increased the protections California law affords workers.” Those were the years when bills signed by Governor Gray Davis became law. Governor Jerry Brown has been signing and is expected to sign another series of union-backed “protections.”

Several articles in www.UnionWatch.org have reported how unions submit extensive objections or file lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). (See the list of those CEQA articles.) By intervening in the licensing process at the California Energy Commission, unions hold up large thermal power plants with massive data requests and other antics permitted under the Warren-Alquist Act. Sometimes unions supplement their environmental actions with other actions against proposed development by exploiting local zoning laws.

Also reported in www.UnionWatch.org was the participation of unions in a lawsuit based on the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and the potential for more mischief using this law. See “Unions Will Control Mid-Sized Cities with California Voting Rights Act.”


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.

Revised List of Union Actions in 2013 Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

California State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is still talking about changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as the legislature works through its last two weeks in session in 2013.

His vehicle for CEQA amendments – Senate Bill 731 – is still alive. It contains language that would supposedly help developers of urban infill projects to circumvent petty environmental objections of small neighborhood groups. Unions have publicly refrained from taking a position, but reportedly their lobbyists have objected behind the scenes to any provisions that would weaken the ability of unions to use CEQA as a tool to pressure developers to sign union agreements.

Steinberg also plans to “gut and amend” a bill and transform it into a bill that gives special breaks from CEQA to Sacramento Basketball Holdings LLC, the developer of the planned new arena for the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team. It’s expected that all construction companies will have to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in order to build this “entertainment and sports center.”

In the meantime, examples continue to emerge of union involvement in the permitting process for public and private projects in California. A June 25, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org (Collect Them All: Environmental Objections of California Unions in 2013) listed nine identified projects. That list is now up to 23 projects, and surely there are some projects targeted by unions that are still missing from the list. Plus there are four more months in 2013 for additional union “greenmail.”

Here’s the revised list of union CEQA actions 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

24. Apple Campus 2, City of Cupertino (added October 22, 2013)

The Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West is trying to organize employees of companies that provide security under contract to the major companies in Silicon Valley, including Apple. It submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report and comments on the Final Environmental Impact Report for the massive proposed Apple 2 Campus.

I wrote about the union environmental objections to this project in my October 19, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Union Threatens to Block Apple, Inc. “Spaceship” with Environmental Lawsuit.

25. Regional Seawater Desalination Project, City of Santa Cruz and Soquel Creek Water District (scwd2) (added October 25, 2013)

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) submitted comments and 224 pages of exhibits objecting to the Draft Environmental Impact Report for this project.

26. CleanPowerSF/Shell Community Choice Aggregation Program, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission  (added October 25, 2013)

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local No. 1245, represented by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, informed the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that it would need to prepare an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA for the program. IBEW Local No. 1245 represents workers for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). It wanted Shell to sign a Project Labor Agreement. See the union’s web site Stop the Shell Shock.


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.

Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting

Earlier this week, www.UnionWatch.org posted the article Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants? For the first time, the public can examine a comprehensive compilation of specific evidence showing how construction trade unions have exploited the state’s environmental protection laws to impede licensing of proposed solar thermal power plants at the California Energy Commission.

But what about proposed solar photovoltaic power plants, which are much more common but do not have a centralized process for environmental review and approval?

Now the public can go to this article here on www.UnionWatch.org (see list below) to examine the first-ever compilation of specific evidence showing how construction trade unions have exploited the state’s environmental protection laws (such as the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA) to impede permitting of solar photovoltaic power projects.

It’s difficult to track the development of solar photovoltaic power plants in California. Energy companies propose ambitious projects and then delay them or outright abandon them. Projects change ownership. Funding and government loans come and go. Names, locations, and sizes of proposed projects change. In addition, some local governments do not provide easy access to documents related to environmental review and permits.

Nevertheless, the list below is sufficient to prove that union “greenmail” or environmental permit extortion in California is as rampant against the solar photovoltaic power plant industry as it as against the solar thermal power plant industry.

The list includes recent proposed solar photovoltaic power plants that are classified under two conditions:

  1. Projects for which unions did the following: (1) filed lawsuits, (2) appealed the issuance of permits to a higher local authority, (3) objected to draft and final environmental impact reports and environmental impact statements, (4) objected to initial studies/mitigated negative declarations allowing the government to issue a permit, or (5) simply requested public documents – an action that sends a nasty warning to the applicant.
  2. Projects that unions openly supported or projects for which unions refrained from commenting, with reasonable evidence to show that the solar energy company committed to a Project Labor Agreement or some other deal that gave a union or unions exclusive control of some or all of the construction trade work. Only one actual Project Labor Agreement is linked below: companies and unions tend to regard their Project Labor Agreements as a trade secret (see an example of this confidentiality with the California Valley Solar Ranch project).

There are a handful of solar photovoltaic projects seriously under consideration or already approved by California local governments for which unions did not get involved in the permitting process and for which evidence is unavailable to confirm a union agreement or a unionized workforce. Projects under these conditions will be omitted from the list until union control is confirmed; nevertheless, it’s unlikely the unions are allowing their non-union competition to get any scraps. In fact, it’s reasonable to guess that right now the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union has a near-monopoly or complete monopoly on the electrical portion of solar photovoltaic power plant construction in California. Other unions such as the Operating Engineers and the Sheet Metal Workers may have guarantees for work on some projects. Meanwhile, the Laborers union (LIUNA) is also seeking control of lower-skill manual labor.

What does this mean for the solar power industry and for ratepayers? Several large non-union electrical contractors are highly competitive on price and quality and have a strong presence in the industrial and commercial construction market in many regions of California, especially outside of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Without question, aggressive interference in the permitting process for solar photovoltaic power plants has allowed certain unions to obtain almost complete control of solar power plant work that they never would have obtained under open competition.

Will the solar energy industry struggle to make money on California projects when forced to use exclusively union labor for some or all construction trades? Will some of these companies have trouble paying back government loans? Will the union interference in solar power plant permitting hinder the State of California in reaching its ambitious goals under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32 or AB 32)? And will this translate into higher electricity rates for Californians?

The answer to all four questions is probably yes. And the California State Legislature and Governor Jerry Brown will do nothing to stop it.

Involvement of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) or International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) or the Laborers Union (LIUNA) in the Local Government Permitting Process for Solar Photovoltaic Power Plants

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

Richmond Solar PV Project (Marin Clean Energy)

2015-09-29 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – DEIR Comments – Richmond Solar PV Project – Marin Clean Energy CCA

FRESNO COUNTY

See Protests Over Valley Solar Projects Called a Ploy – Fresno Bee – April 29, 2012

Adame 1 – Gestamp Asetym Solar

Giffen 1 – Gestamp Asetym Solar

Inspiration Solar Generation Farm

Placer Solar

Three Rocks Solar

IMPERIAL COUNTY

Solar Gen 2 Solar Array: Alhambra, Arkansas, and Sonora

Calexico Solar Farm 1, Calexico Solar Farm 2, Mt. Signal

Calipatria Solar Farm 1 and 2, Midway Solar Farm 1 and 2

Campo Verde

Imperial Valley Solar Company 2

KERN COUNTY

Beacon Photovoltaic Project

Catalina Renewable Energy Project

Kingbird Solar

Pioneer Green Solar Project

Recurrent Energy 10 Solar Projects: RE Rosamond One, RE Rosamond Two, RE Tehachapi Solar, RE Tehachapi Solar 2, RE Columbia, Columbia Two, RE Columbia 3, RE Rio Grande, RE Great Lakes, RE Barren Ridge

Recurrent Energy Old River One

Valley Solar Project: Smyrna, Goose Lake. Elk Hills, San Bernard

Willow Springs Solar Array

KINGS COUNTY

Aurora

Corcoran West

GWF Henrietta

Recurrent Energy Solar Projects

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).

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.

Stratford Photovoltaic Solar Facility

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Alpine Solar

Antelope Valley Solar

Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1)

Silverado Power 20 MW and 40 MW – City of Lancaster
Soccer Center Solar Facility – City of Lancaster
MONTEREY COUNTY

California Flats

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

Desert Harvest Solar Farm

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

McCoy Solar Energy Project

SAN BENITO COUNTY

Panoche Valley Solar Farm

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

Agincourt and Marathon

Alamo Oro Grade Solar Project

Aries Solar

Kramer Junction – Boulevard Associates

Kramer Junction – Lightsource Renewables

Lucerne Valley

Sunray Energy – Daggett

Stateline Solar Farm Project

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Sol Orchard Ramona

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

California Valley Solar Ranch

Topaz

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Cuyama Solar Facility

STANISLAUS COUNTY

Fink Road Solar Farm

McHenry Solar Farm

TULARE COUNTY

Great Valley Solar


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.

 

Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center

Through relentless and tedious persistence and a willingness to disturb “the Establishment” of the country’s eighth most populous city, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (based in California) has finally succeeded in obtaining and exposing a document revealing how the office of former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders (a Republican) arranged a secret and costly deal with Lorena Gonzalez, the former head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, to end union-initiated legal obstacles to the $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

Mayor Sanders Calendar September 21 2012As outlined in the September 21, 2012 email from Mayor Sanders’ Chief of Staff Julie Dubick (see text below), unions would drop or settle their environmental objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Unions would also drop their lawsuit challenging the structure of a tax assessment to pay back the principal and interest on bonds sold to borrow money for the expansion. Unions would openly and actively support the convention center expansion at the San Diego City Council and at the California Coastal Commission.

In exchange, the San Diego Mayor’s Office would facilitate negotiations between the unions and the construction manager at-risk selected for the project (Clark Construction) for a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions. (Yes, this was a classic case of union CEQA “greenmail” that Governor Jerry Brown and the Democrat majority in the California State Legislature apparently want to shield from CEQA reform measures.)

Developing this labor agreement had to be done subtly and undercover. San Diego voters had approved an ordinance (Proposition A) three months earlier that prohibited the city from requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on city projects.

Also as part of the deal, the Mayor’s Office would initiate discussions with Marriott hotel management in support of a union position (apparently on behalf of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30) and appoint someone acceptable to the unions to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors.

The-Moment-of-LIE-San-Diego-Convention-Center-Project-Labor-Agreement1-e1353109801912All of this was done without any public hearings or public votes by any elected or appointed board with any authority over the project. On November 8, Mayor Sanders hastily convened a press conference featuring Lorena Gonzalez to announce that unions now supported the convention center expansion.

On that same day, he appointed Laurie Coskey – the Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice – to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors.

Even the environmental settlements were cynical. Unions ended up abandoning their demand that the Environmental Impact Report address the effect on the convention center expansion of an expected sea level rise caused by global warming. As it turns out, the California Coastal Commission sees this as a legitimate concern. City officials anticipated that the Coastal Commission would promptly approve the project, but this has not happened despite the new union enthusiasm for it.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction needed nine months to fit this puzzle together. It had repeatedly failed under the authority of the California Public Records Act to obtain any records of substance about the suspected deal, even after filing a lawsuit against the City of San Diego.

Those requests for public records were foiled because the Chief of Staff for the Mayor of San Diego was using a private Gmail address to facilitate meetings between top city officials and top union officials. In fact, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction suspects that a lot more wheeling and dealing between the city and the unions was probably occurring through the use of private email accounts. The people of San Diego still remain ignorant of how their government works in practice. (One could surmise that union officials like it that way.)

This particular case suggests the following list of outrages:

  1. Using private email accounts for public business in order to evade the state’s public records access laws and keep the press and the public uninformed.
  2. Secret and devious arrangements meant to circumvent a city ordinance approved by voters.
  3. Abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to attain economic objectives unrelated to environmental protection.
  4. Subversion of fair and open bid competition by requiring construction contractors to sign a contract with unions as a condition of work.
  5. Union favoritism.
  6. Appointing someone with obvious union connections to a government board in exchange for union support of a project.
  7. Government intervention in the relationship between a private employer and union officials eager to represent its employees (for a price) in exchange for union support of a project.
  8. Potential cost increases on a government project resulting from reduced bid competition and the administrative costs of an unnecessary labor contract.
  9. Abandonment of environmental objections subsequently identified by the California Coastal Commission to be legitimate concerns.
  10. Perpetuating civic decline by surrendering to organizations that exploit California’s burdensome legal code for personal gain.

Lorena Gonzalez SignLessons for the Next Generation

Mayor Jerry Sanders left office (to be replaced by Bob Filner) with a legacy of achievement and is now President & CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Lorena Gonzalez left her union position with a legacy of achievement and won a special election to the California State Assembly, District 80, with the heartfelt campaign slogan “Honesty in the Assembly.”


Here is the text of the document revealing the secret union deal for the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion:

From: Dubick, Julie
Sent: Friday, September 21, 2012 9:46 AM
To: ‘LGonzalez@unionyes.org’; ‘tklein@unionyes.org’
Subject: Doc3[1 ].docx
Attachments: Doc31 doc.docx

From: Dubick, Julie
Sent: Friday, September 21, 2012 9:47 AM
To: ‘Stephen Cushman’
Subject: Doc3[1] .docx
Attachments: Doc31 doc.docx

Here is suggested language. Please confirm receipt to jpdubick@gmail.com. See you at 2pm today. Julie

San Diego Convention Center Union Deal

Primary Source Documents:

Proposition A (approved by 58% of San Diego voters in June 2012) – City of San Diego Fair and Open Competition ordinance – prohibition on city-mandated Project Labor Agreements

Browning vs. The San Diego City Council (UNITE HERE Local 30 lawsuit)

Union Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – June 29, 2012

Union Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – September 19, 2012

Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; SAN DIEGO COALITION FOR A BETTER CONVENTION CENTER; SAN DIEGO COUNTY BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL; UNITE HERE LOCAL 30; AND BILLIE JOHNSON)

Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY AND BETWEEN CITY OF SAN DIEGO; BRIGETTE BROWNING; SERGIO GONZALES; AND UNITE HERE LOCAL 30)

Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; CITY OF SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL; SAN DIEGO CONVENTION CENTER FACILITIES DISTRICT NO. 2012-1; COALITION FOR RESPONSIBLE CONVENTION CENTER PLANNING; TERRY LUTNICK; CINNA BROWN; AARON MICHAELSON; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRIC (sic) WORKERS LOCAL 569; UNITED ASSOCIATION OF PLUMBERS & STEAMFITTERS LOCAL 230; SHEETMETAL WORKERS LOCAL 206; AND IRONWORKERS LOCAL 229)

San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion Project Labor Agreement

San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council press release celebrating the Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion – November 15, 2012

Comprehensive Background:

www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com

It’s Out in the Open: Project Labor Agreement a Costly Possibility for San Diego Convention Center Expansion – www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com – March 11, 2011

Unions Submit 436 Pages of Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report for Proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project: CEQA Abuse Run Rampant – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – August 8, 2012

Brazen! Union Officials and Their Environmental Lawyers at Port Commissioners’ Meeting Threaten to Stop San Diego Convention Center Expansion Using California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – September 20, 2012

Unions Threaten Environmental Litigation to Block San Diego Convention Center – www.UnionWatch.org – September 20, 2012

Union Officials Intimidate San Diego Civic Leaders – www.FlashReport.org – September 20, 2012

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – October 10, 2012

Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion: CEQA Abuse Is Effective, Fair and Open Competition Ordinance Evaded – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – November 8, 2012

Unions and Mayor in San Diego Brag to the Public about San Diego Convention Center Construction Deal, But Refuse to Provide It to the Public – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – November 13, 2012

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – November 15, 2012

San Diego Union Officials Ignored Global Warming-Related Sea Level Rise in Environmental Settlements for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Despite Identifying It as Major Deficiency Under CEQA – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – November 15, 2012

San Diego News Media Reports on Aggressive Opposition to Project Labor Agreement on Convention Center Expansion – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – November 16, 2012

Where is the Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion? A Press Conference Outlining an Action Plan – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – November 16, 2012

Website Dedicated to Exposing Wasteful and Fraudulent Nature of San Diego Convention Center Expansion – San Diego Rostra – January 16, 2013

Highlighting the Top Union Abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – www.FlashReport.org – February 18, 2013

Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement – www.UnionWatch.org – April 23, 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.

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.

Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement

For five months, the City of San Diego refused to give the public a Project Labor Agreement negotiated for its planned $520 million convention center expansion. This union agreement was reportedly the result of a backroom deal involving top union leaders, but multiple requests for it under the authority of the California Public Records Act failed to dislodge it.

But today (April 23, 2013), the city provided the labor agreement to the public, less than 24 hours after a construction organization filed a lawsuit to get it. 

Here are some of the twists and turns of this saga, which serves as an excellent case study in how unions manipulate public policy at the state and local level in California.

In May 2012, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council submitted a massive objection under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Four months later, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council submitted another massive CEQA objection against the revised and final Environmental Impact Report, this time choosing the drama of presenting it during a packed meeting at which San Diego port commissioners were scheduled to approve the project. (Attorneys for unions routinely engage in last-minute CEQA “document dumps” at California public meetings in order to intimidate public officials and developers into surrendering to union economic demands.)

In November 2012, a few days after union-backed Congressman Bob Filner was elected as the next mayor, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Lorena Gonzalez – head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Central Labor Council – held a press conference to announce a settlement concerning the union CEQA complaints and also a settlement concerning a union-backed lawsuit challenging the financing method for the project. The settlements resolved very few of the environmental concerns indicated in the union CEQA complaints – not even the subsequently high-profile concern of protecting the project from sea level rise caused by global warming.

However, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council now had a Project Labor Agreement for construction of the Convention Center expansion, as proclaimed in a press release. And UNITE-HERE Local No. 30 “extended their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ensuring a unionized operation of the Convention Center once expanded,” according to Lorena Gonzalez.

If the apparent union “greenmail” of the project using CEQA as leverage to get labor agreements wasn’t controversial enough, the Project Labor Agreement also appeared to violate a ballot measure (Proposition A) approved by 58% of San Diego voters in June 2012. That ballot measure established a “Fair and Open Competition” ordinance prohibiting the city from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of work. It was put on the ballot in part to protect the convention center from ongoing union lobbying efforts at the city council to win monopoly control of  its construction.

Up to that time, voters and elected boards of local governments throughout the state had been defying union officials and approving Fair and Open Competition policies, starting in October 2009 with Orange County. In response, the California State Legislature passed and Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills (Senate Bill 922 and Senate Bill 829) pushed by then-State Senator Michael Rubio to nullify all Fair and Open Competition policies in counties and general law cities and cut off state funding for charter cities (such as San Diego) that enacted or failed to repeal such policies.

Union leaders in San Diego, particularly Lorena Gonzalez, repeatedly warned that the state would cut off money to the City of San Diego if voters didn’t repeal the Fair and Open Competition ordinance they had approved in June 2012. But for now this dramatic threat has proven to be empty, and Proposition A remains in the City of San Diego Municipal Code.

An unexpected political development occurred a few weeks after the mayor and top county union leader announced the settlement agreements for the convention center: Lorena Gonzalez announced her candidacy for the 80th Assembly District seat that would soon become vacant. Like the Eye of Sauron, union political focus in San Diego County shifted from government-mandated unionization to the task of getting her elected.

Meanwhile, a group called the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction sought to obtain the Project Labor Agreement as the preliminary step to a planned lawsuit contending that the union deal violated the Proposition A ordinance. None of the many parties involved – including the City of San Diego – would provide the document, and finally the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction filed a lawsuit against the city to get it.

A press release dated April 18, 2013 stated the following:

“We’re going to get that union Project Labor Agreement, expose it to the public, and make every schemer involved with this union sweetheart deal accountable for breaking the law,” said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

Perhaps a schemer somewhere was getting nervous. The city promptly handed over the Project Labor Agreement today, April 23, 2013.

Note that the aggressive actions of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction repulse many civic leaders in San Diego. It disrupts the cozy relationship of politicians, unions, and business interests giving each other special favors to get the convention center expanded. It creates additional controversy for a project already under scrutiny for the bizarre tax scheme involving hotel room fee assessments that will be used to pay back the borrowed money (and interest) obtained through bond sales to pay for construction. At a more basic level, many impartial observers believe the expansion is unnecessary and foolish.

Exposing the shenanigans of unions and their cohorts in California wins few friends among the powerful, but it does disgust the ordinary voter who ends up paying for it, one way or another.

Sources:

Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion

Lawsuit to Obtain Copy of Union Project Labor Agreement on San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion

Letter claiming the Project Labor Agreement for this public project is a “Trade Secret”

Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012

Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012

May 2012 Union CEQA Objections to the Draft Environmental Impact Report on the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion

September 2012 Union CEQA Objections to the Final Environmental Impact Report on the San Diego convention center Phase 3 Expansion

Background on Proposition A, the Fair and Open Competition ordinance approved by 58% of San Diego voters in June 2012

For more detailed information, see these web sites:

www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com

“San Diego Convention Center” articles in www.LaborIssuesSolutions.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.

Union Influence in the California Democratic Party’s 2013 Convention Resolutions

Can you guess which special interest group influenced many of the resolutions approved at the California Democratic Party convention on April 14, 2013?

That’s right, unions.

Here’s my annotated collection of the 2013 resolutions and the clean version of the resolutions on the California Democratic Party web site. (As the party web site says, “Click here to view the full repot.”)

Avid readers of www.UnionWatch.org articles will recognize the union objectives behind many of these resolutions, even though the resolutions often don’t explicitly state the ultimate legislative, executive, or judicial goal.

California Democratic Party Resolutions for 2013 with Obvious Union Influence

1. Resolution 13-04.3C opposes proposals to restrict “public participation” in environmental review for projects and activities under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A co-sponsor of this resolution is the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, an organization active in identifying environmental problems with potential construction projects until the owner agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

Mailers Expose Union CEQA “Greenmail” Against Solar Developers – September 26, 2012

Unions Defy CEQA Reformers with Taunting Resolution – February 12, 2013

The resolution refers to a “quantative analysis” of CEQA that allegedly shows how this law encourages economic prosperity in California. Readers of www.UnionWatch.org will recognize this study because of its connections to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. See this article:

Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections – March 12, 2013

2. Resolution 13-04.11 complains about the capitalists (“Captains of Industry” and others) who allegedly control the University of California and California State University systems. It calls for “representation of the public” on the boards of regents. Public means officials of unions representing faculty and staff.

3. Resolution 13-04.16 demands “all actions” to ensure that California’s 121 charter cities lose state funding if they exercise their right under the state constitution to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on purely municipal government projects or private projects that only receive government assistance from that municipality. Several articles in www.UnionWatch.org have reported on charter cities freeing themselves from costly so-called “prevailing wage” mandates, as well as the union effort in 2013 through Senate Bill 7 to suppress local government authority through financial disincentives.

California Supreme Court Supports Rights of Charter Cities Over State Legislature – July 3, 2012

With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City Charters – February 28, 2013

4. Resolution 13-04.35 calls for Congress to help unions that represent U.S. Postal Service workers.

5. Resolution 13-04.37 complains about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that fouls up some plans for class action lawsuits against employers for labor law violations. It decries how corporations are “increasing forcing their employees to unwittingly sign mandatory arbitration agreements.” (How can force be involved if the employee is unwitting?) Nothing is mentioned about union organizers “increasing forcing employees to unwittingly sign union representation cards” for card check purposes.

California Democratic Party Resolution Against StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform

California Democratic Party Resolution against StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform.

6. Resolution 13-04.47 attacks education reform organizations such as StudentsFirst (a group led by Michelle Rhee) and Democrats for Education Reform (a group led by Gloria Romero). Ironically, the resolution is poorly written and includes several grammatical errors and even a spelling error. It tries to encompass too many ideas and overreaches in its bombast. A grade of “D” for writing (but an “A” for promoting social justice) goes to the sponsors: the California Teachers Association (CTA), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and the California Faculty Association (CFA).

California Democrats Blast Efforts to Overhaul SchoolsLos Angeles Times – April 14, 2013

State Democrats Decide Who’s a REAL DemocratLos Angeles Times (op-ed by Karin Klein) – April 16, 2013

Breaking News! California Democratic Party Blasts Corporate Education Reform: UPDATE – Diane Ravitch’s Blog – April 15, 2013

LA Times Defends Wall Street Hedge Fund Reformers – Diane Ravitch’s Blog – April 16, 2013

7. Resolution 13-04.77 rejects the Keystone XL pipeline. It cites two unions opposed to the project and a study critical of the project prepared by the union-oriented Global Labor Institute at the Institute for Labor Relations at Cornell University. This issue divides unions: many construction unions support the Keystone XL pipeline because all contractors will be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on it.

If you are a “Captain of Industry,” one of those dastardly “Republican operatives,” a citizen of “the old Confederacy,” or tend to “blame educators and their unions for the ills of society,” these hostile resolutions are directed at you. But everyone will find them entertaining, and avid readers of www.UnionWatch.org might even agree with a few of them.

In the meantime, to avoid being the target of future resolutions, pay your “fair share,” avoid “the race to the bottom,” “stabilize the planet’s climate,” protect the “culturally binding fabric,” and – of course – be a socially responsible, Democrat-supporting billionaire.

More News Coverage of California Democratic Party Resolutions for 2013

CA Democrats Take Aim at Efforts to Overhaul Education, CEQA – Sacramento Bee – April 14, 2013

Calif. Dems Back Gun Control, Prop 13 Reforms – San Francisco Chronicle (Associated Press) – April 14, 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.

Unions Defy CEQA Reformers with Taunting Resolution

Despite their reputation as effective and extensive abusers of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to pursue economic objectives unrelated to environmental protection, California union leaders are strategically choosing to be vocal activists against CEQA reform.

Union leaders are obviously quite confident that corporate executives and the news media will hesitate to make them accountable for their practice.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council are an essential part of the “CEQA Works” coalition organized by the California League of Conservation Voters to oppose CEQA reform. I predict these unions will be the major funding source for broadcast advertising from CEQA Works to undermine reform proposals. (Expect advertising to run soon on these radio stations.)

On February 11, 2013, the leadership of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO unanimously approved a resolution stating its commitment to “protecting the critical components of CEQA that have made it effective.” It was presented by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

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.

This resolution consists of buzz words, emotive language, and facts taken out of context. Many of the declarations provoke laughter at close examination: for example, the resolution praises union “alliances with local businesses” even though small local businesses undermine private sector unionism by operating free of union work rules and not participating in multi-employer union-administered fringe benefit programs.

(This provision probably alludes to CEQA challenges to Wal-Mart supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. As reported in the UFCW Local Union No. 135 newsletter of October 2012, “…pro-business politicians in the California State Senate proposed gutting CEQA, making it much more difficult for us to stop Walmart and similar big-box retailers from coming to San Diego and other places in California.”)

But the resolution also reveals that unions know the psychology of their opponents. From their experience in union corporate organizing campaigns, union leaders recognize how business executives strive to protect their professional reputations and corporate images. The resolution is a warning to any corporate executive advocating for CEQA reform who might be tempted to explain publicly why unions oppose it.

Few California corporate executives have the gumption or rhetorical skill to openly challenge an organization supporting benevolent, humanistic impulses such as “smart and sustainable development,” “public health, especially in low-income communities,” and “protecting local communities, strengthening alliances with local businesses, and promoting the creation of good jobs.”

And as an additional defense from accusations of hypocrisy, union officials strategically included a direct accusation in the resolution that “many of the attacks on CEQA are coming from the same corporations that seek to roll back regulations that protect workers.”

Who would dare to counterattack by pointing out how unions use those regulations as a strategic tool to coerce businesses into collective bargaining?

And it’s not just corporate executives intimidated by the aggressive union counterthrust. Reporters, editors, and newspaper executives who dare to expose union hypocrisy are vulnerable to accusations about poor journalistic practices and reporting of right-wing innuendo.

I sent out two Tweets to present the other side of the story:

Unions oppose #CEQA reform – delaying projects & activities is an essential part of organizing strategy in California http://www.phonyuniontreehuggers.com 

Union resolution to oppose #CEQA reform: subtly stating CEQA’s relevance to unions without detailing how unions use it http://www.calaborfed.org/index.php/site/page/1959 …

These missives were tiny beacons of common sense and fiscal responsibility jettisoned into a maelstrom of leftist commentary on Twitter, to disappear into irrelevance.

No one affirmed my comments by citing a CEQA lawsuit filed on January 22, 2013 by the new, shadowy “Fresnans for Clean Air (FRESCA)” in Fresno County Superior Court alleging that the Fresno City Council failed to adequately assess the environmental damage caused by contracting out garbage services. No one asked about the status of the CEQA lawsuit filed on December 14, 2012 by the Laborers Union (LIUNA) Local No. 783 and “Concerned Bishop Residents” in Mono County Superior Court alleging that the Mono County Board of Supervisors failed to adequately assess the environmental damage caused by an upgrade of the Mammoth Pacific Unit 1 geothermal power plant.

Unions dumped these CEQA objections at a meeting of the United Port of San Diego Board of Commissioners on September 19, 2012.

No one mentioned the notorious CEQA document dumps in May 2012 and in September 2012 by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 against the proposed San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3. In November, the unions announced “settlement agreements” that failed to address almost all of their environmental objections – including rising sea levels resulting from global warming – even as the unions obtained separate labor agreements for construction and hotel and hospitality services.

One of the declarations in the California Labor Federation resolution asserts that “claims of rampant CEQA litigation are wildly exaggerated since there is an average of only 200 CEQA (sic) per year” and that “only 1% or fewer projects subject to CEQA involve litigation of any sort.” While this statistic is deceptive in many ways, it doesn’t indicate how unions slow down projects using CEQA before ever reaching the point where their law firms need to file a lawsuit. There won’t be a union-instigated CEQA lawsuit to block the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3 – the preliminary activity under CEQA was enough to win the labor agreements.

The typical tactic used by exploiters of CEQA is “document dumps,” where an attorney submits a huge stack of CEQA objections at the last possible moment, sometimes with meek apologies. As a lawyer in California said to me last week, “The unions are at the point now where they don’t even need to submit comments about Environmental Impact Reports. The union law firm sends a public records request asking for the company’s application for a permit, and the company then calls up the law firm to arrange for a Project Labor Agreement.”

The web site www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com was established by the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT) in 2012 to document labor union involvement in CEQA environmental objections to proposed projects. Entries are based on actual legal documents that are hyperlinked for reference. The web site also includes the following news articles to show that once in a while, the truth leaks out about union CEQA exploitation:

Protests Over Valley Solar Projects Called a Ploy” – Fresno Bee – April 29, 2012

“Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized” – Los Angeles Times – February 5, 2011

“Debate Brews in California Over Unions And Power Projects” – Platt’s Electric Power Daily – October 29, 2009

“A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants” – New York Times – June 18, 2009

“Greenmail: Independent Builders Accuse Unions of Coercion” – Central Valley Business Journal – December 2007

“Union Staffing Demands Dim Market for Solar Panels” (Op-Ed) – Los Angeles Business Journal – October 8, 2007

“Unions Wielding Environmental Law to Threaten Foes” – Sacramento Business Journal – January 29, 2006

“Suits in California Delay Wal-Mart Supercenters” – Associated Press – March 20, 2005

“Pressure by Labor Group Alleged” – Sacramento Bee – September 19, 2004

“Struggle Over Power Plants” – Los Angeles Times – September 6, 2004

“Union Group Comes Under Fire at CEC [California Energy Commission] Workshop” – Energy Newsdata’s California Energy Markets – August 20, 2004

“Roseville OKs Labor Agreement for Power Plant” – Sacramento Business Journal – July 22, 2004

“Unions Push Roseville for Power Plant Pact” – Sacramento Business Journal – July 18, 2004

“No Strong-Arming” – Sacramento Business Journal (editorial) – July 18, 2004

“Unions Have Power Over Energy Plants” – Tri-Valley Herald (San Francisco: East Bay) – March 18, 2002

“Power Grab” (Editorial) – Wall Street Journal – February 15, 2001

“Blame Unions for Blackouts” (Op-Ed) – Engineering News-Record – January 29, 2001

“Unions Play Part in Power Crisis” – Bakersfield Californian – December 23, 2000

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.