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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.

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.

Monterey County Water Officials Abandon Bill After Unions Reshape It

Any California local government seeking help from the state should know that union lobbyists won’t let the legislature pass anything unless unions have their own interests satisfied in the process. The Monterey County Water Resources Agency learned this lesson the hard way: it has now withdrawn support for its own bill after the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California added its unwanted and unannounced “ornamentation.”

Monterey County Water Resources Agency

A water drop or a teardrop?

This water district wants to build a pipeline between two reservoirs to increase water storage. It needs a special provision in state law to authorize its use of a specific version of “design-build” contracting. Instead of using the traditional design-bid-build contracting process, the agency wants to combine design and construction into one contract and award the contract based on somewhat subjective bidding criteria.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville) agreed to gut and amend one of his existing bills (Assembly Bill 155) and create a new bill authorizing the agency to use design-build project delivery for the pipeline. But the authorization comes with a catch: a provision added to the bill requires the design-build entity to sign a Project Labor Agreement with construction unions as a condition of working on the pipeline.

There was never any public deliberation or a vote on this union mandate. And it’s unclear how many people on the elected Monterey County Board of Supervisors, the appointed Monterey County Water Resources Agency board of directors, and the appointed Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee knew about it. The Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (a construction trade association) requested relevant documents on June 26 under the authority of the California Public Records Act, but the county has delayed providing any records that would reveal details of the backroom deal.

At the state level, Assembly Bill 155 is significant for taxpayers and local governments. It contains the first explicit state mandate for a Project Labor Agreement on a California local government project. Assembly Bill 155 would create a precedent to impose a requirement that all construction companies on local design-build projects sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

To subvert the state legislature and bring the fight to the local level, opponents of Project Labor Agreements brought the issue to the attention of the Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee at its June 18 meeting, during which some limited information was revealed about how this backroom deal was developed. (See excerpt from minutes, below.) At its July 9 meeting, the committee voted 4-1 to recommend to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency board of directors that it withdraw its support for Assembly Bill 155.

On July 28, after a staff presentation and extensive discussion, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency board of directors voted 5-3 to direct agency staff to send a letter to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors asking them to withdraw support for the bill. One board member who voted against the resolution advocated openly for Project Labor Agreements. Speaking in opposition to the withdrawal of support for Assembly Bill 155, an official with the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council claimed that a non-union contractor on a recent agency project submitted excessive change orders.

What was once an optimistic, ambitious opportunity to increase water storage during a severe drought has become a dispute over who gets control of construction work. Unions want a monopoly on this pipeline project, and they have an angle to get it. But local water officials are defying how business is done at the state capitol and making things uncomfortable for the unions and their political allies.

Will unions retaliate against this presumptuous challenge to their political power? Maybe. Three threats are in circulation:

  1. The head of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council has repeatedly threatened in public comment to sue the Monterey County Water Resources Agency for alleged illegal contracting practices. These threats surfaced after community leaders began questioning the sneaky Project Labor Agreement mandate. The Monterey County counsel’s office doesn’t see any validity to the union claims, but lawsuits are a frequent weapon of unions, which presumably can obtain the money to pay lawyers for aggressive, expensive, time-consuming litigation against a financially-struggling local agency.
  2. Water officials sympathetic to Project Labor Agreements have hinted that Assemblyman Alejo could block future state funding to the agency in his district. This might seem self-destructive, but there is a precedent in California. Democrat state legislators representing the City of San Diego have no qualms about cutting off construction funding to the city after its voters approved an ordinance in June 2011 prohibiting Project Labor Agreements. These legislators voted for Senate Bill 922 and Senate Bill 829, which cut off state funding as a retaliatory measure. Ultimately, these union-backed state legislators want to pressure their San Diego constituents to surrender and vote for another ballot measure that repeals their city’s “Fair and Open Competition” ordinance.
  3. At the July 29 meeting of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Fernando Armento declared that a Project Labor Agreement mandate on county projects was inevitable, sooner or later. It would not be surprising to see a vote for a Project Labor Agreement policy scheduled for an upcoming board meeting to punish brazen advocates of fair and open competition and fiscal responsibility.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Alejo told staff of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency in a meeting on July 7 that he will continue to advance Assembly Bill 155 even if the agency stops supporting it. (Certainly the unions still like it.) With its special “urgency” status, Assembly Bill 155 needs two-thirds approval in the Assembly and in the Senate.

In the Assembly, the Democrat supermajority can pass the bill without any Republican votes. In the Senate, Republican Anthony Cannella – a strong supporter of the construction union agenda who represents the Salinas Valley – is a sponsor of Assembly Bill 155. Another Republican – Steve Knight – voted for the bill in committee, perhaps to seek favor from unions in a general election against Republican Tony Strickland for an open Congressional seat. This bill is on its way to become law.

Minutes of the June 18, 2014 meeting of the Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee reveal how and why the Project Labor Agreement mandate was added to Assembly Bill 155.

Minutes of the June 18, 2014 meeting of the Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee reveal how and why the Project Labor Agreement mandate was added to Assembly Bill 155.


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 Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed Rail

Even close observers of the California High-Speed Rail Authority have struggled to track developments for the state’s planned bullet train. The debacle began in November 2008, when 52.7% of California voters approved Proposition 1A and triggered serious planning for what could be the most expensive construction project in human history. With that kind of money at stake, unions were obviously inspired to be part of this boondoggle.

Kings County Says No to CaHSRThe California High-Speed Rail Authority has become justly notorious for backroom deals, secretive administrative actions, and lack of transparency. But most Californians are at least vaguely aware that the project has been mismanaged and misrepresented.

Proposition 1A – placed on the ballot by the California State Legislature – authorized the State of California to borrow $9.95 billion to begin design and construction of a $45 billion complete high-speed rail system linking San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Sacramento. Including interest payments, the Proposition 1A commitment was estimated to be $19.4 billion to $23.2 billion for bonds to be paid back over 30 years. According to Proposition 1A, that money borrowed by the state was supposed to be supplemented with significant funding from the federal government, private investors, and municipal governments.

Proposition 1A also promised that the bullet train would be able to travel non-stop from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours, 40 minutes. Presumably many Californians who voted for it – including the 78.4% of San Francisco voters who approved it – imagined a fast train speeding between two world-class cities along the median of Interstate 5. They were wrong.

Here’s the current appalling status of California High-Speed Rail:

1. The California High-Speed Rail Authority has spent $587 million on consultants as of September 30, 2013. The California State Treasurer has sold at least $703 million worth of bonds (Buy America Bonds and perhaps others) for California High-Speed Rail as of May 13, 2013.

2. The estimated cost has been dramatically revised. Instead of being $45 billion for the entire system, it is now $68 billion just for the line between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the high-speed rail will be “blended” with other commuter rail lines at the beginning and end of the route. One group has estimated that the entire system may exceed $200 billion if bond interest is included and the federal government does not provide additional grants.

3. The California State Treasurer cannot sell the Proposition 1A state bonds because a judge determined in November 2013 that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with the law. While the California High-Speed Rail Authority has already obtained $2,942,000,000 from the federal government, possibly under false pretenses of a commitment to matching funds, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is intent on stopping further grants until the Authority gets its act together. No private investors have emerged – corporations want to GET money from the Authority through contracts, not give it money to be squandered. Cities in the San Joaquin Valley where the line will be built first have no money to invest in it – Fresno is nearly bankrupt.

4. Governor Jerry Brown desperately included $250 million in his 2014-15 budget for California High-Speed Rail to be obtained from “Cap and Trade” allowances paid by emitters of greenhouse gases as part of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32 or AB 32). But the project is expected to increase greenhouse gas emissions during four years of initial construction. The Authority claims it will earn the Cap and Trade funds because offsets from its tree planting program (as well as other activities such as “cleaner school buses and water pumps in Central Valley communities”) will allow it to produce “zero net emissions.”

5. With the “blended” plan, there are serious challenges to achieving the 2 hour 40 minute travel time required in law. An analysis claiming that the time can be met includes the train going over the Tehachapi mountain range (north of Los Angeles) at 150+ miles per hour. There is idle talk about digging a long tunnel for the bullet train through the seismically-active San Gabriel Mountains from Palmdale to Los Angeles, but this is probably to lull citizens of Santa Clarita into believing the rail won’t go through their town.

6. To the surprise and confusion of hipster high-speed rail supporters in San Francisco and Los Angeles, this bullet train will be a local, with stops at least in Merced, Fresno, Hanford or Visalia, Bakersfield, and Palmdale. In June 2013, the Authority awarded a $970 million contract (with provisions for an additional $55 million) to Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons (a joint venture) to design and build the first 29-miles of the high-speed rail between Madera and Fresno by February 2018. People are supposed to be able to ride the high-speed rail between Merced and Palmdale by 2022.

7. The California High-Speed Rail Authority erred by awarding the first design-build contract for a 29-mile stretch that includes 25 miles in one segment assigned for environmental review (Merced to Fresno) and four miles in another segment assigned for a different environmental review (Fresno to Bakersfield). While it received full environmental clearance for the 25-mile stretch, it has not received clearance for the 4-mile stretch. In December 2013, the federal Surface Transportation Board rejected a secretive request from the Authority for an exemption to environmental review. If it can’t get the federal exemption, the Authority’s design-build contract is in jeopardy.

8. Owners of 370 parcels that the California High-Speed Rail Authority needs for the first 29-mile stretch are apparently resisting or holding out on selling their property. At last report in mid-December, the Authority had allegedly closed escrow on five parcels. The Authority has now received authorization from the California Public Works Board to possess two parcels through eminent domain.

Based on these eight points alone, who would still be eager to proceed with this project besides Governor Jerry Brown, the corporations seeking contracts, and a scattering of citizens committed to various leftist causes related to urban planning and environmentalism? Unions.

Union supporters at California High-Speed Rail Congressional field hearing in Madera on May 31, 2013.

Union supporters at California High-Speed Rail Congressional field hearing in Madera on May 31, 2013.

In a backroom deal, without any public deliberation or vote, the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority negotiated and executed a Project Labor Agreement (called a “Community Benefit Agreement”) with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. This agreement gives unions a monopoly on construction trade work and certain construction-related professional services.

In a January 16, 2013 email about the Project Labor Agreement to the former chairman of Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, the Small Business Advocate of the California High Speed Rail Authority stated the following:

The Community Benefits Agreemeent (CBA) is an internal administrative document that was not necessarily intended to be circulated for public comment, however, that doesn’t mean you cannot provide me your input. The document was added to Construction Package #1 and Addendum 8 and I’ve attached it herein for your convenience. It includes regulatory compliance and is being reviewed by the Federal Rail (sic) Administration.

There is no evidence available to show that the Federal Railroad Administration approved the Project Labor Agreement, as required by law. But the final version of the agreement was signed in August 2013. No board member or administrator of the California High-Speed Rail Authority has commented in a public meeting about the agreement that will give unions control of most of the claimed 100,000 job-years of employment over a five-year period.

When State Senator Andy Vidak, with Congressman David Valadao, held a press conference critical of California High-Speed Rail on January 17, 2014 at the site of the eventually-to-be-demolished Fresno Rescue Mission, there were protesters: construction union leaders, lobbyists, public relations officials, and activists. The Fresno Bee reported this about the press conference:

In a news release prior to the announcement, Vidak indicated that his goal is to kill the bullet train. He tempered his in-person remarks, however, as he faced a crowd that included both high-speed rail critics from his home area in Kings County and a couple dozen representatives of labor unions who support the project…Rail supporters, some clad in hard hats and safety vests, booed Vidak as they wielded their own signs proclaiming high-speed rail as “good for the local economy, good for air quality and good for jobs.”

The Fresno Business Journal reported this about the press conference:

Dillon Savory, an advocate representing several local unions, commented after the event that high-speed rail would not only provide needed jobs, but it would help improve the Valley’s air, which has been heavily polluted this winter. Also, the cost of roadwork in the area is about double the cost of high-speed rail, making road construction less cost effective, Savory said. Savory criticized the anti-high-speed rail forced for trying to pit rail against water. He said the greater issue is putting people back to work with decent paying jobs. He said many union workers are only finding temporary work for about two weeks at a time. That is not putting food on the table, he said.

In 2013, Savory was the manager for the successful union-backed campaign to defeat a ballot measure (Measure G) supported by the Mayor of Fresno that would have allowed the city to outsource garbage collection. The political professionals are getting involved.

When the groundbreaking ceremony occurs for California High-Speed Rail, perhaps in an abandoned Madera County cornfield seized through eminent domain by the Authority, expect thousands of construction union workers to be bused in to block and neutralize any protesters. Governor Brown cannot suffer any more embarrassment over this boondoggle and debacle.

Bullet train path through Kings County farmland.

Bullet train path through Kings County farmland.

Sources

California Streets and Highway Code Section 2704.09 (implemented by California voters in November 2008 as Proposition 1A, as authorized by Assembly Bill 3034 (Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century)

Top-40 Donors to Campaign to Convince California Voters to Borrow $10 Billion to Start Building High-Speed Rail

Election Results by County: Proposition 1A (2008)

May 7, 2008 Senate Appropriations Committee legislative analysis for Assembly Bill 3034 (source of estimated costs of bonds, including interest payments)

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) High Speed Rail Awards

July 2012 – California’s High-Speed Rail Realities: Briefly Assessing the Project’s Construction Cost, Debt Prospects, and Funding (“The Realistic – No Additional Federal Funding scenario results in a total debt burden of $203 billion between 201 3 and 2058.”)

February 11, 2013 California High-Speed Rail Authority memo “Phase 1 Blended Travel Time”

A Preliminary Timeline of Activity Concerning What Will Be $9.95 Billion Borrowed through Proposition 1A Bond Sales for California High-Speed Rail

June 2013 – Contribution of the High-Speed Rail Program to Reducing California’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels (includes “plans to plant thousands of new trees across the Central Valley” and “cleaner school buses and water pumps in Central Valley communities”)

November 15, 2013 – Project Update Report to the California State Legislature (source of report that $587 million was spent on consultants)

November 25, 2013 California High Speed Rail Authority Bond Validation Lawsuit Ruling

November 25, 2013 – Tos Fukuda Kings County v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Part 1 Ruling

November 25, 2013 Tos Fukuda Kings County v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Part 2 Ruling

California High-Speed Rail – Fresno to Bakersfield Surface Transportation Board Exemption Letters

Project Labor Agreement (Community Benefits Agreement) for California High-Speed Rail – Addendum 8 in Bid Specifications – December 26, 2012

Project Labor Agreement (Community Benefits Agreement) for California High-Speed Rail – Final – August 13, 2013

February 27, 2013 Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission Chairman Wonders Why No Input Into California High-Speed Rail Authority Project Labor Agreement

Vidak Rails Against Bullet-Train Plan, Met by Bipartisan Crowd at Fresno EventFresno Bee – January 17, 2014

Vidak Calls for High-Speed Rail RevoteFresno Business Journal – January 17, 2014

California High-Speed Rail Scam

Past Articles in www.UnionWatch.org on Unions and California High-Speed Rail

Unions Creep Closer to Monopolizing California High-Speed Rail Construction – December 6, 2012

Watch Union Official’s Rude Antics at California High-Speed Rail Conference – January 15, 2013

Unions Await Fantastic Return on High-Speed Rail Political Investments – January 22, 2013

Exposing the Plot Behind Project Labor Agreement for California Bullet Train – April 30, 2013

Unions Defend California High-Speed Rail Project at Congressional Hearing – June 4, 2013

California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements – September 17, 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.

 

Will California Union Officials Get to Discuss Project Labor Agreements in Closed Session?

A September 17, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org reported on “the end of public deliberation and votes for Project Labor Agreements in the legislative branch of state and local governments. Instead, backroom deals are made in the executive branch to give unions control of the work.” Now another union strategy has been discovered for evading public scrutiny: governing boards discussing Project Labor Agreements with union officials during “closed session” of public meetings.

California law allows governing boards to meet in closed session to discuss and make decisions concerning certain issues deemed by the state legislature to require an appropriate degree of privacy. These issues include employee or student disciplinary actions, safety and security procedures, litigation, property negotiations, liability claims, and conferences with labor negotiators for employees or employee organizations.

By law, a public meeting agenda is required to include items to be discussed in closed session. Section 54954.5 of the California Government Code even lists categories to use for agenda items in closed session, for example, “Conference with Labor Negotiators.”

At some point for some reason, governing boards for several California local governments apparently began discussing terms and conditions of Project Labor Agreements with construction trade union representatives in closed session. This was a clever interpretation of the labor negotiation purpose of closed session, but it was inappropriate: employees of construction companies that contract with a government for services are not actually employees of that government.

The plot began to unravel when a representative of three subcontractor associations discovered a reference in the closed session items of the July 18, 2013 meeting agenda of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority board of directors. An item classified as “Conference with Labor Negotiators” involved the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council as an “employee organization.”

This probably would not have appeared suspicious under normal circumstances, because building trades councils and individual construction unions often represent public employees who work directly for the government. (Yes, traditional construction trade unions are sometimes public employee unions.) But in this case, the agency was in the process of considering a mandate for contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for an upcoming project.

After the agency received a July 16, 2013 letter indicating that discussion of the Project Labor Agreement in closed session was illegal, staff for the Water Emergency Transportation Authority moved the item to open session. At the meeting, representatives of various trade unions bickered before the board about provisions in the agreement, thus revealing why the discussion was originally set for closed session. In the end, the project was bid and awarded under fair and open competition, without a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in the bid specifications.

Meanwhile, an elected board member for the Rancho Santiago Community College District in Orange County saw a report about this San Francisco Bay Area controversy over discussing Project Labor Agreements in closed session and realized that his own district had engaged in the same practice. The board member provided the district with a memo from an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute outlining why discussion of Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session violated the state’s open meetings law.

As a result of this board member’s efforts, the college board had a “Discussion of Community and Student Workforce Project Agreement Action Negotiations with Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council/Craft Unions/Carpenters Union” at its November 12 meeting.

A summary of the agenda item stated “It is recommended that the board formally agree to refrain from any discussion of negotiations on the Community and Student Workforce Project Agreement in closed session unless or until more conclusive information is provided to clarify the legality of such discussions in closed session per the Brown Act.”

What stunned opponents of Project Labor Agreements was the extent of this practice, as revealed in the staff report: “It is a common practice for K-12 districts, community college districts, municipal governments, special utility districts, and other public agencies to discuss PLA negotiations in closed session.”

It cited “Southwestern Community College District, Riverside Community College District, San Mateo Community College District, Contra Costa Community College District, Santa Ana Unified School District, Pasadena Unified School District, San Bernardino Unified School District, and San Diego Unified School District, among others…almost every public agency that has negotiated a PLA in California has discussed the negotiations in closed session.”

Was this list of specific local governments provided by a union lawyer based on personal experience and knowledge? At the board meeting, a construction trade association representative asked the college to identify the source for the list of local governments that discussed Project Labor Agreements in closed session. The chancellor responded that staff obtained the list, and the association representative then asked if those governments had indicated their closed session discussions on public meeting agendas. The chancellor did not know.

Three Implications for 2014 of California Governing Boards Discussing Project Labor Agreements in Closed Session

  1. Undoing Existing Project Labor Agreements: What kind of backroom deals were discussed and concluded by governing board members at those identified local governments during closed session? If boards held discussions illegally, does that undermine the legality of the Project Labor Agreements now enacted at some of these governments? Such questions may be answered with a tedious, thorough search of old meeting agendas, combined with requests for public records. The investigation and subsequent enforcement of the law could restore fair and open bid competition at several local governments, including the San Diego Unified School District, which requires contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for several billion dollars of taxpayer-funded construction under its Proposition S (2009) and Proposition Z (2012).
  2. Establishing an Official State Opinion on Using Closed Session to Discuss Project Labor Agreements: The chancellor for the Rancho Santiago Community College District is expected to ask the California Attorney General Kamala Harris for an opinion about the legality of governing boards discussing Project Labor Agreements in closed session. Advocates of open government will need to submit advice and recommendations to the Attorney General, lest she takes the opportunity to give unions special rights for secret policy development.
  3. Changing State Law to Limit Public Scrutiny and Input for Project Labor Agreements: In 2014, Jerry Brown is still Governor, and Democrats remain close to or at supermajority control of the California Assembly and Senate. Expect the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California to sponsor a bill that allows governing boards to discuss Project Labor Agreements in closed session. It will be a big step forward for union officials to end the unpleasantness of public deliberation and votes to require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements as a condition of work on taxpayer-funded construction.

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 “Using Political Leverage to Punish Those Exercising Rights” in California Constitution

On October 13, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 7, which cuts off state funds designated for construction to any California city that exercises its right under the California Constitution to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) on contracts. This was a major victory for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the construction union umbrella lobbying organization that sponsored the bill.

There are 121 California cities that govern their own municipal affairs through a charter, a mini-constitution authorized in Article XI of the California Constitution. In its letter unsuccessfully requesting for a gubernatorial veto, the League of California Cities declared that “using political leverage to punish those exercising rights provided by the Constitution is unjust” and a veto was needed to “protect the integrity of our Constitution and the communities operating in lawful compliance with it.” (Coming from the professional association of California city officials, these statements cannot be easily brushed off by California Democrats and their union allies as irrelevant “Tea Party” rhetoric.)

In California, the “Progressive” movement is determined not to let the structural protections of constitutional government impede the quest for democratic socialism and societal justice. Passing Senate Bill 7 through the state legislature and getting it signed is the type of government activism that earns praise from the national news media, as it compares the State of California favorably against the “gridlock” in Washington, D.C.

Senate Bill 7 has a practical fiscal impact as well as a constitutional significance. Out of California’s 121 cities governed under a charter, 43 do not require construction companies to pay state-mandated prevailing wages on any city contracts, and 10 do not require construction companies to pay state-mandated prevailing wages on some kinds of city contracts. The cities of El Cajon, Bakersfield, and Newport Beach are the most recent cities to establish their own prevailing wage policies. Meanwhile, unions have successfully lobbied the city councils in San Diego and Mountain View in recent months to abandon their own wage rate policies and submit to state prevailing wage law.

A couple dozen “general law” cities have recently proposed charters to voters or plan to propose charters to voters. Evading the costly state prevailing wage mandate for construction contracts has been a primary motivation for these cities, and construction unions have been aggressive in lobbying and campaigning to undermine these local efforts. In 2012, voters in the cities of Auburn, Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach rejected proposed charters.

It’s likely that a charter city or group of charter cities will file a lawsuit in 2014 to strike down Senate Bill 7, along with two similar laws implemented by Senate Bill 922 in 2011 and Senate Bill 829 in 2012. These two laws, also sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, cut off state construction funds to charter cities that adopt Fair and Open Competition policies prohibiting the cities from entering into contracts requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.


Sources

Article XI of the California Constitution

Senate Bill 7 (2013) – to be California Labor Code Section 1782

League of California Cities – SB 7 (Steinberg) Undermining Constitutional Exercise of Municipal Affairs – Request for Veto

Information on Charters from League of California Cities (includes list of 121 charter cities)

State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista et al. – California Supreme Court decision of July 2, 2012 upholding constitutional right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for municipal construction contracts.

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? (3rd edition – Summer 2012) – the most comprehensive report ever published on California prevailing wage and charter city policies and an inspiration for advocates of fiscal responsibility and local control. (A 4th edition is in the works.)

Senate Bill 922 (2011) and Senate Bill 829 (2012) – punishing charter cities with prohibitions on city contracts that mandate Project Labor Agreements.

State-mandated prevailing wages for construction trades in all geographic regions of California

State Building & Construction Trades Council of California

News and Opinion Leading Up to and Following Gov. Brown Signing Senate Bill 7

SB 7: Cities Stand to Lose Home Rule over Municipal Affairs – www.PublicCEO.com – September 9, 2013

Three Bad Bills that Gov. Jerry Brown Should Veto – editorial – Sacramento Bee – September 9, 2013

Legislative Sampler: 2 to Sign, 2 to Veto – editorial – Riverside Press-Enterprise – September 18, 2013

Has Labor Leader Overreached? – columnist Dan Morain – Sacramento Bee – October 9, 2013 (The answer is “no.”)

Prevailing Wage Bill Deserves a Veto – editorial – UT San Diego – October 4, 2013

Governor Should Veto Wage Bill – editorial – Modesto Bee – October 11, 2013

If Gov. Brown Doesn’t Like Intrusion, He Should Veto SB 7 – editorial – Sacramento Bee – October 12, 2013

Jerry Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill for Charter Cities – Sacramento Bee – October 13, 2013

Governor Brown Signs Union-Backed Senate Bill 7 and Continues Erosion of Constitutional Checks and Balances – www.FlashReport.org – October 13, 2013

Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill – Capitol Weekly – October 14, 2013

Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill for Cities – Central Valley Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Governor Signs Prevailing wage Bill for Charter Cities – Sacramento Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Gov. Brown Signs SB 7 to Neuter Charter Cities – www.CalWatchdog.com – October 14, 2013

Prevailing Wage Law Could Raise Costs – UT San Diego – October 14, 2013

Unions Smile, Cities Frown at Prevailing Wage Law – Bakersfield Californian – October 14, 2013

Modesto Fears Harm from New Prevailing Wage Law – Modesto Bee – October 14, 2013

California Construction Unions Get Two Big Wins – columnist Dan Walters – Sacramento Bee – October 15, 2013

Charter Could Cost City Funding – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – October 16, 2013

Wage Law Costs Cities More Than Money – op-ed by El Cajon Acting Mayor Bill Wells – UT San Diego – October 25, 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.

 

Something is Bothering California Union Leaders and Lobbyists

Something is bothering union leaders and lobbyists in California. A few unreconstructed troglodytes in the hinterlands still haven’t received the memo explaining how unions will lead the state in its evolution to a more Progressive society, under the firm but benevolent hand of government authority.

The typical political, business, and community leader in California today holds fast to the hope that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. The Establishment often discusses the challenges facing the state’s future without mentioning union political power and the vigorous ideological visions of union leadership.

But a few stubborn fanatics have declined to leave for Texas and instead stick around to harp on outdated, embarrassing notions such as “fiscal responsibility,” “limited government,” “free markets,” and “constitutional doctrines.” These insidious rebels are constantly figuring out clever ways to subvert and circumvent the Left.

Here are some recent critical reports about these people from union officials and union sympathizers. Many of these reports contain inaccuracies about strategies and logistics of the resistance, but the reports are valuable in showing the nature of the resistance.

This Week in the War on Workers: Fending Off the ALEC of the Construction Industry in California – Daily Kos – August 24, 2013

  • “The Associated Builders and Contractors, AKA the ALEC of the construction industry, doesn’t like this so much. So it’s been turning its attention to charter cities, which can make their own laws, trying to get cities to adopt charters and to eliminate the prevailing wage.”
  • “This push employs some ridiculous myths, like the claim that cities can save 20 percent on their construction costs by eliminating the prevailing wage.”
  • “As with most of the ABC’s efforts, it’s important to understand that these are low-road contractors.”
  • “Defenders of the prevailing wage have been doing a good job fighting off city by city attacks, but ABC is relentless, bringing up and helping to fund the same charters in city after city.”

CEO Comes Out Swinging in Favor of SB7, Prevailing Wages, and the Race to the Top – We Party Patriots – August 22, 2013

  • “In recent years, anti-union groups have supported ballot initiatives throughout the state that would designate cities as charter cities specifically to avoid paying prevailing wages on public works projects.”
  • “a subject that has been trumpeted by anti-prevailing wage crusaders time and again: alleged savings associated with gutting wages.”
  • “SB7 is a response to lobbying attempts by contractor associations who wish to change California law for the worse.”

CEOs and Business Leaders for Prevailing Wage – Modesto Bee (op-ed) – August 19, 2013

  • “some Charter Cities have exempted prevailing wages in a shortsighted effort to save money, but the true costs outweigh any perceived benefit.”
  • “out-of-state lobby groups have recently mounted an effort — city by city — to encourage local leaders and politicians to place charters on the ballot in order to eliminate prevailing wage.”
  • “They promise savings of as much as 30 percent on projects.”
  • “The lobbyists making these arguments either don’t know what they are talking about, or they are being deliberately misleading.”
  • “The idea for SB7 didn’t appear out of the blue. It was a logical response to lobby groups trying to convince more cities to make the mistake of eliminating prevailing wage.”

Just What is a ‘Prevailing Wage?’ – Pomerado News (op-ed) – August 24, 2013

  • “Don’t count on the support of most contractors, or developers, or anti-worker politicians for a living wage.”
  • “‘It costs too much, it’s taxpayers’ money,’ they scream.”
  • “Of course, detractors trot out examples of someone being paid an exorbitant rate for a menial job, but those incidences are few.”
  • “With the exception of San Diego, whose original charter dates from the 1800s, the rest of these cities adopted charters relatively recently, for the most part, to avoid paying prevailing wages.” (Note: San Diego has maintained a policy of no government-mandated wage rates for construction contractors since 1980 – see the July 30, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law.)

Prevailing Wage: Moving Forward in California, Backward in Other States – From the President, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – July 2013

  • “Here is some of what the Building Trades are doing. The hallmark bill for 2013 is Senate Bill 7, to make charter cities eligible for state funding for public works projects only if they pay prevailing wage. Charter cities may choose to exempt themselves from prevailing wage, and some do. This measure would provide a strong financial incentive for those cities to stop shortchanging working men and women with substandard wages.”
  • “Speaking of charter cities, Senate Bill 311 requires that charter city conversion elections be held in a statewide general election, where voter participation is highest, in order to protect workers from the tactic of passing conversion measures in lower turnout municipal elections.”
  • “We are also protecting prevailing wage with Senate Bill 776, to prevent anti-union contractors from defining sham labor compliance committees as a fringe benefit, which can then be deducted from workers’ wages as a portion of the prevailing wage. The Associated Builders and Contractors, the anti-union group, have been using these deductions to fund themselves for their relentless drive to destroy construction unions.”
  • Assembly Bill 26 requires that contractors that do work in refineries carry a workforce that has been trained and graduated in state-approved construction apprenticeship programs, and requires those workers be paid the prevailing wage for construction workers in the area.” (A push to require prevailing wage on private projects! Note: see Senate Bill 54 for the current manifestation of this proposal. It will knock the Steelworkers union out of California refineries as well as non-union industrial contractors – see the August 26, 2013 Los Angeles Times article Two Unions Wage Turf Battle Over Oil Refinery Workers: A state bill would help the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California grab control of thousands of United Steelworkers jobs.)
  • “California’s working people have fought together with a tenacious resolve and unity in recent election cycles to elect forward-looking individuals to our Legislature and statewide offices…When we compare these worthy actions with the sad developments in many other states, we see the clear benefits of our unity and activism…”

Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 776 into law today (August 27, 2013), cutting off funding to the one independent labor compliance investigative program among several dozen union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committees operating in the state. Will these bills finally allow the “forward-looking individuals” aligned with unions in state and local government to advance their agenda unimpeded?


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.

Judicial Council of California Imposes Project Labor Agreement on San Diego Courthouse

Excerpts from four documents (obtained from California’s Administrative Office of the Courts on June 5, 2013 through a public records request) reveal the successful behind-the-scenes plot within the California court system involving top staff of the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Judicial Council to give construction trade unions monopoly control of the $586 million new San Diego County Central Courthouse with a Project Labor Agreement. Although the Judicial Council claims to have “a comprehensive process for soliciting, gathering, and considering public comment on proposals during the policy development process,” the hasty internal process of deciding to negotiate, negotiating, and executing a Project Labor Agreement was not included on the last meeting agenda of the Judicial Council on April 25-26, 2013.

This labor pact will cut competition and raise costs for the benefit of unions. For example, see the 2011 study from the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego entitled Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California.

How do taxpayers in the San Diego region feel about fair and open competition versus Project Labor Agreements? We know from actual votes.

  • In June 2012, 56% of voters in the City of San Diego approved Proposition A to prohibit government-mandated Project Labor Agreements on city projects.
  • In November 2010, 76% of voters in the County of San Diego approved Proposition A to prohibit government-mandated Project Labor Agreements on county projects.
  • In June 2010, 56% of voters in the City of Chula Vista (the second most populous city in San Diego County) approved Proposition G to prohibit government-mandated Project Labor Agreements on city projects
  • In June 2010 54% of voters in the City of Oceanside (the third most populous city in San Diego County) approved Proposition K, a charter that included an explicit provision to prohibit government-mandated Project Labor Agreements on city projects.

Citizens in the San Diego region – the region to be served by this courthouse – clearly do not support govenment-mandated monopolies on taxpayer-funded construction. No wonder the Project Labor Agreement was arranged by the head of the Sacramento-based State Building and Construction Trades Council of California rather than locally in San Diego.

At least everyone now knows not to waste money filing a lawsuit in the California court system challenging a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement. Would judges favor unions for construction contracts in their own system while denying this kind of deal to other government entities? Obviously lawyers for unions will now and forever launch their arguments by pointing out that the California court system itself requires its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of winning a job.

The story was first revealed in the UT San Diego (San Diego Union-Tribune) in its June 7, 2013 article Courthouse to Be Built Under Labor Pact. The UT San Diego (San Diego Union-Tribune) then posted an editorial on June 9, 2013 entitled Public Safety Loses, Labor Wins at New Courthouse.

Also, see my blog post about this Project Labor Agreement in the context of the larger Senate Bill 1407 courthouse construction program at Union Quest for Project Labor Agreements from Judicial Council of California and Administrative Office of the Courts Succeeds with San Diego County Central Courthouse.

Excerpts from the four actual documents explain the plot. (Note: one of them is “Confidential.”)

1. March 22, 2013 Memorandum to Curt Child, Chief Operating Officer from Ray Polidoro, Manager, Judicial Branch Capital Program Office, Subject: New San Diego Central Courthouse RE: Project Labor Agreement 

The State Building and Construction Trades Council has asked the Administrative Office of the Courts to consider using a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on the construction for the New San Diego Central Courthouse Project (the Project)…The JBCP is requesting that Justice Hill, as chair of the Court Facilities Working Group, review the use of a PLA on the Project. The following provides a definition and some background on PLAs…

There is variation among the provisions in PLAs, but generally they contain two key components. The first involves how labor disputes will be handled. Contractors who are party to PLAs agree not to lock out workers from worksites. In turn, the construction trade unions agree to not strike or disrupt the construction…

The second core component found with PLAs involves who will be hired and the conditions of their employment. Signatories to these agreements recognize labor unions as the exclusive bargaining representative for all project workers. Most PLAs require workers on the project to pay union dues, regardless of their membership status, and that contractors make payments on behalf of all their workers to union-affiliated fringe benefit trust funds during the course of the project.

In the debate over the use of PLAs, one of the most prominent areas of disagreement is whether these agreements affect construction costs…Opponents argue that PLAs increase costs. They claim that the requirements imposed by PLAs discourage nonunion contractors from bidding on projects and subcontractors from participating. This reduced competition could result in overall higher bids. Opponents also claim that the work condition rules required in PLAs increase labor costs and that these are passed onto the projects (sic) owner.

Rudolph and Sletten, the CM@Risk for the Project, has done several PLAs and as a result can leverage their knowledge and relationships in structuring favorable terms for a PLA to contain costs.

2. April 4, 2013 letter from Curtis L. Child, Chief Operating Officer, Judicial Council of California Administrative Office of the Courts to Dan Dolinar, Executive Vice President, Chief of Operations, Rudolph and Sletten – CONFIDENTIAL 

The Court Facilities Working Group Executive Committee provided direction to AOC [Administrative Office of the Courts] staff to amend the R&S [Rudolph & Sletten] agreement to require R&S to negotiate a PLA specific to the San Diego Project and to be signatory to the agreement with the trades. R&S and AOC will jointly participate in the negotiations with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (Trades Council).

Representatives of the Trades Council will participate in the negotiations. Other unions may also participate in the negotiations. Although the AOC is sensitive to the Trades Council’s expectations, the AOC and R&S will negotiate favorable PLA terms to minimize the potential for any construction cost increase. The negotiations and execution of a PLA by Rudolph & Sletten and the trades must not delay bidding on the San Diego Project. If an agreement between the parties is not reached by April 30, 2013, a PLA will not be required on this project.

If the PLA negotiations are successful, only R&S and the trades will be party to the PLA. For the PLA to become effective, though, all of R&S’s trade contractors over a minimum contract amount will be required to execute a letter of assent, agreeing to be bound by the PLA. The AOC will prepare necessary revisions to the current AOC I R&S Agreement to incorporate the PLA. The PLA will have to be part of R&S’s prequalification packages that R&S plans to send to its trade contractors in the beginning of May 2013.

The AOC has contacted representatives of the Trades Council and set up the first negotiation session to be in Sacramento at the State Building and Construction Trade Council office at 1225 8th Street, Suite 375, Sacramento, CA 95814 on April 12, 2013, 9:00am to 12:00pm and any additional sessions to be determined.

Thank you for R&S’s continued cooperation to incorporate a PLA into R&S’s contract and into this San Diego Project…

3. April 5, 2013 letter from Curtis L. Child, Chief Operating Officer, Judicial Council of California Administrative Office of the Courts to Robbie Hunter, President, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California 

This letter is to confirm that the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has agreed to meet with you and Ray Van Der Naught (sic) [Ray Van der Nat], the attorney for the State Building and Construction Trades Council (Council), at the Council’s office on April 12, 201 3 from 9 a.m. to noon for the purpose of negotiating a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the San Diego New Central Courthouse Project (San Diego Project)… I look forward to seeing you on April 12 and to fruitful discussions among the Council, R&S, and the AOC.

4. May 8, 2013 email from Steven Jahr to the Judicial Council of the Administrative Office of the Courts 

From: Jahr, Steven (Administrative Director of the Courts for California)

Sent: Wednesday, May 08, 2013 11:54 AM

To: AOC JC Members Only [Administrative Offfice of the Courts Judicial Council]

Cc: Bocchicchio, Michael; Byrd, Donald; Capozzi, Anthony; Castellanos, Stephan; Chang, Steven; Cooper, Hon. Candace D.; Davis, Keith D.; Feng, Hon. Samuel; Foiles, Robert D.; Fowler-Bradley, Melissa; Highberger, William; Hill, Brad; Hirschfeld, Burt; Ignacio, Donna; Jacobs-May, Hon. Jamie A.; Johnson, Jeffrey W.; Lucas, Hon. Patricia M.; Magnusson, Chris; Masunaga, Laura; Miessner, Leslie; Nash, Stephen H.; Olivas, Noema; Orozco, Hon. Gary R.; Power, David; Quinn, Kelly; Robinson, Akilah; Romero-Soles, Linda; Ruano, Teresa; Spikes, Larry; Stinson, Kevin; Toppenberg, Val; Trentacosta, Robert J.; Warwick, Thomas; Willoughby, Lee

Subject: San Diego Central Courthouse Project

Members of the Judicial Council:

I want to make you aware of a pending announcement by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California regarding a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with our selected contractor (Rudolph and Sletten, Inc.) for construction of the new Central Courthouse project for San Diego, the state’s largest courthouse construction project. The Trades Council has expressed continued interest to the AOC about entering into such an agreement on this project. Following negotiations regarding potential terms and conditions of a PLA between Rudolph and Sletten and the Trades Council, (with input from the AOC), we concluded that this approach was beneficial.

I requested that the contractor enter into a PLA with the Trades Council to ensure certainty and timeliness as well as reduce variables in a construction project of this magnitude. This will be the first state courthouse project on which a PLA is signed. I should emphasize that we are considering this PLA to be a pilot effort that the Court Facilities Working Group and AOC will continuously evaluate for costs and benefits going forward, about which I will keep the Judicial Council apprised.

As you know, the new 71-courtroom facility is badly needed because of serious seismic and security issues and other significant functional problems. At $586 million for the total project (of which $544 million is construction), any delay can be costly. The Court Facilities Working Group and the AOC have worked with all parties, including the Legislature, the Department of Finance, County, and City to keep the project moving forward. To that end, the PLA is being put in place to ensure that this momentum continues by preventing potential expensive delays and related costs.

We realize there are some who criticize PLAs. We have examined those criticisms and believe for this project there is an overall benefit. We have been advised that a number of collective bargaining agreements for involved trades will come up for renewal within the construction window for this job. The terms of the PLA ensure that the construction process will be uninterrupted by those renewal anniversaries. The agreement precludes strikes and would prevent delays caused by shortages of qualified workers in the relevant trades. It will also streamline management of the project. We believe the PLA will be cost-effective. It will apply to most, but not all, of the bid packages—those smaller than $125,000 at all bid tiers will be exempt. Additionally, the PLA provides that the project has a built-in local participation goal of 30 percent for San Diego trades. (The Long Beach project, through Long Beach Judicial Partners, LLC, also is operating under a PLA. Examples of other projects with PLA in San Diego include Petco Field and the San Diego Convention Center.)

Packages for subcontractor prequalification are now being disseminated by the contractor. The AOC along with the contractor are taking steps to do outreach to local, small, emerging, and minority businesses, as well as the Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise Program to encourage them to bid on portions of the project. The project is scheduled for a fall bond sale with a construction start date by the end of December 2013.

There will be a further briefing on the PLA approach at an educational session during the June council meeting.

Steve


Who’s Responsible? The Judicial Council

The Judicial Council is the policymaking body of the California courts, the largest court system in the nation. Under the leadership of the Chief Justice and in accordance with the California Constitution, the council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) implements the council’s policies.

Chair

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye 
Chief Justice of California

Supreme Court

Hon. Marvin R. Baxter
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 

Courts of Appeal

Hon. Judith Ashmann-Gerst 
Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal
Second Appellate District, Division Two
Los Angeles

Hon. Harry E. Hull, Jr.
Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal
Third Appellate District
Sacramento

Hon. Douglas P. Miller
Associate Justice of the Court of Appeal
Fourth Appellate District, Division Two
Riverside 

Trial Courts

Hon. Stephen H. Baker
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Shasta

Hon. James R. Brandlin
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Los Angeles

Hon. David De Alba
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Sacramento

Hon. Emilie H. Elias
Judge of the Superior Court of California
County of Los Angeles

Hon. Sherrill A. Ellsworth
Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Riverside

Hon. James E. Herman
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Santa Barbara

Hon. Teri L. Jackson
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of San Francisco

Hon. Ira R. Kaufman
Assistant Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Plumas

Hon. Mary Ann O’Malley
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Contra Costa

Hon. David Rosenberg
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Yolo

State Bar

Ms. Angela J. Davis
United States Department of Justice
Office of U.S. Attorney

Mr. James P. Fox
Attorney at Law

Ms. Edith R. Matthai
Attorney at Law

Mr. Mark P. Robinson, Jr.
Attorney at Law

Advisory Members

Hon. Sue Alexander
Commissioner of the Superior Court of California,
County of Alameda

Mr. Alan Carlson 
Chief Executive Officer
Superior Court of California,
County of Orange

Hon. Laurie M. Earl
Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Sacramento

Hon. Allan D. Hardcastle
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Sonoma

Hon. Morris D. Jacobson
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Alameda

Hon. Brian L. McCabe
Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Merced

Hon. Robert James Moss
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Orange

Hon. Kenneth K. So
Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of San Diego

Ms. Mary Beth Todd
Court Executive Officer
Superior Court of California,
County of Sutter

Hon. Charles D. Wachob
Assistant Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California,
County of Placer

Mr. David H. Yamasaki
Court Executive Officer 
Superior Court of California,
County of Santa Clara

Secretary

Judge Steven Jahr
Administrative Director of the Courts


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.

Exposing the Plot Behind Project Labor Agreement for California Bullet Train

Documents obtained on April 29, 2013 through a request under the authority of the California Public Records Act reveal behind-the-scenes maneuvering for a government mandate that construction companies sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California as a condition of building California’s High-Speed Rail.

Getting these records was not a simple task. The appointed board of directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority never discussed or voted on this union monopoly. The Project Labor Agreement materialized out of nowhere in late December 2012 as Addendum 8 in the bid specifications for the first construction segment from Madera to Fresno.

For reasons still to be publicly revealed, obscure Fresno-based appointed boards and quasi-public groups interacted with federal and state officials to develop the Project Labor Agreement for what will be the most expensive public works project in human history. It was the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board that possessed many of the key documents. So far only one elected official has been identified as a direct player in the scheme: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

Here’s what is available and known to the public as of April 30, 2013.

In November 2009, the California High-Speed Rail Authority requested “expressions of interest” from local governments for a $40 million heavy maintenance facility somewhere from Merced to Bakersfield that would employ up to 1500 workers during peak shifts. The County of Fresno, the City of Fresno, the Economic Development Corporation in Fresno County, and the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board organized a consortium called “Fresno Works” to compete for the facility against cities such as Merced, Chowchilla, and Bakersfield.

At some point this Fresno Works consortium appeared to expand its interests to include getting a requirement for high-speed rail contractors to hire people from areas of the Central Valley where unemployment is high. In September 2011, the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board recommended to the Fresno Works consortium that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) implement a “Targeted Unemployed Worker” Program and “First Source” transparency requirement for contractors working on the California High-Speed Rail project.

The board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority discussed the proposal at its January 12, 2012 meeting. (Board member Tom Richards was also serving as chairman of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board and removed himself from the board discussion.) It was already moot because a letter dated January 6, 2012 from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Federal Railroad Administration to the California High Speed Rail Authority indicated that the proposed workforce requirements violated rules concerning the use of federal grants for construction projects.

Nothing was mentioned about labor unions or Project Labor Agreements in this proposal. California High-Speed Rail Authority board member Bob Balgenorth, who was also head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, inquired during discussion on whether or not construction trade union officials had been consulted and noted that the proposal did not seem to recognize that union hiring halls typically dispatch workers directly to the job site and not to an employer’s office.

Work apparently resumed in Fresno to develop a targeted hiring program that would meet federal contracting standards. In a memorandum to the California High Speed Rail Authority dated March 21, 2012,  the co-chairman of the Education Committee of the Fresno Works Consortium (who was also the executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board) proposed a set of revised “Targeted Unemployed Worker” Hire Criteria and “First Source” Transparency Requirements.

Here for the first time were references to unions. It stated that hiring criteria “be reflective of union apprenticeship requirements” and that “if a project labor agreement is negotiated to cover this project, such an agreement shall include a provision requiring the parties to adhere to this Targeted Unemployed Worker Program.” Obviously, someone had proposed (or demanded) a union Project Labor Agreement.

An opportunity soon came to propose combining a targeted hiring policy (albeit without local hiring requirements) with a union Project Labor Agreement. Sometime during the following three months, word reached Fresno that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Federal Transit Administration had given approval in February 2012 to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to require contractors to sign the new Project Labor Agreement for its massive construction program. Using this approval as the basis for her argument, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin sent a letter dated June 19, 2012 to Ray LaHood, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, seeking approval for a revised hiring program for the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

…it has come to my attention that Mr. Dorvel R. Carter, Chief Counsel of the Federal Transit Administration, approved language put forward by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Administration (sic) (LACMTA) and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council which is very similar to the Fresno Works targeted hiring program. This language focuses on establishing targeted hiring criteria in project labor agreements…we have modified our initial proposal to more closely comport with the LACMTA language that has been approved by USDOT-FTA and respectfully request that USDOT work with us to institute this revised proposed, the “National Targeted Hiring Program,” for the Initial Construction Section of the California High Speed Rail program…I look forward to discussing it with you and your team at your earliest convenience.

While mentioning some conditions and caveats, a letter from the head of the Federal Railroad Administration at “Secretary LaHood’s request” dated June 29, 2012 assured Mayor Swearengin that “we would respect the choices of CHSRA in adopting a variation of a targeted hiring program so long as the program is consistent with the California state procurement policies and procedures that CHSRA uses in the expenditure of its non-Federal funds.”

The general counsel for the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board then produced a legal analysis of a revised Fresno Works consortium proposal for a ”National Targeted Hiring Program” that would win federal approval. He noted that a similar hiring program was approved by the Federal Transit Administration as included in a Project Labor Agreement that contractors must sign to work on projects of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Representatives of the Fresno Works consortium and the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board – including Chuck Riojas, the head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100 in Fresno – then made a presentation about the new proposal at the November 14 board meeting of the California High Speed Rail Authority. No references were made to a Project Labor Agreement, and Mr. Riojas of the IBEW official even asserted that “This isn’t I’d like to stress a union or non-union document” and that apprentices from non-union programs could get on-the-job training opportunities under the proposal. (These claims turned out to be false when the final version of the proposal was adopted in the context of a Project Labor Agreement.)

At their following meeting on December 8, the California High Speed Rail Authority board approved a “Community Benefits Policy” meant to adopt guidelines for a targeted hiring program. Again, there were no references in the policy to unions or a Project Labor Agreement.

Then, in late December, the California High Speed Rail Authority issued Addendum 8 for the bid specifications for the first construction segment from Madera to Fresno. Contractors would now be required to sign a “Community Benefits Agreement.” The so-called Community Benefits Agreement turned out to be a typical Project Labor Agreement negotiated with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, with the goals of the targeted hiring program inserted in it.

Unless you were part of the inner circle working behind-the-scenes on this scheme, you would have no way of knowing that union officials were using a benevolent-sounding, locally-motivated targeted hiring program as their vehicle to gain monopoly control of construction for California High Speed Rail. References to a Project Labor Agreement only appeared in passing in internal letters and documents for obscure local appointed boards and quasi-public organizations in Fresno. The board of the California High Speed Rail Authority never discussed a Project Labor Agreement or voted on it. The public was kept uninformed, for obvious reasons.

So far the only elected official implicated in the scheme is Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who was prodded by someone to send the pivotal letter to a top Obama Administration official asking for federal approval to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for California High Speed Rail. That’s where the plot can be exposed in greater detail. Here are questions for Mayor Swearengin that need to come from Fresno citizens and all parties interested in California High Speed Rail:

1. How did you find out about the Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority requires contractors to sign as a condition of work?

2. Who asked you to send the letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking for approval for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to use a targeted hiring program in the context of a Project Labor Agreement? Who wrote the letter?

3. Which union officials contacted your office related to the targeted hiring program and the Project Labor Agreement?

4. Why did you send the letter from your office instead of more appropriately referring the subject to the California High-Speed Rail Authority?

5. Was your letter part of some sort of deal related to union lobbying for selecting Fresno as the location for the California High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility?

6. The City of Fresno municipal code prohibits the city from requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of work. Did you keep this letter from exposure to the public because you knew it asked for something contrary to the principles established in your city’s own laws?

The California High-Speed Rail Authority and its appointed board members have earned a reputation for a lack of transparency and accountability, and as long as it gets taxpayer money, it can continue this practice with impunity. But with relentless public pressure on elected officials who are supposed to be accountable to the people, the complete story of the Project Labor Agreement on the California High-Speed Rail will eventually come out, to the shame and detriment of everyone involved in the sneaky scheme.

Background and Sources:

Project Labor Agreement for California High-Speed Rail

Analysis of the Phony Community Benefits and Other Provisions in the Union Project Labor Agreement for the First Segment of California’s High-Speed Rail -www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 11, 2013

Community Benefits Policy for California High-Speed Rail

Project Labor Agreement for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Construction Careers Policy for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board (FRWIB) Board of Directors

Fresno Works Consortium

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

Origin of Fresno Works Consortium, established to win selection of Fresno to be site of California High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility

California High-Speed Rail Authority January 12, 2012 Board Meeting Agenda Item #3 – Presentation of Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board

Transcript of January 12, 2012 Board Meeting for California High-Speed Rail Authority

January 6, 2012 Federal Railroad Administration Letter – California High-Speed Rail – Targeted Hiring

March 21, 2012 Fresno Works Consortium Revised Targeted Hiring Program for California High-Speed Rail

June 19, 2012 Letter from Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to Federal Railroad Administration – Inquiry on Applying Project Labor Agreement to California High-Speed Rail

June 29, 2012 Letter from Federal Railroad Administration to Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Targeted Hiring Program for California High-Speed Rail

August 8, 2012 Legal Analysis for Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board of California High-Speed Rail Targeted Hiring Program

Transcript of November 14, 2012 Board Meeting for California High-Speed Rail Authority – Hints of Project Labor Agreement

January 17, 2013 Letter from Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) National Office to Federal Railroad Administration on California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement

March 26, 2012 Letter from Federal Railroad Administration to Associated Builders and Contractors on California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement

April 11, 2013 Letter from Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board – Public Documents – Process Leading to Project Labor Agreement on California High-Speed Rail

California High-Speed Rail Authority Keeps Union Deal Out of Public Forums – my article in www.FlashReport.org – February 10, 2013

www.CaliforniaHighSpeedRailScam.com – your centralized source for key information about the debacle that is the California High-Speed Passenger Train for the 21st Century.


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.

Unions Will Control Mid-Sized Cities with California Voting Rights Act

Unions firmly control the political agenda in California’s largest cities, but civic leaders and citizens in some of the state’s smaller cities are still resisting the union political machine.

Some of these cities, with populations from 100,000 to 250,000, include Escondido, Oceanside, Murrieta, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Santa Clarita, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Clovis, Elk Grove, and Roseville. These are cities where a dominant faction of elected and appointed officials generally puts a priority on efficiently providing basic services at a reasonable cost to their citizens.

Not surprisingly, city councils in some of these cities have attempted to enact home-rule charters or have exercised rights under their home-rule charters to free themselves from costly state mandates. This greatly agitates unions, which have long worked to attain their unchecked control of the agenda at the capitol.

Union officials want California’s cities to submit fully to state laws regarding collective bargaining for public employees and government-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”) for construction contractors. As reported in www.UnionWatch.org throughout 2012, public employee unions and construction trade unions spent huge amounts of money to convince voters in some of these cities to reject proposed charters.

Obviously unions don’t want to spend $1 million in dozens of cities every two years to defeat proposed charters, as they did in Costa Mesa before the November 2012 election. And soon they won’t have to spend any more money.

Unions are now implementing a tactic to alter political control of these smaller cities. It is likely to succeed in turning almost every California city with a population of 100,000 or more from fiscal responsibility to “progressive” governance based on theories of social justice.

Unions and their attorneys are masters at exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to attain unrelated economic objectives that benefit unions. And now unions are using the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (Election Code Section 14025 et seq.) as a tool to ensure the adoption of union-backed public policies at local governments.

Governor Davis signed Senate Bill 976 into law in 2001 as a way to address what the bill’s author called “racial block voting.” The law tries to end situations in which a class of relatively prosperous white community leaders has complete or nearly complete political control of a local government, even though the local government also represents a substantial number of relatively poor residents who are historically victims of racial discrimination in education, employment, and health.

According to this law, such a circumstance results from “the dilutive effects of at-large elections” in which candidates run together in a pool and the candidates who get the most votes take office. To give “protected classes” a better chance to have their own community representatives on an elected board, the Voting Rights Act of 2001 allows the implementation of “appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections” that end democratic practices that “hinder their ability to participate effectively in the political process.”

Californians have passionate views about the rationale for this law, the implications of enforcing this law, and the assumption that citizens vote and will vote based on appeals to class consciousness and race consciousness. But the completely party-line vote on Senate Bill 976 (all Democrats in support, all Republicans in opposition) showed that every state legislator recognized how political power at local governments would change.

What district-based elections mean in actual political practice is that union-backed candidates get a better chance of winning a majority or a substantial majority of a local government’s elected board. The elected board shifts politically to the Left.

Escondido City Hall

Escondido City Hall

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (a Sacramento-based umbrella group for construction unions) saw an opportunity to use this law to derail a plan that it opposed in the City of Escondido. It was among the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the City of Escondido in December 2011 alleging that the city violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by not having city council districts designed to elect more Latinos to the city council. (Demetrio Gomez v. City of Escondido, Case #37-2011-00060480-CU-CR-NC).

An article published by www.CaliforniaWatch.org on March 9, 2012 (White-Dominated Boards Face Legal Threats Over Racial Makeup) was surprisingly blunt about the true motivation for the union involvement in the lawsuit:

But labor unions and other groups also could use the law as a weapon in disputes with cities and school boards.

The first such case came in December, when the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California sued the city of Escondido, in San Diego County, alleging that at-large elections leave Latinos without fair representation. The union targeted Escondido because officials there have been trying to lower wages on public construction projects.

At that time, the Escondido City Council was developing a proposed charter for its citizens to consider enacting in 2012. That charter would have allowed the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on municipal projects and on private projects receiving municipal financial assistance. It also would have prevented the city from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of work.

The brief submitted by the State Building Trades can be found here. Of course, it says nothing about the underlying objective of the lawsuit: dissuading Escondido and other cities from adopting home-rule charters that could erode the union political agenda.

A more honest union perspective about the lawsuit is revealed in excerpts below from the State Building Trades web site:

Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Fair Elections by Bob Balgenorth, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council – January 2012

It’s not surprising that a city council that treats its Latino citizens disdainfully also has plans to worsen the quality of life for all construction workers. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in its coverage of the lawsuit, the current council will try to convince voters to make Escondido a charter city, in hopes of lowering construction wages on public works projects – for all workers, Latino and non-Latino alike.

“They want to take away the prevailing wage,” Demetrio Gomez, the lead plaintiff, told the paper. “They want to take away the things that make the average worker’s life worthwhile. We believe that’s wrong. And we believe if we had the ability to elect Latinos we would have better representation.”

(Also, see Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Escondido Change to District-Based Elections on the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California web site.)

In response, the City of Escondido asked a San Diego County Superior Court judge to dismiss the State Building Trades as a plaintiff because it lacked standing to sue: see here. The judge ruled on March 16, 2012 (Superior Court Decision – Gomez v. City of Escondido) that the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California did NOT have standing to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit:

In addition, Plaintiff Council does not satisfy the requirements for associational standing because voting rights are not germane to its purpose. The purpose of the Council is to protect the members’ rights with relation to their work and trade in construction. Voting rights are separate and distinct. Registering members to vote and providing voter education does not make members’ voting rights germane to the Council’s purpose.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit continued with the remaining plaintiffs. On March 22, 2013, after spending about $200,000 in legal fees, the City of Escondido submitted a settlement agreement to San Diego County Superior Court.

As explained by the city, “Escondido will be divided into four districts with each district to be represented by a Council member living within that district. The Mayor will continue to represent the entire City.” District boundaries “will respect the geographic neighborhoods and communities of interest, including any racial, ethnic, or language minorities.”

Retired judges will select a seven-member commission to draw the district boundaries. Union officials and their allies in local groups such as the Escondido Democratic Club will surely apply for appointments.

As a topping, the city will reimburse the plaintiff for attorneys’ fees of $385,000. It would be reasonable to assume that construction unions paid some of those legal costs.

But this is not the only union victory. After all of this union-backed litigation provoked by the proposed charter, Escondido voters ended up rejecting it in the November 2012 election. They chose to let the state legislature supersede local control over municipal affairs.

The City’s explanation of the settlement agreement concludes with this sentence: “Getting this litigation out of the way will enable the City to continue focusing on economic development and job creation – the issues that matter to all Escondido residents.”

It’s more likely that the City of Escondido will soon be focusing on social justice programs, generous concessions in contract negotiations with public employees, and requirements for construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions.

In the meantime, surely California unions will again manipulate the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. At the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in California “Day at the Capitol” program on April 18, 2012, I asked a bipartisan panel of three California elections experts if they thought unions and other special interest groups would routinely use the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 as a weapon to achieve their political objectives at local governments. The unequivocal answer was YES.

“Absolutely,” said Paul Mitchell, a political consultant with Redistricting Partners, a firm based in Sacramento. He agreed with me that “that’s exactly what happened” at the City of Escondido and noted that the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 is “a card able to be played.” He expressed surprise that police, firefighters, and other public employee unions in cities such as Stockton had not already used this powerful weapon to win concessions from governments during negotiations for collective bargaining agreements.

Can Escondido avoid the fate of Stockton and San Bernardino? Only if Republicans can convince Latino voters in Escondido that limited government and fiscal responsibility are better for their communities than higher taxes, bigger government, and more regulatory restrictions on commerce. These are two conflicting philosophical views about the role of government and the relationship between government and commerce. Right now the latter is ascendant in California.

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.

Businesses Can Make a “Social Impact Bond” with Unions

Unions were supporting a bill. This meant taxpayers were about to give unions more money.

That’s what I thought when I saw this notice for a press conference at the California State Capitol on the morning of March 19, 2013:

[California Senate] Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and others announce legislation to “foster increased business and industry investment in linked learning and career pathway programs in California public schools.” 10 a.m., Rm. 1190. Contact: Mark Hedlund 916 651 4006. Also listed: Allan Zaremberg, CA Chamber of Commerce; Jack Stewart, CA Manufacturers & Technology Assn.; Supt. Jonathan Raymond, Sacramento City Unified School District; Dennis Cima, Silicon Valley Leadership Group; Andrew Giacomini, Bay Area Council Board of Directors; Cesar Diaz, State Building and Construction Trades Council of CA; Stephanie Roberson, CA Nurses Assn.; Van Ton-Quinlivan, CA Community Colleges.

In addition to union officials, the leader of the State Senate had gathered a few Democrats in the legislature, the heads of the state’s top organizations representing large corporations, and a few public education officials. (Here is the video of the press conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKGvTi-PiCM)

What was this proposal that brought together some of the titans of California political power?

The video link to the press conference was titled “High School Dropout Reduction & Workforce Development Bond Act.” Was the State of California actually going to borrow yet MORE money by selling bonds to investors?

The press conference began and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg began talking about his Senate Bill 594, California Career Pathways Investment. I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to explain, but he insinuated that philanthropic assistance to schools was inadequate to prepare young people in California for the modern workforce. The policy details seemed elusive.

Senate Bill 596 would establish a “Career Pathways Investment Credit” (a tax break) for businesses that “invested” in career technical education under guidelines of a “California Career Pathways Investment Committee.” Every K-12 school district and college district in California would have to create a “Career Pathways Investment Trust Fund.” Those educational districts would enter into something called “Social Impact Bonds” that corporations would buy to fund career pathways programs.

A “Social Impact Bond” would be “a contract between a school district or a community college district and private investors who provide capital in exchange for a share of governmental payments that become available if performance targets are met. Financial returns to investors may vary pursuant to the measured level of performance. The bond issuer may use operating funds from the sale of the bonds to contract with service providers to deliver the services necessary to meet the performance targets.”

A source of public income for this scheme would be the increase of property tax revenues resulting from “the dissolution of redevelopment agencies.” The state would not reimburse these districts for any costs, but the districts would be authorized to “pursue any available remedies to seek reimbursement for these costs.”

Apparently government was going to give corporations a tax break for getting involved in public education, and public educational districts would be forced to establish yet another pot of money to pay for whatever emerged from that involvement. It was unclear who would pay the interest to the corporations and foundations that would “invest” in these bonds.

But what role would unions play? Senator Steinberg referred to growing a “high-wage economy” for “building the middle class” with “high-wage jobs” and “high-wage workers” – the usual Democrat euphemisms for unions.

Among the platitudes about the importance of education, children, jobs, and the future were remarks from a representative of the California Nurses Association and a representative of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

The nurses’ union official complained that nurses graduating from nursing school were ready to work but couldn’t find jobs in California, so they were moving to other states. Senate Bill 594 was proposed at a good time, because the implementation of Obamacare in California would mean many more jobs for nurses. She saw the California Career Pathways Investment bond act as a huge jobs stimulus package that would restore frayed partnerships between unions, hospitals, and schools.

This argument seemed inconsistent with Senator Steinberg’s claims earlier in the press conference that the bill was needed because young people in California were unprepared to take jobs in a modern economy. According to this labor union official,  young people were prepared to be nurses in California’s health care industry but could not find jobs and thus had to move to other states. (Texas?)

The construction union representative talked about apprenticeship training for trades workers. He claimed that the average age of an apprentice and the average age of a journeyman construction worker were increasing. He noted that unions were in schools promoting construction as a career because new job opportunities in the industry would come with major infrastructure projects. (California High-Speed Rail, on which unions have a Project Labor Agreement?)

Clearly these union leaders aren’t on board with Senate Bill 594 without some sort of guarantee that unions will be getting a piece of this money.

Senator Steinberg ended the press conference by asking for questions from the press. Reporters jumped at the opportunity to ask how this scheme would be funded. Steinberg suggested cutting enterprise zones, using  employment tax credits, and Proposition 98 funds dedicated to education. “By God we’ll find it!” he said.

News Coverage:

Steinberg Pushes Privately Funded Career Training Program – Sacramento Bee – March 21, 2013

Reinvigorating ‘Career Tech’ a Worthy Goal – by columnist George Skelton – Los Angeles Times – March 20, 2013

Steinberg’s legislation is a bit convoluted — at least the financing part — and needs much work…Steinberg is suggesting several financing methods, including tax credits and foundation grants. But the main money source involves bonds. The state would sell “workforce development bonds” — say, for $1 million a crack — to businesses in areas “with the greatest potential for high-wage job growth.” The bond revenue would pay for the career-tech programs. The bond-buyers would earn a rate of return based on a program’s results, as judged by some committee. “I’m not sure I completely understand it,” Zaremberg [Allan Zaremberg, President & CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce] told me. “Why don’t we just fund this out of existing resources? Is this not a priority? … like Zaremberg, he [Jack Stewart, President of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association] doesn’t quite grasp the bond idea.

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.

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.

Calling for Public Sector Union Reform is Not Anti-Union

Last week an article written by UnionWatch contributor Kevin Dayton was republished in its entirety by the State Building and Construction Trades Council. While we are pleased that the SBCTC is sharing our material with their members, we object to their characterization of UnionWatch as an “anti-union website.” We also invite them to consider the greater threats to overall worker prosperity.

UnionWatch is not anti-union. UnionWatch aspires to provide information that will elevate and enlighten the public dialogue on the appropriate role for unions, especially in the public sector, with the goal of helping to foster constructive progress towards more effective and equitable state and federal laws governing unions. Here are some policy options we have explored that might make unions more relevant, accountable to their members, and beneficial to the overall economy:

Voluntary Union Membership and Voluntary Union Representation
No worker should be forced to join a union as a condition of employment, and any worker who wishes to represent themselves in their relationship with their employer should be free to do so.

Politically Neutral Public Sector Unions
Public sector unions should not be permitted to collect dues via payroll deduction, nor should they be permitted to use any portion of member dues for political activities. Government employees should not be electing their own bosses, particularly since the politicians who must manage government workforces are not required to earn a profit in a competitive market, and therefore face far less adverse consequences when they give in to union demands for unsustainable wages and benefits.

Union-Free Public Safety Agencies
Public safety unions require the most stringent reforms of all since their members not only work for the government, but are the first responders who are responsible for saving lives as well as taking lives in the interests of public safety and to enforce our laws. Unions for these classifications of government workers should be banned. Public safety workers can return to having voluntary associations that work for the betterment of their profession and the community, but allowing them to unionize disrupts the sacred and precarious trust that citizens place in first responders.

Competitive Bidding on All Public Works Projects
Public works projects should always be free to select contractors based on business principles of cost and quality. Using a union contractor should never be a condition of using public funds. Unionized contractors should be free to bid on any public works project in fair and open competition with non-union contractors.

Within these reasonable constraints, unions have a valuable role to play in America’s future. The illustrious past that are the legacy of today’s unions include 40 hour work weeks, safe working conditions, and a host of other safeguards and restraints on predatory employers that we now take for granted. Well over fifty years ago, unions won the historic battles that define them, and instead of reinventing themselves to remain a productive player in American society today, too many of them have become adjuncts to monopolies and governments, tools of economic repression of the many for the benefit of a few.

In America unions have gravitated to the sectors where there is minimal accountability because the employer can just raise taxes and borrow money. In the public sector, executives, scientists, attorneys, doctors and judges now belong to unions. This is an absurd inversion of the mission of unions. These people aren’t blue collar workers who toil in dangerous factories, they are highly educated professionals. Public sector workers can’t have it both ways. If they have higher levels of education than the general population, and deserve higher average pay and benefits as a result, then their skills must be highly marketable. They should not need unions to represent them.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California may have more in common than they realize with the so-called conservatives and right-wingers who they likely assume oppose them at every turn. Because the reason the SBCTC is pushing high-speed rail is not because it is the best way to invest in California’s economy. They are pushing high-speed rail because it is the ONLY massive public works project that environmentalists don’t oppose.

If private construction unions care about workers, all workers, than they should push for projects that will invest in California’s future to lower the cost of living for everyone. There are an awful lot of exciting ways to invest in California to make life easier for everyone, all workers, all consumers, all ratepayers: Upgrade roads and freeways to accommodate smart cars that drive on auto-pilot, dig new last-mile utility corridors in every city and suburb to get electricity and telecommunications cables underground, build a LNG terminal off the Central California Coast, begin on-shore slant drilling to extract oil and gas from the Monterey Shale Formation, repair and upgrade aqueducts, bridges and dams, build desalination plants off the Southern California Coast, and in general, unlock restrictions on land development in California to make real estate affordable again to ordinary workers.

To do all this, the SBCTC will need to take on the environmentalist lobby, the public sector unions, and the Wall Street Bankers who massively profit from government deficits, government pension excess, and environmentalist charades such as CO2 auctions. The SBCTC faces a stark choice. They can continue to perpetuate an economically stagnant, elitist status-quo where only select union workers make a decent living while ordinary workers struggle. Or they can be truly pro-worker and embrace a new more competitive role for themselves in the 21st century. They can recognize the true threat to worker prosperity – global bankers and environmentalists who want to auction CO2 emissions permits to enrich themselves, allied with public sector unions who will channel their cut of the proceeds into funding their own payrolls. Focusing on this futile nonsense happens at the expense of the far more beneficial infrastructure projects noted above, and it crushes average consumers and ordinary workers.

It is not anti-union to explore ways to right-size and reform unions, nor is it pro-worker to advocate high-speed rail when there are so many better ways to invest in California’s future.

Unions Await Fantastic Return on High-Speed Rail Political Investments

It’s a heady time to be a top construction union official in California, as the California High-Speed Rail Authority presumably now holds proposals from as many as five design-build consortiums to build the first segment of the $68 billion project.

If this project moves forward, it will become part of the pantheon of huge American infrastructure projects that unions cite when they brag about the lasting accomplishments of union labor. And unions can also claim an essential role in the politics behind its advancement.

Even before Californians had a chance to vote directly on funding for High-Speed Rail, union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committees made massive campaign contributions to stop statewide ballot initiatives in the mid-2000s that would have given property owners stronger rights against the government’s power of eminent domain, as a result complicating the High-Speed Rail Authority’s land acquisition plans.

For example, the State Building & Construction Trades Council Labor Management Cooperation Trust contributed $1 million in 2006 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 90, a statewide ballot measure to strengthen property rights. And in the spring of 2008, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $250,000 to this No on 98/Yes on 99 campaign committee to oppose another statewide ballot measure to protect property rights.

These two union-affiliated committees are authorized under the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a federal law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. 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. Unions use these trust funds routinely now to fund campaigns for and against state and local ballot measures in California. 

When Proposition 1A was on the November 2008 ballot asking California voters to authorize borrowing $10 billion for the high-speed rail project by selling bonds, unions provided a substantial portion of the campaign funding. Leading the charge was the California Alliance for Jobs, another labor-management cooperation committee authorized under the Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978.

As shown in the Operating Engineers Local 3 Northern California Master Agreement (page 42) and the Northern California District Council of Laborers Master Agreement (pages 14, 26), construction companies belonging to various business trade associations must pay an amount to the California Alliance for Jobs trust based on the number of hours worked by each employee represented by the union. These amounts are incorporated into the state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) as part of the “Other” category of payments. This ambiguous category of employer payments was implemented as California Labor Code Section 1773.1(a)(7-9) when Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 868 in 2003.

Through contributions, a $100,000 loan, and in-kind/non-monetary gifts, the California Alliance for Jobs was able to assist the campaign to pass Proposition 1A with $616,500, comprising 23% of the total amount raised by Californians for High Speed Trains – Yes on Proposition 1A – A Coalition of Taxpayer, Business, Environmental and Labor Groups and People from Across California Tired of Being Stuck In Traffic.

The national headquarters and the Northern California and Southern California locals of the Operating Engineers union combined for another $575,000, the Laborers union chipped in $100,000, and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California gave $75,000. 

Top Ten Contributors to the Main Campaign Committee to Pass Proposition 1A (Includes Loans and Non-Monetary/In-Kind Contributions)

1

California Alliance For Jobs Rebuild California Committee

Union-Affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee

$616,500

2

International Union of Operating Engineers Construction Union

$250,000

3

Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 (Union & PAC) Construction Union

$250,000

4

Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) Public Employee Union

$183,493

5

California State Council of Laborers Construction Union

$100,000

6

Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas Inc. Construction Design & Engineering

$76,500

7

AECOM Tech Corporation Construction Design & Engineering

$75,000

8

International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 12 Construction Union

$75,000

9

Members Voice of the State Building Trades Construction Union

$75,000

10

HNTB Corporation Construction Design & Engineering

$63,000

Union involvement in pushing the high-speed rail wasn’t over with the 2008 election. In 2010 and 2011, when the California High-Speed Rail Authority was stumbling under a confused business plan and skyrocketing cost estimates, the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and regional building trade unions submitted commentaries to newspapers defending the planned rail program. And as appointees to the Board of Directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and a representative of the Operating Engineers union kept the votes coming to move the project forward.

Now the unions get the rewards. Section 7.11.3 of the Request for Proposal for Design-Build Services for the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail project stated that “Proposers are advised that, subject to FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] approval, the Authority intends to develop a Community Benefits Agreement consistent with the Community Benefits Policy adopted by the CHSRA [California High-Speed Rail Authority] Board at its December 6, 2012 meeting with which the Contractor will be required to comply.”

And Section 10.1 of the Request for Proposal states that “The Authority [that is, the California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales] will not make a recommendation for award of the Contract [to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors] unless the successful selected Proposer has submitted the following…A letter of assent executed by the Proposer agreeing to be bound by the Community Benefits Agreement.”

This “Community Benefit Agreement” is commonly known as a “Project Labor Agreement.” In fact, a “draft” Project Labor Agreement is included as Addendum 8 in the High Speed Rail Authority’s bid documents for the Request for Proposal. (See my comprehensive analysis of the union “Community Benefits Agreement” for the California High-Speed Rail and the subsequent rebuttal from the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO national headquarters.)

For construction unions, California’s High-Speed Rail project will yield a fantastic long-term return for their political investment. It remains to be seen if taxpayers see any worthwhile returns on their “investment” in paying for it.

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.

Watch Union Official’s Rude Antics at California High-Speed Rail Conference

On January 11, 2013, a video camera recorded a stunning public tirade by Fresno’s top construction union official at a conference about supposed local contracting opportunities for the first segment of California’s High Speed Rail. Below is video footage of the beginning of a panel discussion about Project Labor Agreements, and below that is the ignominious ending of the panel discussion a few minutes later.

The incident exposes the coercive power of special interest groups behind the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s quest to slice the first segments of this rail corridor through the San Joaquin Valley, located in the middle of the planned route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also compromises the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s relentless public relations program to portray the high-speed rail to coastal urbanites as a progressive, visionary plan to save the planet.

An effective public relations campaign depends on major news media focusing on idealistic concepts, rather than the coarse ground game related to which people from which places get the jobs to perform the actual construction. But while idealistic concepts for environmental sustainability are promoted by professional activists who work for non-profit environmental and public transit advocacy organizations, building the high-speed rail requires construction trade workers. This injects union officials from the San Joaquin Valley into the coalition to build the rail line. And one of those union officials tarnished the progressive image on January 11.

Background: Why Will Unions Get a Monopoly on Building California’s High-Speed Rail?

Construction trade unions have long planned to use the government as its agent to monopolize the building of high-speed rail, now estimated by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to cost $68.4 billion. It seemed probable (but not guaranteed) that union workers that specialize in heavy industrial infrastructure construction would end up building the rail line itself. However, the stations and other building infrastructure would be prime bidding targets for Northern California’s productive and efficient non-union contractors. And unions do not want another failure similar to their failed plot ten years earlier to win a Project Labor Agreement to build the new University of California campus in Merced.

That plan – backed by Governor Gray Davis – was undermined in 2001 and 2002 by San Joaquin Valley business, political, and community leaders, who worked with some aggressive construction business associations to expose and criticize the scheme. In the end, bidding was done under fair and open competition, and non-union contractors and their non-union employees were prominent in building the new campus.

This time, things are different. Unions provided campaign support to pass Proposition 1A (the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century”) in November 2008. The head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was appointed to the High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, along with an official for the Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, which represents operators of cranes, excavators, and other construction equipment.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Section 7.11.3 of the Request for Proposal for Design-Build Services for the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail project states that “Proposers are advised that, subject to FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] approval, the Authority intends to develop a Community Benefits Agreement consistent with the Community Benefits Policy adopted by the CHSRA [California High-Speed Rail Authority] Board at its December 6, 2012 meeting with which the Contractor will be required to comply.” (Note: “Community Benefits Agreement” is a euphemism for “Project Labor Agreement” meant to give the public a nice warm feeling about a union sweetheart deal.)

And Section 10.1 of the Request for Proposal states that  “The Authority [that is, the California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales] will not make a recommendation for award of the Contract [to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors] unless the successful selected Proposer has submitted the following: Escrowed Proposal Documents and corrected any deficiencies identified by the examination of the EPDs, and A letter of assent executed by the Proposer agreeing to be bound by the Community Benefits Agreement.” This indicates a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement.

California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate - Section 10.1

California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate – Section 10.1

In addition, the California High-Speed Rail Authority arranged the bidding process on the first segment of the High-Speed Rail (from Madera through Fresno) so that the five prequalified design-build construction consortiums are obligated to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California in order to be competitive. This subtlety is possible because the High-Speed Rail Authority is authorized to select the winning bidder using a somewhat subjective scoring system based on “best value” procurement criteria.

On December 6, 2012, the California High-Speed Rail Authority voted for a policy resolution that established generalized “community benefits” that contractors would have to demonstrate as a result of building the high-speed rail through the Central Valley. Not surprisingly, these same benefits are cited in the union Project Labor Agreement that is now included as a “Community Benefits Agreement” in Addendum 8 of the bid documents for the first segment of the high-speed rail. In order to maximize the score for community benefits, the contractor simply agrees to the Project Labor Agreement, and then everyone will feel good that ‘Needy’ Workers Will Get Jobs on High-Speed Rail.

For technical details about the provisions of this Project Labor Agreement, see my comprehensive, 4000-word Analysis of the Phony Community Benefits and Other Provisions in the Union Project Labor Agreement for the First Segment of California’s High-Speed Rail.

Unexpectedly Defiant Resistance to the Project Labor Agreement Provokes Union Anger

A panel discussion about the draft Project Labor Agreement for the construction of the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2012 during the 6th Annual San Joaquin Valley Region Public Contracting / Central Valley High Speed Rail Conference / Expo (Jobs & Contracts) at the Downtown Fresno Radisson Hotel & Convention Center. The panel moderator was Kathleen Ellis Faulkner, a Bakersfield attorney.

Three invited panelists showed up: John Hutson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties Building and Construction Trades Council (this organization lacks a web site), Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (a Project Labor Agreement opponent), and Nicole Goehring of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (another Project Labor Agreement opponent). As you hear in Video #1, organizers of the panel discussion had asked other union officials to participate (some apparently chose instead to sit in the audience).

As shown in Video #1, Hutson was flummoxed to find out he would be defending the unions’ Project Labor Agreement instead of explaining to the construction companies of the Central Valley how they would soon enjoy the benefits of unionization under the Project Labor Agreement if they hoped to work on the High-Speed Rail. He expresses his astonishment that “some little kid” was handing out information from Associated Builders and Contractors about Project Labor Agreements. He then proceeds to tell a colorful story from “when he was a small boy” about farm life.

None of this has anything to do with the terms and conditions of Project Labor Agreements in bid specifications for construction contracts, and Video #2 shows what happened when an effort was made by the moderator to get the panel discussion on track.

Hutson complains that Eric Christen is “edging it on” and “smiling it up.” (Did he mean “egging it on?”) He then says to Christen, in defiance of social norms of respect for other people as promoted by the White House and the U.S. Department of Labor, “I think I recognize you from before your sex change operation.”

The moderator tries to take the microphone away and restore order, but Hutson resists: “get your hands off.” Then he walks away from the table, only to return to spit out some profanity (specific words heard by witnesses but not quite audible on Video #2). He then storms out of the room (and the hotel) with his fellow union officials, leaving the contractors sitting in the room stunned at the personal attacks and derogatory statements launched during the five-minute panel discussion.

A press release jointly issued on January 11, 2013 by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction and Associated Builders and Contractors quoted a Fresno-based construction company owner who attended the panel discussion:

I took time away from my workday to be here to discuss this important issue on behalf of my employees that prefer to work in a merit shop environment. The antics displayed today represent the reason why I left the Union many years ago. The taxpayers and voters of California should be deeply concerned about the union favoritism displayed in this agreement.

In November 2008, 52.7% of California voters supported Proposition 1A, called the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.” How many of them assumed that the 21st Century would involve these kinds of union antics?

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 Creep Closer to Monopolizing California High-Speed Rail Construction

UPDATE (December 7, 2012): A article today in the Fresno Bee (‘Needy’ Workers Will Get Jobs on High-Speed Rail) about the “Community Benefits” policy approved on December 6, 2012 by the California High-Speed Rail Authority contains a stunning revelation:

Five teams of contractors have been invited to bid on the first major contract for a stretch of the rail route between Madera and Fresno. How the new policy will translate into the contract has yet to be determined, said Jeffrey Morales, the authority’s CEO. Potentially complicating the issue is that each of the five would-be prime contracting teams has already signed project labor agreements with labor unions. Morales said the existence of project labor agreements between the contractors and labor unions is independent of any action the agency takes.

So all five prequalified bidders have negotiated and signed Project Labor Agreements with construction unions. How did that happen? Why? Was there some kind of deal involving the High-Speed Rail Authority? Are the five agreements all the same? What do these union agreements contain? Will the public ever get the chance to see these agreements, which give unions a monopoly on the work?

California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate - Section 10.1

California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate – Section 10.1


At its December 6, 2012 meeting, the board of directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority unanimously approved a resolution to establish a “Community Benefits” policy for construction of California’s high-speed rail system. The High-Speed Rail Authority promptly issued a press release with quotes from local elected officials in the San Joaquin Valley who like the concept of community benefits but apparently aren’t aware of the big-city union scheme behind the plan.

While a typical reader of www.UnionWatch.org is instantly alerted by the phrase “community benefits” to the likelihood that government is executing a special deal at the expense of taxpayers, the policy sounds innocuous and benevolent to the ordinary person. Staff of the High-Speed Rail Authority claimed before the board vote that this policy will enhance employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged and low-income workers, veterans, youth, unemployed, homeless, single parents, and people with criminal records. It will “ensure that California benefits as much as possible.”

There are numerous signs that the High-Speed Rail Authority established this policy to provide a strong incentive for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for construction of the $68 billion-$100 billion rail system, including related structures such as stations. Staff for the High-Speed Rail Authority reported that “different stakeholders” will participate in the implementation of the policy, and no stakeholder has been more involved in perpetuating this massive, costly project than the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

As I reported in a January 11, 2011 article in www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com entitled California’s Top Construction Union Officials Love the State’s $100 Billion High-Speed Rail Project, construction unions have long sought a Project Labor Agreement in order to monopolize the construction workforce on this project. With the Community Benefits policy now in place, here’s what some of the most politically-astute California construction industry officials expect to happen:

  1. The High-Speed Rail Authority will award construction contracts using a “design-build” bidding procedure. Instead of awarding contracts to design a project and then awarding contracts to the lowest responsible bidder to build it, the High-Speed Rail Authority is authorized under state law to award contracts to qualified corporate entities that combine project design and construction work. It will select the design-build entities using a somewhat subjective list of “best value” criteria that could result in design-build entities winning contracts even if they do not submit bids with the lowest price. The California Department of Finance will approve the criteria to award the design-build contracts, and the State Public Works Board will oversee the contract awards.
  2. The High-Speed Rail Authority will indicate in its construction contract specifications that bidders will be evaluated in part based on their plan to conform with the Community Benefits policy. Potential bidders will either be explicitly informed or figure out that the chances of winning a design-build contract will be greatly improved if they commit in their bids to negotiate and sign a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions in order to comply with the Community Benefits policy.
  3. By using this strategy to implement a Project Labor Agreement, the board of directors of the High-Speed Rail Authority and their union cronies will avoid controversial and high-profile public votes to negotiate it and approve it. California taxpayers and the U.S. Congress will remain generally unaware that unions cleverly obtained a monopoly on the construction of the rail project, because reporters will have difficulty researching and explaining this complicated procedure and because the Project Labor Agreement will not be a matter of public record. And the High-Speed Rail Authority will avoid accountability for the Project Labor Agreement; it can portray the agreement as the contractor’s own internal private and voluntary business decision.

There are recent precedents for imposing Project Labor Agreements on large government projects in California while evading public deliberations and votes. Clark Construction negotiated and signed a Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III and negotiated and signed a Project Labor Agreement for the new Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach. Both the City of San Diego and the California Administrative Office of the Courts claim that these Project Labor Agreements are not a matter of public record, and Clark Construction declines to provide the union agreements to the public.

There is one weakness in the High-Speed Rail Authority’s plot to give construction unions a monopoly on the rail project with Project Labor Agreements: representatives of the beleaguered California construction organizations opposed to government-mandated Project Labor Agreements and other costly union schemes are tough, experienced, and smart. They are exposing the scheme.

Representatives of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California, the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California (PHCC), and the Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA) spoke at the meeting against Project Labor Agreements for the High-Speed Rail construction. In addition, a representative of the Bakersfield-based Kern Minority Contractors Association spoke during public comment and asked that both union and non-union contractors have the opportunity to work on the high-speed rail project. (The High-Speed Rail Authority is moving forward with building the first segment of the high-speed rail line in the San Joaquin Valley, basically from Fresno to Bakersfield.)

High-Speed Rail Authority chairman Dan Richard, a former member of the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), concluded board discussion of the proposed Community Benefits policy by responding to public criticism of Project Labor Agreements. Chairman Richard declared that while no decision has been made about how the new “Community Benefits” policy will be implemented, he thinks Project Labor Agreements are effective in improving the efficiency of project delivery, reducing the number of conflicts, and providing a way for minority contractors to get work.

Chairman Richard also reported that he attended a December 5, 2012 meeting at which the minority community expressed very strongly that a Project Labor Agreement was the way to achieve the policy objectives. It appears that Chairman Richard was the keynote speaker at a “California High-Speed Rail Small Business Opportunity Conference” sponsored by the American Asian Architects and Engineers in San Francisco on December 5, 2012 and featuring Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland/Berkeley). Of course, it’s contractors that will employ trade workers in the San Joaquin Valley, not San Francisco architects and engineers.

Chairman Richard also took a moment during the meeting to recognize two important people watching in the audience: Bob Balgenorth, outgoing head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and former High-Speed Rail Authority board member, and Robbie Hunter – the head of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council – who is the incoming head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. Were these union leaders attending the meeting to express support for employment opportunities for the homeless, or were they in the audience to see another piece fall into place for a union Project Labor Agreement on what will be far-and-away the most expensive public works “mega-project” in American history?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

California Supreme Court Supports Rights of Charter Cities Over State Legislature

California Supreme Court Declares that the State’s 121 Charter Cities Have a Constitutional Right to Circumvent the Union-Controlled State Legislature and Establish Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates for Taxpayer-Funded Construction

Yesterday morning (July 2, 2012), the California Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in State Building and Construction Trades Council v. City of Vista that the state’s charter cities have the constitutional right to establish their own policies concerning what their contractors are required to pay their trade employees working on construction projects paid for in whole or in part by the charter city. See the decision here.

There has been a recent flurry of cities trying to enact charters to gain some freedom from costly state mandates, especially freedom from the state’s inaccurate and inflated prevailing wage rates that apply to construction contracts of $1000 or more. In the City of El Cajon (in San Diego County), 58% of voters approved that city’s proposed charter on June 5, 2012. That charter includes an exemption from state prevailing wage.

Meanwhile, voters in the City of Auburn defeated a proposed charter with a similar prevailing wage exemption on June 5, 2012 after three union entities spent almost $80,000 to defeat a small local grassroots movement for a charter. Unions spent $56.40 per vote against the proposed charter to keep state control over the city’s contracting rules.

Article XI, Section 3 of the California Constitution describes how a general law city can organize under a charter. The California Supreme Court ruled on July 2, 2012 that the constitutional rights for a charter city extend to governing authority over contracting rules for purely municipal construction projects. In the case of the City of Vista, it established its own policy on prevailing wage in 2007 with the intention of saving millions of dollars on the seismic retrofit of an existing fire station and the construction of two new fire stations, a new civic center, a new sports park, and a new stagehouse for the city’s Moonlight Amphitheatre.

Charter cities are trying to circumvent the state’s prevailing wage laws because pay rates determined under these laws are often obviously much higher than actual regional market rates. In addition, the definitions of public works under these laws apply to projects that no reasonable Californian would consider to be government work.

Instead of surveying contractors or workers or looking at statistics from the California Economic Development Department, the California Department of Industrial Relations uses a system of calculating rates in which all of the employer payments indicated in the applicable union collective bargaining agreement for a construction trade in the union’s geographic region are added up to produce the wage rate for that region.

The state rates even incorporate employer payments to union-affiliated trusts that are not related to employee compensation; in fact, these trusts are sometimes used for union political purposes. Classified by the California Department of Industrial Relations in the mysterious “Other” column of prevailing wage determinations, this component was added to law through a bill signed by Governor Gray Davis just before he was recalled in 2003.

See the state-mandated construction wage rates for taxpayer-funded projects here.

In addition, the state defines a public works project to mean a construction project that gets any sort of public financial benefit. That means the state identifies many privately-owned and privately-built projects as public works projects. Hotels and retail developments become public works projects equivalent to courthouses and city halls.

Few Californians understand the complicated, convoluted, and often ambiguous structure of the state’s laws and regulations concerning government-mandated construction wage rates. For a simple explanation of the state’s prevailing wage laws and the prevailing wage laws of the state’s charter cities, see this guidebook: Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of Prevailing Wage Exemptions?

To see how state prevailing wage laws could be reformed to produce more accurate rates and more reasonable definitions of public works, see these two comprehensive reform bills introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) but defeated in January 2012 on party-line votes in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee: Assembly Bill 987 (reform definition of public works) and Assembly Bill 988 (reform calculation of prevailing wages).

OUTLOOK: In the November 2012 election, voters in the cities of Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach will consider enacting charters that allow these cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates for purely municipal construction. I predict that dozens of cities will seek this authority from their citizens in 2014.

Here is a compilation of the substantial press coverage about this important court decision:

News Coverage So Far: City of Vista Wins California Supreme Court Ruling – Charter Cities Can Set Their Own Policies Concerning Prevailing Wage


APPENDIX: Union Perspectives on Charter Cities Establishing Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates

1.      Official Statement After Unions Lose in California Supreme Court

“The fight against prevailing wage is part of a larger effort by the super-rich ruling class to fatten their own wallets by forcing everyone else to sacrifice…We will continue to fight at every turn.” – July 2, 2012 statement of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California in response to the California Supreme Court decision

Source: an article in the Newport Beach /Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, an article in the North County Times, and in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

2.      Dialogue at the California Appeals Court oral arguments on November 14, 2008 (one year after devastating fires in San Diego County):

Judge (to the Union Lawyer): “How do you balance (your) argument against a municipality that might say ‘prevailing wages, that concept is going to, in effect, prevent us from building the fire station that we need?’”

Union Lawyer: “The same argument could be made about a lot of laws that cost money.  The way I balance it is to say that when the people as a whole deal through the legislature with a problem that does have real extra-municipal dimension, the interests of an individual locality have to yield.”

Another Judge (to the Union Lawyer): “The response that troubles me a little bit: ‘Well, if they can’t afford to build the fire station, and they have fire problems, that’s their tough luck,’ even though they’re using municipal funds. They’re not using state funds; the state isn’t granting its largess to solve the problem. So the charter makes no difference; the city simply is stuck.”

Union Lawyer: “When you say stuck, they have to follow the exact same rules that every other government entity follows in California to construct things…It’s true the city could say ‘we might be able to get lower bids on our project if we don’t include prevailing wage specifications, and we’d like to do that,’ but where the legislature has dealt with an issue that has extra-municipal concerns, the judgment of the entire legislature has to trump, because there are substantial externalities involved.”

Source: Wildfires: Construction Unions Put Self-Interest above Public Interest in Court Case Against City of Vista’s Right as a Charter City to Set Its Own Prevailing Wage Policies

3.      From a Commentary by Bob Balgenorth (President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California) published on July 26, 2007:

The State Building Trades intends to establish with its lawsuit that ignoring the State’s prevailing wage law is not just bad policy – it is also illegal.

Source: “Charter Cities Must Comply with Prevailing-Wage Law,” Capitol Weekly, July 26, 2007. (It took five years for this lawsuit to reach the final and decisive outcome of failure.)

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.