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Community College Board in California Will Be Accountable to Voters

The eastern suburbs of San Diego (“East County”) have been and are still regarded as politically conservative. But even this area isn’t impervious to the political movement in California toward European-style social democracy. Labor unions and their political allies have recently gained political control of an East County local government and are now exercising their power.

Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District - a Project Labor Agreement Target.

Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District is a union Project Labor Agreement target.

But there is resistance. While the suburbs of San Francisco and Los Angeles have largely surrendered to “Progressive” policies during the past 20 years, there’s still a well-organized, well-funded effort in the San Diego region to defend fiscal responsibility, fair and open competition for government contracts, and freedom of choice for contractor employees. This effort will be tested at the October 20, 2015 meeting of the elected board of trustees of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

Unions Angle for a Monopoly on Suburban Educational Construction

As seen at many suburban educational districts in California, leadership in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District has shifted during the past few election cycles from traditionally pragmatic board members to board members who are interested in social change and supported by union interests. One recent subtle indication of this transformation was a board endorsement of rather unconventional political activists speaking on campus. Now, the board is becoming more aggressive and obvious in advancing a new agenda through the college.

On October 20, the board will vote on this resolution: “Directing Staff to Negotiate the Terms of a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for Projects Funded by Proposition V, State Bonds/Parking and Other Facilities Funding.” In other words, the board intends to give construction trade unions a monopoly on future construction contracts for the district.

This means construction companies will have to sign a deal negotiated by the college district’s representatives and union representatives. Left out of the negotiations will be contractors and their business associations, including associations that traditionally negotiate labor agreements. Contractors have one role: sign the agreement someone else negotiated for them.

In a typical Project Labor Agreement, unions supply all workers (including apprentices). Fringe benefit payments from employers on behalf of workers are directed into union-affiliated trust funds. And workers pay union dues and fees.

Adopting a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement is contrary to specific language included in the district’s August 7, 2012 bond resolution. That language was meant to assure voters in the November 2012 election that the district wouldn’t require contractors to sign a union agreement as a condition of working on projects funded by the $398 million Proposition V bond measure. Here is the language:

(j) …the District will promote fair and open competition for all District construction projects so that all contractors and workers, whether union or non-union, are treated equally in the bidding and awarding of District construction contracts…

Contrary to common sense and legislative intent, the district now claims that this provision actually means it is allowed to require its contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements. The district’s argument is based on a web of federal and state laws and court decisions often interpreted to mean that if a contractor chooses not to operate like a union company or a worker chooses not to be represented by a union, they’re not victims of discrimination.

23 States Ban Project Labor Agreements

23 states ban government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.

Instead, they’re simply making a free choice to refuse to abide by conditions that a government – as a participant in the marketplace – establishes for awarding a contract. In other words, if you choose not to be affiliated with a union, don’t complain. You’re still free to bid on a different project, find another job, find another trade or profession, or join the exodus of the rest of your kind and leave California for Texas, Florida, or the 23 states that ban Project Labor Agreements.

Groups Decide to Expose the Scheme to the Public

Presumably the college district’s board and administrators haven’t been too worried about pulling this bait-and-switch on voters. In 2000, 53% of California voters approved Proposition 39, which reduced the voter approval threshold for most school and college bond measures from two-thirds to 55%. In the following 15 years, the accountability and oversight protections in the California Constitution and in state law related to Proposition 39 have been narrowed, whittled away, and neutralized to virtual uselessness.

Nowadays California school and college districts routinely circumvent or evade state laws regarding school construction finance and implementation. Their lawyers and advisors exploit every ambiguity in law to justify finance and spending decisions that voters never would have tolerated. (Using bond proceeds – borrowed money that must be paid back with interest – to buy iPads for students is one of many examples.)

Public accountability is infrequent. Legal or political consequences are rare. But in this case of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, people are determined to expose and stop it.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association issued a press release revoking its 2012 endorsement of Proposition V if the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District board votes for the Project Labor Agreement. Its endorsement in 2012 has been predicated on the bond resolution that committed to fair and open bid competition on district construction funded by Proposition V.

See the press release: Taxpayers Association to Revoke Support of Community College District Bond for Breach of Fair Competition Pledge

To increase public awareness of the betrayal, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association also sent a mailer informing voters of the Project Labor Agreement vote:

San Diego County Taxpayers Association Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

San Diego County Taxpayers Association Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

 

At the same time, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction – a statewide organization with significant strength in San Diego – also sent a mailer informing voters of the Project Labor Agreement vote:

 

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

It’s expected that the board of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District will vote on October 20, 2015 to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with unions. They are bound to the unions like a contractor and its employees are bound to a Project Labor Agreement. But their political careers may end when East County citizens living in the district express their opinions with their own votes.


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.

Taxpayer Group Pushing to Gut California’s Prop. 13 is Union Front Group

One lingering success of the Right in California is the public’s continued association of taxpayers’ organizations with fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and limited government. Statewide groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and regional groups such as the San Diego County Taxpayers Association maintain credibility as leaders in resisting foolhardy tax increases and wasteful spending.

This reputation translates into political power. In 2000, various interest groups wanted California voters to approve what became Proposition 39, a ballot measure that reduced the threshold from 2/3 to 55% for voter approval of K-12 school districts and community college districts to borrow money for construction by selling bonds. To create the impression of responsible oversight for spending, Prop 39 required the establishment of a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, with the requirement that “One member shall be active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization.”

Not surprisingly, labor unions are cleverly trying to hide behind alleged taxpayers’ organizations as a way to advance their own political agenda, which typically entails higher taxes and more government spending. One example is the San Diego-based “Middle Class Taxpayers Association,” which succeeded in 2011 in getting the Southwest Community College District board to boot a representative of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association from the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee and replace her with their own representative.

The new “bona fide taxpayers’ organization” representative was the political director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 36 and Local 831. As you have probably guessed by now, construction unions wanted to neutralize any internal resistance to their lobbying campaign for the college board of trustees to require their contractors to sign a union Project Labor Agreement. (That requirement is now in effect.)

Then there’s the Richmond-based “Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group.” It issued a letter in 2012 critical of a study produced by the head of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, who was scheduled to speak at a meeting of the legitimate Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. Little information is available on the web about this group, but considering that it seems to pop up only when construction unions are lobbying for Project Labor Agreements, it’s obvious that this group serves union interests.

Another example is revealed in the January 29, 2014 column “Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop 13” by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times. It asks “Are California voters ready yet to change Proposition 13 so that all corporations pay their fair share of property taxes?”

Corporations are not paying their “fair share” in taxes, according to the perspective of this column. A reader might wonder what “fair share” means, and think there’s a balanced, objective, data-based argument when reading this:

Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Assn., has been pushing for years to modify Prop. 13 and close the corporate loopholes.

“We’re trying to organize, educate and expose what’s really happening,” he says. “We’re developing data and looking at some of the largest landowners in the state. If it turns out people don’t care, they don’t care.”

“My modest goal is to get it out front and center so people can have a discussion and not avert their eyes.”

According to the columnist, this taxpayers’ organization has a “modest” goal for a public “discussion” about an injustice it has identified in the tax code. Sounds reasonable. Perhaps the group wants corporations to pay their “fair share,” so that ordinary taxpayers can get a tax cut.

Or perhaps not.

Mr. Skelton has written for the Los Angeles Times since 1974, and new challenges face newspaper columnists in 2014 that were not around 40 years ago. One of them is busybody readers and their access to a newfangled “series of tubes” called the Internet that can be filled with information, such as the real identity of taxpayer groups. Any gadfly who wonders why a taxpayer organization wants to increase taxes can research it and expose it through social media.

Done! The California Tax Reform Association – of course – is yet another union front group. In 2012, 60 percent of its revenue came from these unions:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Contributions

Still not sure? Here is the 2012 board of directors for the California Tax Reform Association:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Board of Directors

The group hasn’t posted on its web site since May 23, 2012. That’s one highly-credible source! But it’s a convenient one, and deceiving too.

A lesson for citizens: just because an organization calls itself a taxpayers’ group does not necessarily mean it doesn’t want to raise your taxes or control government spending. Plenty of union money and personnel are being used to undermine one of the last defenses of fiscal responsibility in California. Check every group carefully and expose the union control to the public when you find it.

Sources

Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop. 13 – column by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times – January 29, 2014

Proposition 39 (2000)

Real Taxpayers’ Associations

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

San Diego County Taxpayers Association

Contra Costa Taxpayers Association

Union-Backed Taxpayers’ Associations

Middle Class Taxpayers Association

Builder Decries Loss of Oversight Members: SWC Board Replaced Two on Prop. R Committee over the Summer – Southwestern College Sun newspaper – October 7, 2011

Breaking: Labor Corruption…SD Labor Council Seeks to Oust Taxpayer Advocate from Oversight Committee – posted on San Diego Rostra by Ryan Purdy – July 12, 2011

California Tax Reform Association


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.

 

Tracking California’s November 2012 Elections Related to Labor Issues

California’s Proposition 32 is the country’s most high-profile election in November 2012 directly related to labor unions and labor policy issues. There are also several California local elections – particularly Measure V to enact a charter in the City of Costa Mesa – that will potentially strengthen or weaken union control of government. Here’s a summary of the elections to watch in California.

Proposition 32 – “Stop Special Interest Money” – Requires Union Leaders to Get Permission Before Taking Workers’ Money for Political Purposes

The statewide ballot measure Proposition 32 includes a requirement for union officials to get annual permission from a union member (or represented non-member) before extracting money from that worker’s paycheck for political purposes. Under current law, unions can simply take money from employee paychecks when desired in order to influence legislation or elections. For more information on how this coercive power is implemented in practice, see My Outline of the June 21, 2012 U.S. Supreme Court Decision on a California Union’s Mandatory Fee Assessment on Non-Members to Fight Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Ballot Measures.

A common description of Proposition 32 is “game changer” and the $70 million spent against it by union leaders proves this moniker is not political exaggeration. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, asserts that Proposition 32 is “the most important political reform measure to be placed before California voters in decades. If passed, it would surpass Governor Scott Walker’s successful ballot measure in Wisconsin last year. Moreover, it would be the ‘shot heard ‘round the political world’ as it would fundamentally change the way special interests are required to operate in the realm of California politics.”

Proposed Charters Would Allow Three California Cities to Set Their Own Policies for Municipal Affairs and Circumvent Costly Union-Backed State Mandates

Union leaders are clearly concerned that many of the state’s medium-sized suburban cities and smaller towns are exercising their right under the California Constitution to use charters to escape the tight grip of the state legislature, where union lobbyists basically set the agenda.

A 4-1 majority of the city council of Costa Mesa (in Orange County) is asking city voters to approve Measure V, which would enact a charter so the city can control its own municipal affairs, such as contracting-out of government services and government-mandated construction wage rates. Measure V would give the city authority to free itself from costly and inflexible union-backed mandates from the state legislature.

A professor of public administration at Chapman University (in Orange County) describes Costa Mesa as the ideological “ground zero for virtually everything taking place in the country” and the proposed Measure V charter as “a political manifesto of how government should be organized in the 21st century.” The $500,000 spent against Measure V by union leaders proves this assessment is not political hyperbole.

For more information, see my www.UnionWatch.org article Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter and Gee , Do You Think a Charter Is a Meaningful Way for California Cities to Pursue Fiscal Responsibility? $500,000 of Union Opposition Confirms It.

A second city proposing a charter to voters is Escondido (in San Diego County), with Proposition P. This charter essentially provides the City of Escondido with the same power and authority as the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, but union opposition has been minimal. Perhaps San Diego County union leaders concluded it was a waste of limited campaign resources to try to undermine Proposition P: since 2007, voters in the San Diego County cities of Vista, Santee, Carlsbad, Oceanside, and El Cajon have all approved robust, aggressive charters.

Meanwhile, in the San Luis Obispo County coastal town of Grover Beach, construction trade unions spent a few thousand dollars to send slick, professional mailers from Sacramento to residents urging them to vote against Measure I-12, a proposed charter with similar powers to the ones proposed in Costa Mesa and Escondido. See my articles Campaign Mailer Opposing the Proposed Grover Beach Charter: Definitely NOT Photocopied at Dave’s Copies & Fax and Who Paid the Bills for the Mailers Opposing the Proposed Charter (Measure I-12) in Grover Beach? No One.

The union strategy in Grover Beach emulates successful union-funded mail campaigns to defeat proposed charters in Rancho Palos Verdes in March 2011 and Auburn in June 2012. Unions have learned they can successfully overrun local grassroots activism for charters in smaller towns by stuffing voters’ mailboxes with deceptive, paranoid propaganda. (For more information about how unions defeated the Rancho Palos Verdes and Auburn charters, see my article 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).

I expect more than a dozen California cities will ask voters to enact charters in the June 2014 election. Currently there are 121 California cities with charters. Many of these cities take advantage of their charters to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Unions Help K-12 School and Community College Districts to Borrow Money for Union-Only Construction by Selling Bonds

Voters throughout California are being asked to approve 106 ballot measures to authorize school districts and community college districts to borrow money for construction by selling bonds. But for the first time since California voters narrowly approved Proposition 39 in 2000 (lowering the voter approval threshold from 66.67% to 55% for educational bond measures), there is a semi-coordinated statewide effort (“Operation Close the Spigot”) to oppose some of the most egregious bond measures by moving beyond the message “it’s for the kids” and providing some real accountability for performance. There is even an aggressive, well-funded locally-based opposition campaign (led by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association) to defeat an exceptionally foolish bond measure in San Diego.

Sacramento City Unified School District wants voter approval through Measures Q and R to sell another $414 million in bonds to add to its existing $522 million bond debt. West Contra Costa Unified School District (based in Richmond) wants voter approval through Measure E to sell another $360 million in bonds to add to its existing $1.77 billion bond debt. Solano Community College District wants voter approval through Measure Q to sell another $348 million in bonds to add to its existing $180 million bond debt. And San Diego Unified School District wants voter approval through Proposition Z to sell another $2.8 billion in bonds to add to its existing $4.7 billion bond debt.

Why are construction unions and their unionized contractor allies providing significant funding to the campaigns in support of these four ballot measures? It’s not because they love the kids; it’s because the elected boards of these fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged educational districts require their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of working on projects funded by bond sales previously authorized by district voters.

In July 2011, the National University System’s Institute for Policy Research in San Diego published a comprehensive study showing that California school construction projects cost 13% to 15% higher when the district requires contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. (The study is titled Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California.)

I’ve written extensively about these four union-backed bond measures – here are the most recent articles about each one:

  • Who’s Paying to Convince Sacramento Voters to Take On $414 Million of Additional Debt – Plus Interest – with Measures Q and R?
  • $652,650 Contributed to Measure E Campaign: West Contra Costa Unified School District Seeks to Borrow Another $360 Million “For the Children of West County”
  • Updated Chart! Who’s Paying to Convince Solano County Voters to Take On $348 Million of Additional Debt – Plus Interest – with Measure Q?
  • ONE San Francisco Investment Banker Is Funding About 20% of the Yes on Proposition Z Campaign for San Diego Unified School District to Borrow $2.8 Billion Through Bond Sales

As I reported in my www.UnionWatch.org article Construction Unions Could Grab Billions Through Education Bonds, Oakland Unified School District and East Side Union High School District will surely require their contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions for projects funded by bond measures on the November 2012 ballot. Other districts such as the Rancho Santiago Community College District may also attempt to cut bid competition and increase costs for the benefit of union special interests.

Keep in mind that every California taxpayer pays for the union-controlled construction in these educational districts. The State Allocation Board regularly provides matching grants for construction projects with proceeds from bond sales authorized by three past statewide propositions (Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Acts) totaling $35.8 billion. Union officials believe in “trickle-down economics” when your taxes “trickle down” to their operational and political funds.

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.