California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements
A common and enduring complaint of the political Left is that constitutional structures established in the country’s republican form of government hinder progress and subvert the democratic will of the people.
According to such thinking, those constitutional structures need to be reformed and modernized so that government can be more “democratic.” A few astute political observers in California have noticed that unions and their political allies are advancing strategies at the state and local government levels that effectively chip away at checks and balances inherent in the structure of American constitutional government.
One example is 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.
In the past year, Project Labor Agreements have been imposed on four large publicly-funded construction projects without any public deliberation or votes. In some cases, the public has been denied access to the Project Labor Agreement.
1. San Diego County New Central Courthouse
Judicial Council of California – Administrative Office of the Courts
$560 million in public funds
San Diego County New Central Courthouse Project Labor Agreement
No formal public discussion or vote on it. Repeated requests at Judicial Council meetings and to Administrative Office of the Courts staff for a public vote have been futile.
How Project Labor Agreement was implemented:
- March 22, 2013 Curtis Child Told State Building and Construction Trades Council of California Wants Project Labor Agreement on New San Diego Central Courthouse
- April 4, 2013 Curtis Child to Rudolph & Sletten on New San Diego Central Courthouse Project Labor Agreement
- April 5, 2013 Curtis Child to Robbie Hunter on New San Diego Central Courthouse Project Labor Agreement
- May 8, 2013 Judicial Council Told New San Diego Central Courthouse Has Project Labor Agreement
- Judicial Council of California Imposes Project Labor Agreement on San Diego Courthouse – www.UnionWatch.org – June 8, 2013
- Courthouse to be Built Under Labor Pact – San Diego Union-Tribune – June 7, 2013
- I’ve Failed So Far in Seeking the Project Labor Agreement from the California Administrative Office of the Courts for the New San Diego Central Courthouse – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – July 10, 2013
- Not Accountable for Project Labor Agreement – Until Now: Mailers Inform Judges About Union Deal of Administrative Office of the Courts – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – June 24, 2013
- Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Hold Press Conference – June 20, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. – Condemning San Diego Courthouse Project Labor Agreement – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – June 20, 2013
- Union Quest for Project Labor Agreements from Judicial Council of California and Administrative Office of the Courts Succeeds with San Diego County Central Courthouse – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – June 8, 2013
2. San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion
City of San Diego
$520 million in public funds
San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion Project Labor Agreement
No formal public discussion or vote on it. Appears to be a violation of a voter-approved city ordinance prohibiting the city from entering into contracts that require companies to sign Project Labor Agreements.
How Project Labor Agreement was implemented: Secret Deal between Mayor and Union Official to End Union Lawsuit and CEQA Objections to San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion
Lawsuit filed by Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to get Project Labor Agreement after repeated rejections of public records requests: Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction v. City of San Diego
- Records Suggest City-Union Dealings: Group Suing for Documents Says They Show Backchannel Communications – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 13, 2013
- City Accused of Subverting Public Records Law in Lawsuit Over Convention Center Expansion – San Diego Reader – July 10, 2013
- Lawsuit Threatens San Diego Convention Center Expansion Plan: Group Accuses Ex-Mayor of Illegal Negotiations – KGTV News 10 (ABC) – July 4, 2013
- Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement – www.UnionWatch.org – April 23, 2013
- Unions Threaten Environmental Litigation to Block San Diego Convention Center – www.UnionWatch.org – September 20, 2012
3. California High-Speed Passenger Train – First Construction Segment (Madera to Fresno)
California High-Speed Rail Authority
$985 million in public funds
California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement (Community Benefits Agreement) 2012
No formal public discussion or vote on it. Repeated requests at California High-Speed Rail Authority meetings for a public vote have been futile.
Bid specifications require prime contractor to sign Project Labor Agreement, so there is a government mandate to sign it.
California High-Speed Train Project – Request for Proposal for Design-Build Services
- Exposing the Plot Behind Project Labor Agreement for California Bullet Train – www.UnionWatch.org – April 30, 2013
- Unions Await Fantastic Return on High-Speed Rail Political Investments – www.UnionWatch.org – January 22, 2013
4. New Sacramento Kings Arena (Entertainment and Sports Center)
City of Sacramento (Public-Private Partnership)
$448 million (includes $258 million in public funds
No formal public discussion or vote on it. Public does not have access to Project Labor Agreement. A proposal circulates to release the Project Labor Agreement to the public and have the Sacramento City Council vote on it.
Eight Steps to Possibly Alleviate Taxpayer and Contractor Outrage about the Backroom Deal for a Project Labor Agreement on Construction of the Sacramento Kings Arena
- Kings Arena Deal Shows Enduring Labor Clout – Sacramento Bee – September 15, 2013
- Union Deal on Downtown Sacramento Arena Prompts Protest – Sacramento Bee – September 5, 2013
- Today’s the Day: Union Project Labor Agreement Announced for Construction of New Sacramento Kings Arena – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – September 4, 2013
- Request for Proposal for Prime Contractor for New Sacramento Kings Arena Refers to Project Labor Agreement with Construction Unions – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – July 10, 2013
- The Union Quest for a Project Labor Agreement on a New Sacramento Kings Basketball Arena: Part One – 2006 – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 21, 2013
- Out of Nowhere: Project Labor Agreement and Community Benefit Agreement Tacked on End of Motion for New Sacramento Kings Basketball Arena – www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com – March 9, 2012
- City Council Endorses PLA for Sacramento Arena Project – State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (web site) – March 7, 2012
- Pay to PLA? Local Ballot Measures Aim to Curb Union Power on Public Projects – Sacramento News & Review – August 18, 2011
- Union Fight Already Brewing on New Kings Arena – Sacramento Bee – June 16, 2011
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.