Will Citizens' Bond Oversight Committees Crumble Against Union Power?

Numerous local K-12 school districts and community college districts throughout California have entangled themselves in controversies over facilities construction funded by borrowed money obtained through bond sales. These controversies include the irresponsible sale of Capital Appreciation Bonds, inappropriate expenditures using bond proceeds, and questionable contracts for bond underwriting, construction program management, and project delivery. There has even been overt corruption.

An informed California taxpayer would probably conclude that stronger independent oversight is needed for bond finance and facilities construction at the state’s local educational districts. And, in fact, there is a structural check and balance now established in state law that can be assigned responsibility for greater oversight: the citizens’ bond oversight committees at school and college districts.

Construction Unions Resent Independent Oversight of Bond Measures

But the people of California should expect in 2016 to see their state government weaken – not strengthen – the powers of citizens’ bond oversight committees. These committees aren’t necessarily popular. Some district administrators and their lawyers and consultants apparently regard these committees as a meddling annoyance at best or an infuriating hinderance at worst. They certainly won’t object to weaker bond oversight committees.

But the sharpest distaste for citizens’ bond oversight committees comes from construction trade union officials. Oversight committees and their ability to independently evaluate policy proposals can sometimes undermine union efforts to implement policies such as Project Labor Agreements.

Independent citizens’ bond oversight committees have credibility with elected board members, the news media, and the public. They hold an official, formal role within a government to review policies and issue recommendations. They represent specific grassroots citizen constituencies in the community such as taxpayers, senior citizens, and parents. And they can generally review policies and make honest recommendations without worrying about political retaliation from special interests that provide campaign contributions, volunteers, and infrastructures.

Not surprisingly, citizens’ bond oversight committees usually don’t see an advantage in requiring construction contractors to sign a labor agreement with terms and conditions negotiated between union representatives and school district representatives. Why would a public agency want to impose a requirement in bid specifications that would obviously cut competition and raise costs of construction?

Bond Oversight Committees Were Meant to Protect the Interests of Taxpayers

In 2000, Governor Gray Davis and the Democrat-controlled California legislature enacted a state law mandating independent citizens’ bond oversight committees under certain conditions. This was part of a strategy to increase the passage rate for school and community college bond measures. Voters needed to be convinced that their interests as taxpayers would be protected even if the threshold for passage of school and college bond measures dropped from a two-thirds supermajority to a 55% supermajority.

The strategy worked. Voters approved a statewide ballot proposition reducing the threshold from two-thirds to 55%, and the passage rate for educational bond measures increased from 55% (from 1987 through 2000) to 82% (from 2001 through 2014). Educational districts were compelled to create and manage citizens’ bond oversight committees, although not always in compliance with state law.

The current purposes, functions, and organizational structure of these citizens’ bond oversight committees are outlined in California Education Code Section 15278-15282.

Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees Object to Union Project Labor Agreements

There was no indication in 2000 that citizens’ bond oversight committees would object to government-imposed union monopolies for construction contracts. After all, the elected boards of only two local educational districts in California (the Los Angeles Unified School District and the West Contra Costa Unified School District) had considered Project Labor Agreement mandates at that time. The chaotic, raucous battles at California local governments over Project Labor Agreements had not yet become routine.

But as school and college bond measures became more frequent and much bigger in size after 2000, unions began aggressively lobbying school and college districts for Project Labor Agreements on facilities construction. Some citizens’ bond oversight committees were disturbed by this union pressure to change long-standing contracting policies (never mentioned during the bond measure campaigns) and decided they had a responsibility to make a recommendation on them. And the committees could cite state laws that gave them the authority to make such a recommendation:

1. California Education Code Section 15278 (b) states that “The citizens’ oversight committee shall actively review and report on the proper expenditure of taxpayers’ money for school construction.” Project Labor Agreements are never referenced in ballot language for bond measures (they are almost always implemented after voters approve the borrowing) and therefore it is debatable whether or not it is proper.

2. California Education Code Section 15278 (b)(5) says the citizens’ bond oversight committee has responsibility for “Reviewing efforts by the school district or community college district to maximize bond revenues by implementing cost-saving measures, including, but not limited to…” The reference to “but not limited too” was legislative intent for the Oversight Committee to have the authority to review matters such as unorthodox bidding requirements. Because unions (incredibly) claim PLAs are cost-saving measures, the bond oversight committees certainly have authority to review such proposals.

At the end of this article is a comprehensive list of actions taken by citizens’ bond oversight committees about Project Labor Agreements.

Unions May Try to Use the State Legislature to Neutralize Another Structural Check and Balance

What can unions do to suppress the independent activism of citizens’ bond oversight committees? Can the unions convince the legislature and Governor Brown to weaken citizens’ bond oversight committees, and can they do it without harming the ability of K-12 school and community college districts to win bond measures?

Opponents of Proposition 39 argued correctly in 2000 that the citizens’ bond oversight committee requirement used to promote Proposition 39 was based on a law passed by the legislature and would not be safely lodged in the California Constitution. That law could be repealed or amended by the legislature at any time.

That time is likely to be 2016.

The November 2016 ballot will include a $9 billion statewide bond measure. In addition, more than 150 school and college districts in California are expected to place a bond measure on the presidential primary and general election ballot. Unions want monopoly control of this work, and they don’t want to deal with continued flowering of local community resistance through bond oversight committees.

Since Governor Brown was elected in 2010, union lobbyists at the state capitol have diligently chipped away at structural checks and balances so they can realize the potential of a “one-party state” to achieve social change. For example, unions have been working for five years to neutralize powers granted to charter cities and other local governments under the California Constitution.

With the exception of political columnist Dan Walters, few political observers have highlighted this union-driven movement in California to centralize governance at the state capitol at the expense of local governments. In particular, construction union interests always seem able to preempt local control despite Governor Brown’s alleged support for the governance principle of “subsidiarity.”

Explaining the decision to strip power from citizens’ bond oversight committees will not be a challenge. Few Californians understand the cynicism and emptiness of policymaking at the California State Capitol. Unions will convince their legislative allies to justify weakened citizens’ bond oversight committees with arguments that they are broadening accountability and allowing educational districts to divert resources to the classroom.

And even if the citizens’ bond oversight committees are transformed into empty shells with no authority to review or make recommendations on anything of substance, voters are likely to continue approving 82% of bond measures (or perhaps 90% or higher in 2016 when Hillary Clinton is on the ballot). School and community college districts will continue to declare to voters in prominent ballot language that there will be independent citizens’ oversight of bond expenditures. Districts and their bond measure campaign consultants will assume – probably accurately – that 95% of voters won’t know the difference, and the other informed 5% had planned to vote against the bond measure anyway.

Watch for union-sponsored bills in 2016 that tackle their problem of independent citizens’ bond oversight committees.

History of Actions of Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees on Project Labor Agreements

Although the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee at Los Angeles Unified School District – established locally through Proposition BB – was aware that the district and unions were negotiating a Project Labor Agreement in 1997-1999, the committee did not issue any statements or recommendations about it. This Project Labor Agreement preceded the passage of Proposition 39 in 2000.

From 2003 through 2006, five Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees voted on recommendations concerning Project Labor Agreements:

1. San Jose Unified School District

On November 10, 2003, the Bond Oversight Committee for San Jose Unified School District voted 8-1 for the following motion: “At its meeting of November 10, the Measure F Oversight Committee was not convinced that adoption of a PLA would improve the efficiency of the expenditure of Measure F funds. The Oversight Committee therefore requests the Board of Education to refrain from adopting a PLA for Measure F.” The one vote against the resolution was an organizer for the local Carpenters union. In the end, the school board never voted on a negotiated Project Labor Agreement.

2. Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District

On February 24, 2004, the Bond Oversight Committee for Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District voted unanimously to recommend against approval of a PLA for future school construction. The school board subsequently voted 4-3 against negotiating a Project Labor Agreement.

3. Mt. Diablo Unified School District

On March 3, 2005, the Bond Oversight Committee for Mt. Diablo Unified School District voted 15-1 to recommend against approval of a PLA for future school construction. In the end, a Project Labor Agreement was imposed on some summer classroom renovation projects.

4. Sacramento City Unified School District

On August 3, 2005, members of the Bond Oversight Committee for Sacramento City Unified School District released a 15-page report backing their position that “since a problem does not seem to exist with regard to construction cost overruns, project delays or labor disputes within the district, and since clear and convincing evidence has not been submitted to substantiate the benefits of a Project Stabilization Agreement, the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee recommends that the Sacramento City Unified School District not enter into a Project Stabilization Agreement.” The school board subsequently voted 5-1 for a Project Labor Agreement.

5. Chabot-Las Positas Community College District

On July 25, 2006, the Bond Oversight Committee voted 4-2 to recommend to the board against using a PLA and to include this recommendation in the oversight committee’s annual report. District administrators and legal counsel argued that the oversight committee had no business making a recommendation. The college board voted 7-0 for a Project Labor Agreement.

By 2006, administrators and contract attorneys for school and college districts were obviously trying to suppress the desire of citizens’ bond oversight committees to review proposed Project Labor Agreements. A narrow legal interpretation about the role of bond oversight committees began circulating. This interpretation essentially confined the committees to a role of approving an annual report produced for the district showing that proceeds from bond sales were spent on construction and not on teacher and administrator salaries or general operating expenses.

From 2006 through 2015, numerous K-12 school and community college districts in California considered and approved Project Labor Agreements with unions. While some oversight committees received reports at their meetings from district staff about the proposed Project Labor Agreements, only four citizens bond oversight committees voted on a formal recommendation.

6. San Diego Unified School District

An editorial in the April 24, 2009 San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the district’s opposition to letting the bond oversight committee review Project Labor Agreements:

The policy was hastily adopted without any real scrutiny by district staffers. Voters were never told this costly requirement would be imposed before Proposition S was approved – or else they never would have approved it. But when members of the bond measure’s Independent Citizens Oversight Committee raised these and other issues, they were told to butt out. Mark Bresee, the school district’s general counsel, told committee members that their role as an “independent representative of all taxpayers” – Bresee’s term – didn’t mean they had a right to kibitz about the district’s possible adoption of a Project Labor Agreement…Thankfully, the bond oversight committee told Bresee and the school board majority to take a hike.

Then, as reported in the Voice of San Diego on May 26, 2009:

Staffers from San Diego Unified discouraged the bond oversight committee from weighing in on whether or not to adopt an agreement or how to do so, arguing that the research was so polarized and the question so political that there was no way to make a factual recommendation. The bond overseers disregarded their advice, then deadlocked on the issue of whether a contractor group should join the unions and the school district and the bargaining table.

That vote on May 21, 2009 was 4-4-1, and union officials had been prominent in contending that the oversight committee had no authority to discuss the issue. The board subsequently voted 3-2 for the Project Labor Agreement.

7. San Gabriel Unified School District

In 2010, the Bond Oversight Committee for recommended against a Project Labor Agreement. The board subsequently voted 3-2 for the Project Labor Agreement.

8. Oxnard Union High School District

On December 9, 2014, the district’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee voted 4-1 to recommend that the board reject a Project Labor Agreement because of the likelihood of increased costs and other reasons. Nevertheless, the board voted 3-2 for a Project Labor Agreement.

9. San Bernardino Community College District

The bond oversight committee voted on December 12, 2014 to oppose the Project Labor Agreement, but the board voted 4-3 to approve it. Here is an excerpt from one of its reports:

More notable was the Board of Trustees passing a “Community Benefits Agreement” this December. This agreement is better known as a “Project Labor Agreement”, and these agreements give substantial advantages to union contractors vs. non-union contractors. The Bond Oversight Committee spent a significant amount of time and effort to determine if there was cost savings, as required under Section 5 of California Educational Code 15278. We gathered information from local businesses, trade groups, staff and other interested parties, and determined there was no clear cost savings, and a potentially significant (10-20%) cost increase with no benefit to the community. The committee made every attempt to communicate this decision to the Board, but we were not allowed to make our findings to the Board prior to the Board of Trustees voting to approve this agreement.

Despite consistent opposing arguments from student organizations and local stakeholders, as well as not taking the time to even hear the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, regardless of our clear desire to present our well-researched findings and conclusion, the Community Benefits Agreement was approved. This rush to make a decision prior to hearing our report we find irresponsible, and we wish to make these actions known to the public.

Now, in 2015, citizens’ bond oversight committees in a high school district and a community college district in San Diego County want to hold meetings to discuss proposed proposed Project Labor Agreements and possibly make recommendations to the boards about the proposal. Union officials are unhappy about this. One request has been granted and one has been rejected.

10. Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

At the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, the board voted 3-2 to delay a vote on negotiating a Project Labor Agreement in order to give the Bond Oversight Committee a chance to discuss the proposal and provide input to the board. That meeting is scheduled for November 12, 2015.

11. Sweetwater Union High School District

Despite repeated requests from representatives of its citizens’ bond oversight committee for a chance to make a recommendation, the board of the Sweetwater Union High School District shows no indication of letting that happen. As reported in the October 30, 2015 San Diego Union-Tribune, “Members of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee criticized the board’s lack of transparency and called for a four-month moratorium to allow for study of the costs and benefits, to no avail.” The October 31, 2015 Chula Vista Star-News explained the view of one board member that the district has to pass the Project Labor Agreement in order for the bond oversight committee to know what’s in it:

Trustee Paula Hall brought the resolution to negotiate a project labor agreement forward. Hall said she has been having issues with her email so she didn’t get a chance to read the CBOC’s letter for a moratorium, but is aware of their concerns from them speaking out at previous board meetings. Hall said the board never sent the item to the CBOC because there is no information for them to look over as the board only passed a resolution. “There’s nothing to review,” she said. “There is no project labor agreement negotiated.”

It remains to be seen if the citizens’ bond oversight committee at Sweetwater Union High School District will ever get the chance to review a Project Labor Agreement and make a recommendation.

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.

When Will Unions Fight to Lower the Cost of Living?

A report issued earlier this year from California’s Office of Legislative Analyst “California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences,” cites the following statistics:  “Today, an average California home costs $440,000, about two–and–a–half times the average national home price ($180,000). Also, California’s average monthly rent is about $1,240, 50 percent higher than the rest of the country ($840 per month).”

It’s actually much worse than that. Anyone living on California’s urbanized coast, from Marin County to San Diego, has to laugh at the idea that a modest home can be found for anywhere close to $440,000, or a decent rental can be found for anywhere close to $1,240 per month. In most urban areas within 50 miles of the California coast, finding a home or a monthly rental at twice those amounts would be considered a bargain.

These prohibitive costs for housing are mirrored in California’s unusually high costs for electricity, gasoline, water, and, of course, California’s unusually high taxes. The cost of living in California is one of the highest in the nation – along the coast, it’s probably the highest in the nation. For this reason, it’s completely understandable that California’s state and local government unions perpetually agitate for higher pay and benefits for their members. But they’re leaving everyone else behind.

The problem with the oft-repeated mantra “teachers, nurses, police and firefighters need to be able to live in the communities they serve” ought to be obvious. Nobody can afford to live in these communities, unless they’re either very wealthy, or they’re early arrivals whose mortgages are paid off and whose children have graduated from college. Otherwise, if they live on the California coast in a decent home, they’re in debt to their eyeballs.

These homes with 2,000 square foot interiors and no yard, located in a
remote suburb of San Jose, California, are selling for over $1.0 million each.

This is a failure of policy, and the worst possible response is to exempt public sector workers – the most powerful voting bloc in California – from the consequences of these policies. Because the most enlightened public policies that union leadership might advocate – all unions, public and private – are not to raise pay and benefits for their members, but to lower the cost of living for everyone. And the way to lower the cost of living for everyone is to permit competitive development of land, energy, water and mineral resources.

Along with permitting private interests to compete, California needs to change how public money is invested. California’s biggest infrastructure project in decades is the high speed rail project, which was originally sold to voters as costing $9.5 billion. According to a 10/24/2015 report in the Los Angeles Times, here are the latest projections:

“After cost projections for the train rose to $98 billion in 2011, vociferous public and political outcry forced rail officials to reassess. They cut the budget to $68 billion by eliminating high-speed service between Los Angeles and Anaheim and between San Jose and San Francisco.”

The LA Times report goes on to describe how High Speed Rail is again over-budget. If it’s ever built, it’s likely to cost approximately $100 billion. Using an online mortgage calculator, you will see that a 5.0%, 30 year fully amortized $100 billion loan will require total payments per year from taxpayers of $6.4 billion. That’s over $1,000 per year from each of California’s taxpaying households. Don’t count on ridership revenue to help pay capital costs – it is highly unlikely ridership will even cover operating costs.

The opportunity here, however, is that California’s high speed rail project may never be built. Because one of the conditions of the project is attracting a percentage of matching funds from private investors, and these commitments are not pouring in. Unions who are currently fighting for high speed rail will need to find new projects to support. Regardless of what you may think about unions, as long as they have the political clout they’ve got, their support for new projects could be good, if they modify their criteria.

California’s unions need to support competitive resource development and they need to advocate public/private investment in revenue producing civil infrastructure that passes an honest cost/benefit analysis. These policies would not only lower the cost of living, they would create millions of jobs. The problem with high speed rail isn’t that it doesn’t create jobs, the problem is it destroys more jobs than it creates. High speed rail would be a parasitic economic asset dependent on taxes and subsidies to exist, while not even making a dent in California’s overall transportation challenges.

Unions in California need to return to the core ideals of the labor movement, which is to care about ALL working families. And if they care about those ideals, they will make hard political choices. They will take on California’s super-sized environmentalist lobby, along with their powerful friends, trial lawyers and crony green capitalists. They will challenge the biased studies that claim California cannot solve its land, energy, water and transportation challenges without what is essentially rationing. They will recognize that policies that create artificial scarcity only empower the rich and the privileged. They will participate in a new dialogue aimed at identifying measured and decisive ways to unlock California’s abundant resources; aimed at identifying infrastructure projects that are financially viable enough to attract private investment. They will get out of their comfort zone, confronting old allies, and finding new friends.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.


Desalination Plants vs. Bullet Trains and Pensions, April 7, 2015

Raise the Minimum Wage, or Lower the Cost of Living?, March 31, 2015

An Economic Win-Win For California – Lower the Cost of Living, December 3, 2014

Reinventing America’s Unions for the 21st Century, September 2, 2014

How to Create Affordable Abundance in California, July 1, 2014

California’s Green Bantustans, May 21, 2014

Public Pension Solvency Requires Asset Bubbles, April 29, 2014

Construction Unions Should Fight for Infrastructure that Helps the Economy, April 1, 2014

The Unholy Trinity of Public Sector Unions, Environmentalists, and Wall Street, May 6, 2014

Pension Funds and the “Asset” Economy, February 18, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Joel Kotkin, January 4, 2014

Bipartisan Solutions for California, October 27, 2013

Construction Unions Dominate a Marin County Bond Measure Campaign

Construction trade unions in California are likely to be celebrating on November 3, 2015 as voters approve another set of local school bond measures and launch another round of taxing, borrowing, and spending.

Eight school districts in California are asking voters to approve a total of nine bond measures for school facilities construction on the November ballot. These proposals would authorize school districts to borrow money for facilities construction by selling bonds to investors. It would not be unreasonable to predict that voters will approve all nine bond measures.

Two of the nine bond measures are on the ballot for voters in and around the City of San Rafael, in Marin County. San Rafael City Schools is asking permission from voters to borrow $108 for the elementary school district and $161 for the high school district, for a total of $269 million. The district is assuming future enrollment growth and projecting continued increases in assessed property valuation. It has current debt service of $177 million in outstanding principal and interest accumulated from previous bond measures.

San Rafael City Schools Bond History

Pay-to-Play and Other Entanglements

Firms that won district contracts related to preparing the bond measure are involved in the campaign. In a typical example of so-called “pay-to-play” contracts for bond measures,  a financial advisory firm obtained a no-bid contract from the district in June for $15,000 in pre-election and $65,000 in post-election bond advisory services. It has contributed $9500 to the campaign. A consulting firm that won a contract from the district to perform a “Bond Feasibility Survey” for the bond measures – and found the bond measures to be feasible – has earned $13,507 from the campaign. Another firm involved in the feasibility survey has contributed to the campaign. In addition, a public relations consultant who was involved with the feasibility survey is working for the campaign and has received $7,500 so far (see below).

Construction Trade Unions Have Dominated the Campaign to Pass the Bond Measure

Construction unions have directly contributed $31,000 of the $90,950 in reported contributions through October 26, 2015 to the campaign to pass Measures A and B. That is 34% of the total. (See the chart at the end of this article.) Unions had contributed $20,000 of the first $30,000 raised by the campaign, thus supplying valuable seed money for operations.San Rafael City Schools Phone Bank

A Carpenters Union hall is the site of the campaign phone bank. Services from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council to the campaign are reported through October 17, 2015 as an in-kind contribution of $10,034.

A public relations consultant who used to be the Director of Public and Governmental Relations for the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council has been paid $7500 through October 17, 2015 for campaign-related work. This consultant was also involved in the feasibility study.

There Is No Organized Opposition

No one submitted an argument in opposition to the bond measures, so the Official Voter Guide only includes arguments in support. No one has filed papers with the California Fair Political Practices Commission or the County of Marin to establish an opposition campaign fund. The Marin United Taxpayers Association appears to be dormant on this issue. However, at least a handful of individual informed citizens are vehemently opposed to the bond measures, as shown in posted comments in response to Marin Independent-Journal newspaper articles and an editorial endorsing the bond measures.

The Likely Outcome

Deprived of an opposing perspective, voters in this area of Marin County will likely approve both bond measures at a percentage well above the 55% needed for passage. Then, because of the extensive involvement of construction trade unions in the campaign, the school board will likely vote soon after the election to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of performing under a contract funded by the bond measures. That union monopoly on construction may cost taxpayers an extra $25-40 million, but with $269 million authorized to borrow and pay back over the next 30-40 years, who’s worried about it today?Donors to Measures A and B San Rafael City Schools - Top Donors as of October 26, 2015Donors to Measures A and B San Rafael City Schools - Other Donors as of October 26, 2015

Source of Contribution Information: Form 460s and Form 497s for Committee For Strong San Rafael Schools – Yes on A&B

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.


Community College Board in California Will Be Accountable to Voters

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

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

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

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

Unions Angle for a Monopoly on Suburban Educational Construction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23 States Ban Project Labor Agreements

23 states ban government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.

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

Groups Decide to Expose the Scheme to the Public

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Union Campaign Contributions Pile Up Before School Board Vote on Union Deal

Whenever California voters approve a sizable bond measure to fund construction at a school or community college district, union lobbyists quickly scramble to win control of the work through a Project Labor Agreement. At the Salinas Union High School District, a flood of union campaign money preceded a September 29 board vote to abandon negotiations and impose a Project Labor Agreement under terms demanded by the unions.

In November 2014, 60.3% of voters in Salinas, California authorized the Salinas Union High School District to borrow $128 million for facilities construction by selling bonds to investors. Information provided to voters about the bond measure did not indicate any intention of the school district to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. In fact, the district had successfully completed a previous bond-funded construction program without a Project Labor Agreement mandate.

Salinas Union High School District Project Labor AgreementFour months after voters approved the borrowing, a Project Labor Agreement discussion appeared as an item on March 24, 2015 board agenda. After the head of the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers urged the board to mandate a Project Labor Agreement, most of the board members declared their enthusiastic support for it.

On May 26, the board voted 5-1 to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the unions. Unless the district could negotiate different terms to protect fair and open bid competition on its contracts, the union agreement would require all contractors on a new high school to obtain their journeymen and apprentices from the unions, pay all employee fringe benefits to union trust funds, and arrange for their workers to pay union dues and fees.

To the dismay of board members, the finalized Project Labor Agreement did not come back for quick approval.

District staff and its attorney tried to work in the interest of the district to negotiate better terms and conditions, rather than simply signing the standard Project Labor Agreement template provided by the union attorney. Throughout the summer, union negotiators were unwilling to budge on a variety of provisions.

In the meantime, the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Salinas Taxpayers Association, and several local and regional construction associations informed the public about the union plot. The Chamber of Commerce even publicized the names and official public phone numbers of board members.

It was a rare and unexpected occasion of public accountability for the policy decisions of the school board. In fact, most news coverage of the Salinas Union High School District from March through September was about construction labor issues, not the education of high school students.

Board members responded angrily during board meetings and in local newspaper articles about what was happening. They complained about negative community attention generated by business groups and the barrage of critical phone calls. They also expressed frustration with the district’s failure to surrender to union negotiating demands. At board meetings, they responded to questions from the district’s negotiating attorney by showing disinterest and even contempt for the arcane but important issues disputed in the proposed agreement.

It’s reasonable to assume that the unpleasant public attention to this issue worried the three incumbent board members up for re-election on November 3, 2015. All three of them supported the Project Labor Agreement.

Starting at the beginning of August, the unions supporting the Project Labor Agreement (the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers, the California School Employees Association, and the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council) began funding the campaigns of those three incumbents running for re-election. In fact, these unions were the only major contributors to their campaigns. See the timeline below.

Major Campaign Contributions from Unions to Salinas Union High School District Board of Trustees

At the September 22 meeting board meeting, the attorney representing the school district began yet another presentation outlining areas of disagreement between the unions and the district regarding the Project Labor Agreements, As usual, she sought direction from the board. But for some reason, a majority of the school board chose this time to terminate the negotiations. They scheduled a special board meeting on September 29 solely to vote on the version of the Project Labor Agreement desired by the unions.

Salinas Union High School District Board

At that meeting, the board voted 5-1 for the Project Labor Agreement. Union officials organized an impromptu celebration rally outside of the school district headquarters and had photos taken with some of the board members who voted for it. The unions’ investment of money in the board members’ campaigns had presumably helped to ensure approval of the Project Labor Agreement.

Whether the union campaign contributions ensure re-election of the board members remains to be seen.

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

How Government Unions Are Destroying America

Not one presidential candidate, apart from Gov. Walker’s last-ditch rhetoric prior to dropping out, has discussed the problems with unionized government as a major issue. That’s too bad, because these problems are bigger than even most critics acknowledge.

When people discuss the need to reform, if not eliminate, public sector unions, the only reason typically cited is that their demands are bankrupting our cities and states. And reformers also usually fail to communicate the fundamental differences between government unions and private sector unions, or emphasize the bipartisan urgency of public sector union reform. Government unions don’t merely drive our cities and counties into service insolvency if not bankruptcy, they are distorting policy decisions of fundamental importance to the future of America.

With a focus on California, and in no particular order, here is an attempt to summarize how this is occurring:

(1) The Economy

California has the highest taxes and fees in the U.S., and is consistently ranked as the worst state in America to do business. California also has the highest paid public employees in the United States, and with state and local debt and unfunded retirement obligations now hovering around $1.0 trillion – nearly half of the state’s entire GDP – virtually all new state and local taxes and fees are to pay for services that have already been performed. The uncontrollable political power of state and local government unions, combined with their insatiable appetite for more pay, more benefits, and more members, has – across all areas of policy – shifted political priorities from the public interest to the interests of public employees. The primary reason for excessive taxes and fees, as well as fewer services and less infrastructure investment, is because California’s unionized state and local government workers receive pay and benefits that are twice what the average private citizen earns.

(2) Cronyism and Financial Special Interests

When government unions control the government, big business either gets out of the way or gets on board. The idea that government unions protect the public interest against big corporate interests is absurd. Government union backed policies create deficits that bond issuers earn billions underwriting. Excessive pension benefits create additional hundreds of billions in pension fund assets invested on Wall Street. Excessive regulations are enforced by additional unionized government employees, to which only the biggest corporations can afford to comply. Government unions enable and enrich the largest corporate and financial interests at the expense of small independent businesses and emerging competitors.

(3) Environment

When it comes to cronyism, the “clean-tech” sector has risen to the top of the list. Government unions are partnering with “green” venture capitalists to carve up the proceeds of California’s carbon emission auction proceeds, a tax by any other name that will eventually extract tens of billions each year from California’s consumers to fund investments that wouldn’t make it in a normal market. From high speed rail to side loading washers that tear up fabric, strain backs, and require expensive maintenance, “green” projects and products are being forced on Californians in order to enrich investors and corporations. But it doesn’t end there. A bad fire season isn’t because of normal drought recurrence, no, the cause is “man made climate-change,” so fire crews have a claim on CO2 emissions auction proceeds. A heat wave isn’t a heat wave, it’s global warming – and since crime is statistically known to increase during hot weather, police agencies also have a claim on CO2 emissions auction proceeds. Code inspectors and planners? Climate change mitigation via enforcing “additional” energy efficiency mandates and higher housing density. Transit workers whose conveyances replace cars? Ditto. Teachers who insert climate change indoctrination into curricula? Ditto.

An entire article, or book for that matter, could be written on the synergistic symbiosis between environmental extremists, big business/finance, and government unions. What about the artificial scarcity environmentalism creates by restricting development of land, energy, water, and other natural resources? When this happens, the wealthiest corporations and developers make higher profits while their smaller competitors go out of business. Utilities, whose margins are fixed, raise revenues which increases their absolute profits. Union controlled government pension funds, whose entire solvency depends on asset bubbles, ride investments in these artificially scarce commodities to new heights. Property tax revenues rise because home prices are artificially inflated.

(4) Infrastructure

California’s deferred maintenance on existing infrastructure – roads, bridges, rail, port facilities, utility grid, dams and aqueducts – has been assessed in the hundreds of billions. New infrastructure to solve, for example, water scarcity, would include toilet-to-tap sewage reuse, desalination, enhanced runoff capture, and – dare we say it – a few new dams. But none of these projects get off the ground, not only because environmentalists oppose them based on mostly misguided principles, but because artificial scarcity enriches established special interests, and because all the public funds that can possibly be found are instead perpetually needed to pay unionized government workers. More pay. More benefits. More government workers. Infrastructure? It’s environmentally harmful.

(5) Immigration

No matter where one stands on this sensitive and complex issue, they must recognize that government unions win when immigrants fail to prosper or assimilate. While American culture retains a vitality that is almost irresistible to newcomers and may overcome all attempts to undermine and fragment it, if government unions had their way, that’s exactly what would happen. Because the more difficulties new immigrants encounter, the more government workers are required. If immigrants fail to find jobs, if they become alienated and traumatized, if they turn to crime or even terrorism, then we need more welfare and social workers, we need more multilingual teachers and bureaucrats, we need more police, and we need more prisons. The unpleasant truth is this: If we import millions of destitute immigrants into America – people with marginal skills from cultures that are hostile to American values – it is a meal ticket worth billions of dollars for government unions, and for every crony business who services the programs they administer.

(6) Authoritarianism

By over-regulating all activity that so much as scratches the earth, whether it’s to develop land, water, energy, minerals; to farm, transport, build, manufacture; to enforce these rules, more government powers are required. Similarly, by upending the cultural fabric that’s nurtured a social contract in America so strong that volumes of law never had to be written, but were instead the stuff of mutually understood courtesies and customs, we invite strife. To manage this, more rules and referees are necessary, enforced by more government. As society loses its cohesion, and as ordinary honest citizens rebel against excessive taxes and regulations, government unions benefit from training their members to mistrust the fractious and rebellious public. After all, unionized government workers are now a special class. As society fragments, they become more cohesive. As the middle class dissolves, they retain their economic privileges. Perhaps more than any other factor, government unions impel the growth of a police state.

(7) Education

To consider education is to save the most important for last. Because everything that is wrong with where our culture is headed can either be magnified or mitigated by how we educate our young students, regardless of their income or gender or culture or faith. As it is, in California’s public schools, students are taught that open space is sacred, that energy development will destroy the planet, that capitalism is innately flawed if not irredeemable, and that the legacy of Western European culture is a primary cause for most problems in the world. Instead of teaching children to develop functional skills in reading and math, they are being indoctrinated to believe that any failure or disappointment they ever encounter is the result of discrimination. Given the demographics of California’s youth, the union fostered educational environment currently imposed on them is nothing short of a catastrophe.

The reader may not agree with all seven of these assessments, but regardless of the scope of anyone’s reform advocacy, they must confront government unions. Because reform in all of these areas is stopped by government unions. Do you want to unleash California’s economic potential? Do you want to reduce the power of the financial special interests and crony capitalists? Do you want to restore balance to environmental policies, and build revenue producing infrastructure that eliminates scarcity and lowers the cost of living for ordinary people? Do you want to stop importing welfare recipients and instead admit highly skilled and highly educated workers who will enliven our economy and our culture with spectacular success? Do you want to avoid living in a police state? Do you want California’s children to be taught lessons that build their character and give them useful skills?

Reformers must recognize that government unions have a natural interest in preventing any of these reforms from ever happening. Addressing any of these issues without also taking on the government unions is futile. Conscientious members of government unions can play a vital role in reforms, by the way, if they are willing to make their personal interests secondary to their duties as a public servant. If California can be rescued from the grip of government unions, eventually everyone will benefit. And as goes California, so goes the nation.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Caltrans Union Spokesman Understates Engineers' Cost by $71M

In a hearing on Senator Moorlach’s SBX1-9 (Responsible Contacting for Caltrans) bill, Ted Toppin of the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) made a series of demonstrably false claims regarding the cost of Caltrans engineers.

Toppin claimed that the cost of a fully-loaded engineer – including all wages, benefits and even the cost of their office and service truck – was $116,000. A review of the department’s 2014 payroll data reveals that the average cost for a “transportation engineer” was $128,638. This is only for regular transportation engineers and excludes any engineer with a preface such as senior, supervising, principal, etc. Additionally, it understates their total cost as it does not include the cost of their trucks and office space.

In 2014, Caltrans had 5646 full-time regular transportation engineers on their payroll. Consequently, Toppin understates the cost of employing engineers by at least $71,000,000 per year for the department.

The highest compensated regular transportation engineer received $213,000, with principal transportation engineer, Kenneth Terpstra, leading all classifications of engineers with $243,000 in total compensation.

Later, Toppin is incredulous at the notion that a state engineer could make $138,000 a year, stating that, “There is no state engineer in this state, making $138,000 a year…I think it probably tops out for top engineers at around $110,000.”

Here it is clear Toppin is speaking about all categories of engineers, not merely the regular transportation engineers analyzed above. It is also likely he is referring to wages only, not total compensation. To be even more charitable, we will also assume he is referring to “regular pay” only, and in addition to excluding benefits, will also exclude any overtime earnings or supplemental wages classified as “other pay.”

Given the above, how does his claim contrast against the 2014 payroll data?

Six engineers received regular pay in excess of $138,000 last year and 1581, or nearly 20% of all engineers, received over $110,000. If we include total wages, those numbers rise to 69 and 2101, respectively.

Finally, Toppin expressed regret that the director of the department makes only $169,000 or so. He might be pleased to know that thanks to the incomparably generous leave policies offered by California’s public sector, the director was able to cash in roughly $80,000 worth of unused leave to boost his 2014 pay to $247,000, for a total compensation package of $302,000.

Mr. Toppin’s inaccurate testimony before the Senate committee fits a pattern best epitomized by the Legislative Analyst’s Office: “the overarching numbers given by Caltrans are not supported by data.”

Given the poor grasp on matters as straightforward as personnel costs, it is little wonder there exists deep skepticism about whether Caltrans is providing taxpayers with the best value possible for their tax dollars.

Robert Fellner is the Director of Transparency Research at the California Policy Center.

Project Labor Agreement Requirement Downplayed in Pro-Bond Campaigns

Who decides what action items are on a school board agenda? A case in Monterey County, California reveals that unions think they can make some of those decisions.

In November 2014, voters in the Salinas Union High School District authorized the district to borrow $128 million for school construction by selling bonds to investors. By March 2015, the elected board of trustees revealed their plan (never mentioned during the campaign to pass the bond measure) to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions as a condition of working under a contract to build a new high school. In late May, the board voted 6-1 to direct the district to negotiate the Project Labor Agreement with union officials.

But apparently union leaders never intended to participate in serious give-and-take “negotiations” with the district for this union deal. They wanted it their way.

Union officials and their lawyer failed to agree with district administrators and their lawyer on numerous matters, as revealed during lengthy board discussions at summer board meetings to clarify the board’s will on specific provisions in the Project Labor Agreement.

On August 18, it looked like the negotiations were over and an agreement had been reached. The Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO emailed a notice to the community announcing a board vote on August 25.

2015-08-25 Monterey Bay Labr Council

Information about the Project Labor Agreement being ready and scheduled for final board approval must have come from inside sources. The district had not posted the August 25 board agenda yet, and a draft agenda was not available to the public.

That notice was a surprise to local construction companies, who did not have a representative invited to take part in the negotiations for the Project Labor Agreement despite being one of the three parties that would need to sign it. But as unions warned in their notice, the opposition planned to “be there in full force.”

Assuming that union leaders had connections with the school district and influence to get items on the agenda, leading opponents of the Project Labor Agreement dutifully circulated the union notice among hundreds of community leaders in Monterey County who did not support it.

But on August 21 – three days later – when the Salinas Union High School District released the August 25 board meeting agenda, there were no items about a Project Labor Agreement. The union information was wrong.


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.

Higher Taxes for Roads, or for Union Overstaffing and Overpaying?

California has some of the highest gasoline taxes and transportation fees – including hidden cap and trade costs not accounted for in the taxes and fees – along with the lowest ranked roads in the nation. This year, the majority Democratic Party found new ways to spend the $6 billion to $9 billion in additional tax revenue, passing the largest state budget in California history.

Funding to fix our roads and bridges, however, was woefully inadequate.

Now the majority party has decided that California’s roads are a mess. The governor has called the Legislature into a special session, which has manufactured a sense of urgency. Statistics have been gathered; analyses have been performed; bills to address the problem have been put forward. What is the one common component? The majority wants more of your money to “fix” the situation.

In fact, the “transportation” special session appears to be an exercise designed to pressure legislators into supporting a tax hike on gasoline – even though Californians already pay the nation’s highest taxes.

Raising revenue is one option. However, cutting costs is a better one that should not be passed over. A great place to start is to review the agency charged with care and maintenance of your state’s transportation infrastructure – the California Department of Transportation.

An audit of Caltrans by the California State Auditor found that 62% of the completed projects had costs that “exceeded their respective budgets. ”The California State Auditor found that these overruns “totaled more than $305 million of the $1.4 billion in support cost expenditures for the projects.”

Consider these facts:

1. CA’s gas taxes are the 4th highest in the nation.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, California’s 61-cent-per-gallon gas taxes are the 4th highest in the nation, behind only Pennsylvania, New York and Hawaii. This does not include the recent addition of extra cap-and-trade taxes resulting from bringing fossil fuels under California’s AB 32 law.

2. CA’s gas prices are the nation’s highest.

According to AAA, the current national average price for a gallon of ‘regular’ gasoline is $2.63. California’s current average price is $3.69 per gallon (as of 8/5/15).

3. CA’s gas tax & transportation fees yield $10.6 billion annually.

According to the State of California, Department of Transportation, Division of Budgets, 2014/2015 Fiscal Year estimates, the State brings in at least $10.6 billion in taxes and fees “dedicated to transportation purposes.”

4. Caltrans spends just 20% of that revenue on state road repair & new construction.

Last year, Caltrans spent $1.2 billion in state road maintenance & repair, and $850 million in new construction. Similar amounts are planned for the 2015/2016 CA State budget.

5. Caltrans wastes half a billion $$ annually on extra staffing.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) report on the review of the Caltrans’ Capital Outlay Support Program found that the agency is overstaffed by 3,500 positions at a cost of $500 million per year. That’s a half-billion tax dollars – for salaries, health care and pensions for extra staffing – that does nothing to improve our roads.

6. CA’s roads rank near the bottom in every category, including:

– 46th in rural interstate pavement condition
– 49th in urban interstate pavement condition
– 46th in urban interstate congestion

7. Poor road conditions cost Californians $17 billion yearly in vehicle repairs. 

34% of CA’s major roads are rated to be in “poor” condition. Driving on roads in need of repair costs California motorists $17 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $702.88 per motorist.

A report, titled “Transportation Strategies and Practices: Lessons for California,” which was issued on February 12, 2008 by Tom Warne and Associates, LLC, provides a couple of interesting charts.

The first shows that California lags in the use of outsourcing:

Level of Outsourcing by State20150817-UW-Moorlach1

The second shows the lack of importance transportation funding has been in California, on a per capita basis, with other neighboring states:

Population vs. Budget20150817-UW-Moorlach2

Even though the report is a few years old, California still hasn’t improved or become more nimble to our changing economy.

Caltrans must become a lean and efficient agency with staff focused on projects and outside consultants utilized when workloads increase. It is much easier to reduce outside contractors than it is to reduce staff. Yet, early retirements are in order, and streamlining must be proven long before taxpayers are asked to contribute more.

During these special legislative sessions bills can be introduced. Consequently, I introduced Senate Bill X1-9, the Responsible Contracting for Caltrans Act. It addresses the glaring flaws at Caltrans.

First, SBX1-9 would prohibit the use of temporary funding sources, such as loan repayments, bond funds and grant funds, to hire permanent staff.

Second, SBX1-9 would increase the share of contract employees in the Caltrans’ COS program by 5 percent annually, beginning in 2016, until a 50/50 ratio of state staff and contract employees is reached in 2023.

Controlling the hiring of permanent staff with limited-term funds and increasing the requirement to contract out are simple, no-nonsense approaches to reining in a department that has lacked forward vision. Who could be opposed to such common sense? You guessed it – the public employee unions – whose primary role is to increase their membership at any cost.

Does California have an infrastructure maintenance deficit? Absolutely. Reducing Caltrans’ bloated size before proposing that California families pay even higher taxes to fix our roads is the right thing to do.

John ‍Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents the 37th state Senate district.

Unions Seek Control of Recent California School Bond Measures

Has California school and community college facility construction become a perpetual government stimulus program for politically-favored construction trade unions?

Prop 39 BannerFifteen years ago, it was obvious that many school and college districts in California needed new construction, modernization, or renovation of their facilities for the safety and comfort of students, teachers, administrators, and support staff. That’s why 53% of California voters approved Proposition 39 in November 2000. It reduced the threshold for voter approval of school bond measures from two-thirds to 55%, increasing the passage rate for educational bond measures from under 50% to more than 80%.

But the purpose of borrowing money for school construction seemed to evolve after the 2008 economic collapse and subsequent November 2008 election.

Debt started piling up from relentless and repeated bond sales to investors. The “need” for more construction seemed immeasurable and unquenchable. Scandals began to pop up as clever people began to figure out how to manipulate the loopholes and ambiguities in ten year-old state laws regarding finance and construction of educational facilities.

Meanwhile, construction trade unions became much more aggressive in trying to monopolize educational construction by lobbying elected school board members for Project Labor Agreements. And local school and college elected boards became much more willing to grant those union monopolies.

Local elected officials in California recognized that political circumstances had changed. To quote a San Diego Unified School District board member immediately before the 3-2 vote on May 26, 2009 for a Project Labor Agreement:

I think the bigger picture that people are realizing – and this is what scares some people – is that San Diego is changing, the United States is changing…this is a different city…we are looking at a different community.

What has resulted from this change? A lot of debt has been imposed on future generations of Californians.

The California Policy Center released a report in July 2015 entitled For the Kids: California Voters Must Become Wary of Borrowing Billions More from Wealthy Investors for Educational Construction. This report identified $146 billion in authorized borrowing from 2001 to 2014 for California educational facility construction and $200 billion in existing debt service from bonds sold to pay for California educational facility construction.

In response to this report, some taxpayer advocates have asserted that momentum for additional local educational bond measures is propelled by construction trade unions that see local education districts as ripe targets to accumulate a pool of guaranteed government work. Union leaders remain nervous about the state’s economic prospects. They don’t want a painful revival of membership unemployment rates of 25%-50% experienced from 2009 to 2012.

Is this argument valid?

Below is a list of all of the K-12 school and college bond measures approved by voters in the last four primary and general elections (in 2012 and 2014) that became targets of construction unions for a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement (PLA).


Bond Measures Approved by Voters in June 2012


Amount Authorized to Borrow Name of School or College District Voter Approval Percentage Project Labor Agreement Activity
West Valley-Mission Community College District



Board approves PLA for upcoming “pilot project” 8/20/13.

Milpitas Unified School District



Board approves PLA 12/11/12.

Bond Measures Approved by Voters in November 2012


San Diego Unified School District



PLA approved in 2009 extends to this bond measure.

Coast Community College District



Board votes 5/15/13 to end consideration of a PLA.

Oakland Unified School District



PLA approved in 2004 extends to this bond measure.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District



Board discusses PLA 11/20/14.

Board votes for contract to negotiate PLA 4/16/15.

West Contra Costa Unified School District



PLA approved in 2000 extends to all bond measures.

Cerritos Community College District



Board discusses PLA 4/16/14 and 6/4/14.

Solano Community College District



Board approves PLA 12/4/13.

Sacramento City Unified School District



Board votes 1/23/14 to extend PLA approved in 2005 to this bond measure.

Rancho Santiago Community College District



Board approves PLA 3/24/14.

Alum Rock Union Elementary School District



Board approves PLA 6/18/13.

East Side Union High School District



Revised PLA approved in 2009 extends to this bond measure.

Lynwood Unified School District



Board approves PLA 2/12/13.

Inglewood Unified School District



Board approves PLA 10/26/12.

Chula Vista Elementary School District SFID No. 1



Board approves negotiations for a PLA 4/15/15.

Oxnard School District



Board approves PLA 6/24/15.

Sacramento City Unified School District



Board votes 1/23/14 to extend PLA approved in 2005 to this bond measure.

Antioch Unified School District SFID No. 1



Board approves PLA 11/13/13.

Whittier City Unified School District



Board approves PLA 1/13/15.

Washington Unified School District



Board imposed a union-backed apprenticeship requirement for contractors and used it to disqualify non-union company from contract.

Bond Measures Approved by Voters in June 2014


Fremont Unified School District



Board approves negotiations for a PLA 8/12/15.

Contra Costa Community College District



Board approves PLA 10/10/12 for all projects of $2 million or more.

Culver City Unified School District



Community Budget Advisory Committee discusses PLA 5/27/15.

Bond Measures Approved by Voters in November 2014


Santa Clara Unified School District



Board discusses PLA 3/26/15.

PLA discussion scheduled for 8/13/15.

Sonoma County Community College District



Union officials have openly declared intent to lobby for a PLA.

College administrators have met with legal counsel regarding PLA.

San Mateo County Community College District



Board discusses PLA 7/8/15.

Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District



Board discusses PLA 3/25/15.

San Luis Obispo County Community College District (Cuesta)



Board discusses PLA 2/4/15.

Board voted down PLA negotiations at 3/4/15 meeting.

Hayward Unified School District



Board votes for PLA 6/24/15.

Vacaville Unified School District



Board discusses PLA 3/9/15.

Board votes for PLA negotiations 6/25/15.

Alameda Unified School District



PLA discussion scheduled for 8/11/15.

Santa Rosa High School District



Union officials have openly declared intent to lobby for a PLA.

Salinas Union High School District



Board discusses PLA 3/24/15 and 5/12/15.

Board votes for PLA negotiations 5/26/15.

East Side Union High School District



PLA that applied to Measures G and E amended – apparently administratively – to cover Measure I.

Azusa Unified School District



Board discusses PLA 3/17/15.

Pittsburg Unified School District



Ballot arguments against the bond measure focused on PLAs imposed on previous bond measures; supporters’ rebuttal defended the PLAs.

Berryessa Union School District



Board votes for contract to negotiate PLA 3/10/15.

Santa Rosa Elementary School District



Union officials have openly declared intent to lobby for a PLA.

Washington Unified School District



Board imposed a union-backed apprenticeship requirement for contractors and used to disqualify non-union company from contract.

Bassett Unified School District



Board voted for PLA negotiations 1/20/15.


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

California Unions Masquerade as Community-Based Environmental Groups

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

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

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

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

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

Which Unions Are Active in Objecting to Projects Under CEQA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group Name and Link to Document Real Identity
Antelope Valley Residents for Responsible Development Palmdale residents Kathy MacLaren, Ira Lockshin, Fidel Granillo, David Sazegar, Maurice Washington, Walter Andrew, Cari Bailey, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11 and their members and families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Palmdale, Antelope Valley and Los Angeles County.
Brentwood Residents for Responsible Development Brentwood residents Jaime Gonzalez, Chad Andrews, Dustin Cabihi and Charles Knox, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 159, Sheet Metal Workers Local 204, and their members and families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Brentwood and Contra Costa County.
Coalition for Responsible Development Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, Local 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union, Local 340 and Sheet Metal Workers Union, Local 162 and their members and their families and other individuals who live and work in the City and County of Sacramento. Petitioner Brian Lujan is a member of the Coalition for Responsible Development who lives in the City of Sacramento approximately 2 miles east of the Project site. Petitioner Gary Krula is a member of the Coalition for Responsible Development who lives in the City of Sacramento approximately one mile east of the Project site. Petitioner Frank Albert is a member of the Coalition for Responsible Development who lives in the City of Sacramento approximately one mile north of the Project site.
The Coalition for Responsible Equitable Economic Development (CREED LA) Sheet Metal Workers Local 105, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 11, Southern California Pipe Trades District Council 16, and their members and their families who live and work in the City of Los Angeles. Individual members of CREED LA and its member organizations include Thomas Brown, Shomari Davis, Luther Medina, and John Ferruccio, who live, work, recreate and raise their families in Los Angeles.
Coalition for Responsible Mammoth Development James Bailey and Perry Brown, and California Unions for Reliable Energy and its members and their families.
Concerned Dublin Citizens An unincorporated group of concerned citizens, Robert Klein (a member of the group), and Carpenters Local Union No. 713.
Emeryville Residents for Responsible Development International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 342, and Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Emeryville and Alameda County.
Fresno County Citizens for Responsible Solar Fresno County residents Jeff Taylor, Carrie Taylor, and Vaughn Laymon, and California Unions for Reliable Energy (“CURE”) and its local union affiliates and the local union members and their families that live and/or work in Fresno County.
Gilroy Citizens for Responsible Development Craig Simmons, Mike Conti, Eric Colemen, William Bradley, William Culbertson, and John Sandoval, and groups including Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, and Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, and their members and their families who live and work in the City of Gilroy and surrounding areas.
Hanford Residents and Workers for Responsible Development Clint Champlin, Antony David, Bryan Wilson, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 100, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 246 and Sheetmetal Workers, Local 162.
Milpitas Coalition for Responsible Development Residents Ricardo Bauzon, Tot V. Tran and Albert Thompson of the City of Milpitas, Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 393, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 332, Sheetmetal Workers, Local 104 and their members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Milpitas.
Monterey County Residents for Responsible Development Monterey County residents, such as Manuel Ramos, Robert Greene, and California Unions for Reliable Energy (“CURE”) and its members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in Monterey County.
Napa Coalition for Responsible Development Napa County residents including Brett Risley, David Dias, and Daniel Huss, and Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 343, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 180, and their members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in Napa County.
Oakley Coalition for Responsible Development Residents of the City of Oakley, including James Fessenden, Patrick Jensen, Hershel Barton, George Seligman, Daniel Gutierrez, Robert Howard and Virgil De La Grange, UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 302, Sheet Metal Workers, Local 104 and their members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Oakley and Contra Costa County.
Placer Citizens Against Gridlock Robert Bell, Ricky Williams, and Steven Bonner.
Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development  Mitch Clarey, Frank Cuneo, Richard Kenney, Roger Burk, the Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, its affiliated local unions, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Petaluma and Sonoma County.
Redwood Citizens for Responsible Development Vic Torreano, a resident of Redwood City, the Building and Construction Trades Council of San Mateo, and the Council’s members and families who reside, work, and/or recreate in Redwood City.
Richmond Residents for Responsible Development Timothy Doyle, Donald Drown, Fynrare Fletcher, Andrew Harris, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Richmond and Contra Costa County.
Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (“SAFER California”) “Participating unions,” Ian Ostrov, who lives and works in the vicinity of the Project, Gene Sewell who lives and works in Arroyo Grande, California.
Safe Fuel and Energy Resources California (“SAFER California”) “Participating unions”…the members represented by the participants in SAFER California live, work, recreate and raise their families in Solano County, including the City of Benicia.
San Benito Residents for Responsible Development San Benito County residents, such as John Barber, Wallace Barnes, James Brown, Miguel Bustos, Bryan Daniel, L. Earl Davis, Randall Dike, Heath Guaracha, Richard Hodges, Valentin Ivanov, Andres Laureano, Steven Luiz, Jose Martinez, Robert Rovella, Gilbert Sanchez, Charles Schlesinger, Jaime Urzua, and California Unions for Reliable Energy (“CURE”) and its members and their families and other individuals that live, recreate and/or work in San Benito County (collectively, “San Benito Residents”).
San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center San Diego County resident Billie Johnson, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, and UNITE HERE Local 30, and their local union affiliates and union members and their families who live, recreate and/or work in the City of San Diego and San Diego County.
San Jose Residents for Responsible Development City of San Jose residents Mark Ross, Daniel Kiefer, Eddie Maxie, Conrad Pierce, Jeffrey Funston, Michael Smith and William Serpa; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families; and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County.
Santa Clara Residents for Responsible Development David Clark, R.C. Crawford, Phillip Francisco, Victor Galvez, Matt Hancoc, Ricci Herro, Gregory Small, Robert Stuhr, Corey Quevedo, Scott Thomas, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families and other individuals who live and work in the City of Santa Clara and Santa Clara County.
Sunnyvale Residents for Responsible Development An unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions; City of Sunnyvale residents Jack X. Jones, Cheryl Pollock and Bob Rule; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families; and other individuals that live and/or work in the City of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara County.
Sutter Coalition for Responsible Development Sutter County residents including John Coots, Danny Fennel, Ian Trotti, Jerrick Upton, Derek West, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry (“UA”) Local 228, UA Local 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 340, Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 162 and their members and their families, and other individuals that live and/or work in Sutter County.


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

Raising Gas Taxes While Unions Support Billions for Bullet Train

Editor’s Note:  It is difficult to find a better example of how California’s labor movement fails ordinary workers than their support for high speed rail. Because that project, using foreign sourced materials and yielding virtually no benefits – economic, environmental, or societal – that justify the cost, is at the expense of projects that are sorely needed. Money is fungible and finite. As Jon Coupal writes, California’s union controlled legislature is now considering raising gasoline taxes. But instead of raising gasoline taxes, the money we’re spending on high speed rail could instead be used to repair and upgrade California’s roads, all of them, everywhere, with tens of billions left over for other compelling projects, such as sewage treatment and reuse facilities, or desalination plants. These projects would create far more jobs and yield far greater benefits to ordinary Californians. Isn’t that what unions want? Union support for high-speed rail is an epic betrayal of the ideals they are uniquely positioned to advocate. It is shameful.

Sacramento is about to launch a new attack in its ongoing war on drivers.

California’s 48.6 cent gas tax already ranks second out of 50 states –- the feds take another 18.4 cents — and when the hidden carbon tax, part of the cap-and-trade program, is factored in, our state leads the pack by a wide margin. But this is not nearly enough, according to the political class.

Sen. Jim Beall is building a coalition of both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature to hike gas taxes along with vehicle license fees and registration.

The San Jose lawmaker’s Senate Bill 16 slams taxpayers in three ways.  First, it would raise at least $3 billion annually by increasing the gas tax by another 10 cents a gallon.  Second, it would hike the vehicle license fee, which is based on value, by more than 50 percent over 5 years.  Third, it would increase the cost to register a vehicle by over 80 percent.

Although the backers of the SB 16 tax increase say it is vital to make up the claimed $59 billion backlog in roadway maintenance, some of the funds are slated to go to repaying transportation bonds that, when passed, were to be paid from the general fund.  This means that not all of the new revenue will go to the stated intent of fixing roads and highways.

Whatever the actual dollar amount of the backlog in roadway maintenance, this shortfall is the result of previous diversions of gas tax and truck weight revenue to budget items that have no direct impact on road improvement, and Beall’s bill would allow this practice to continue.

It should not go unnoticed that the $59 billion estimated backlog approaches the $68 billion that the governor and Legislature want to spend on the bullet train.  Quentin Kopp, former chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, has become a strong critic, characterizing it as “low-speed rail” due to the changes that have been made to the original plan that voters were promised to convince them to provide seed money for the project in 2008.   He adds that to be financially viable, high-speed trains need to run from 10 to 20 trains per hour, but due to the current plan, called a “blended system,” slower trains and bullet trains must share the same track, reducing the number of fast trains to about four per hour.    And even supporters of the project as currently envisioned concede that the Los Angeles to San Francisco trip that voters were told would take about two-hours and forty minutes for a $50 fare, will likely take closer to 5 hours at nearly double the cost to the rider.

So, while Sacramento politicians and special interest insiders, including unions and construction companies, continue to push for billions of dollars of new spending on a high-speed rail system that is not expected to be completed before 2029, they expect drivers, fed up with bumping along on crumbling roads and highways, to pay more.

Gas prices in California are already tops in the nation.  If taxes are increased again, every motorist should be given a railroad engineer’s cap compliments of Sacramento lawmakers and the governor because the extra they pay will free up money, which could have been used for roads, to be spent on their pet train.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Libertarians, Government Unions, and Infrastructure Development

“Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”
–  John Cleese, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979

Any discussion of California’s neglected infrastructure has to recognize the three factors most responsible, libertarians, environmentalists, and government unions. Picking libertarians as the first example is not by accident, because libertarians are perhaps the most unwitting participants in the squelching of public infrastructure investment. By resisting government involvement in any massive public works project, libertarians provide cover to public sector unions who know that public works funding competes for tax revenues with their own pay and benefits.

When it comes to squelching public infrastructure investment, however, nobody can compete with California’s environmentalist lobby. Their lawsuits have stalled infrastructure development for decades. And the identity of interests between government unions and environmentalists is multi-faceted. The most obvious is that when there is no money for infrastructure there is more money for government worker pay and benefits. And of course, the more environmentalist regulations are passed, the more need to hire more unionized government workers.

Then there are the unintended and largely unnoticed financial consequences of environmentalism abetting the government union agenda. As California’s carbon emission auction collections slowly grow into billions per year, government jobs are redefined to incorporate “climate change mitigation.” Code inspectors and planning dept. personnel become climate change enforcers ala revised building codes and zoning laws. Bus drivers become mass transit workers mitigating climate change. Firefighters combat lengthier fire seasons, and even police are called into action because hotter weather is correlated to higher crime rates. And as they work to mitigate the impact of climate change, all of them quietly qualify for a share of the carbon emission auction proceeds.

The unintended economic consequences of environmentalism abetting the government union agenda are among the hardest to explain. Of course environmentalism can slow down economic growth. At some reasonable level – which we’re well beyond – that’s even desirable. But the environmentalist squelching of public infrastructure development, along with competitive private sector development of land, energy and water resources, has created artificial scarcity. In turn, this drives up asset values which helps government pension funds two ways (1) directly through appreciation of their invested assets, and (2) indirectly, by creating new real estate collateral for consumer borrowing which stimulates consumer spending which creates corporate profits and stock appreciation. In short, the economic consequences of artificial scarcity are asset bubbles that, for a time, keep unionized government worker pension funds solvent. When you can’t afford to own a modest home, or run an energy intensive business, remember this.

What libertarians and environmentalists both need to understand is that massive public works are one of the prerequisites for broadly distributed prosperity. And the environmentalist bias against massive civil engineering projects is two-faced. For example, managing delta salinity, the flow of the San Joaquin River, and the very existence of one of the largest refuges for waterfowl in the American southwest, the Salton Sea, are all dependent on dams, aqueducts and irrigation. But no more?

If you search for interest groups that favor massive civil engineering projects, you’ll look far and wide and find nothing of significance. Private sector unions ought to be leading the charge, but in recognition of the power of environmentalists and government unions, they settle for politically correct projects of marginal productive value – high speed rail, delta tunnels, and the occasional stadium. The Silicon Valley lobby is even worse – rather than support abundance through innovation, they embrace conservation through surveillance. If Californians recovered an additional 10 million acre feet per year of fresh water through civil engineering projects such as desalination, dam storage, and sewage reuse, there would be no need to embed internet devices into “smart” (and mandatory) side loading washers, low flow toilets, water meters, dish washers, and irrigation systems.

The biggest challenge ideologically however confronts libertarians. Because in the real world, we need to build civil infrastructure within a financial and legal framework that relies to some significant degree on government. If libertarians can reconcile their ideals with the needs of Californians, they might rally private sector union leadership, practical environmentalists, and altruistic members of the public sector. Massive infrastructure development in California on all fronts is long overdue. The revenue producing elements of this infrastructure could be financed through the pension funds – only consuming a fraction of their assets – and give truth to their currently preposterous assertion that they’re helping our economy.

Imagine if California’s government, with help from private and federal sources, was truly committed to creating abundance again through massive civil engineering projects across all areas of critical infrastructure. Can libertarians find a formula that would enable them to urgently support this without violating their core ideals? Can they support development while also being the watchdog against corruption? It could make all the difference in the world.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Desalination Plants vs. Bullet Trains and Pensions

Current policy solutions enacted to address California’s water crisis provide an object lesson in how corruption masquerading as virtue is impoverishing the general population to enrich a handful of elites. Instead of building freeways, expanding ports, restoring bridges and aqueducts, and constructing dams, desalination plants, and power stations, California’s taxpayers are pouring tens of billions each year into public sector pension funds – who invest 90% of the proceeds out-of-state, and the one big construction project on the table, the $100B+ “bullet train,” fails to justify itself under virtually any credible cost/benefit analysis. Why?

The reason is because infrastructure, genuinely conceived in the public interest, lowers the cost of living. This in-turn causes artificially inflated asset values to fall, imperiling the solvency of pension funds – something that would force them to reduce benefits. Beneficial infrastructure is also a threat to crony capitalists who don’t want a business climate that attracts competitors. Affordable land, energy, and water encourage economic growth. Crony capitalists and public sector unions alike hide behind environmentalists, who oppose growth and development, all of it, everywhere – because no new developments, anywhere, suits their monopolistic interests. No wonder the only infrastructure vision still alive in California, the “bullet train,” is nothing more than a gigantic, tragic farce.

Urban Water Consumption is a Small Fraction of Total Water Use

Returning to the topic of water, a basic examination of the facts reveals the current drought to be a problem that could be easily solved, if it weren’t for powerful special interests who don’t want it to be solved, ever. Here’s a rough summary of California’s annual water use. In a dry year, around 150 million acre feet (MAF) fall onto California’s watersheds in the form of rain or snow, in a wet year, we get about twice that much. [1] Most of that water either evaporates, percolates, or eventually runs into the ocean. In terms of net water withdrawals, each year around 31 MAF are diverted for the environment, such as to guarantee fresh water inflow into the delta, 27 MAF are diverted for agriculture, and 6.6 MAF are diverted for urban use. [2] Of the 6.6 MAF that is diverted for urban use, 3.7 MAF is used by residential customers, and the rest is used by industrial, commercial and government customers. [3]

Put another way, we divert 65 million acre feet of water each year in California for environmental, agricultural and urban uses, and a 25% reduction in water usage by residential customers will save exactly 0.9 million acre feet – or 1.4% of our total statewide water usage. One good storm easily dumps ten times as much water onto California’s watersheds as we’ll save via a 25% reduction in annual residential water consumption.

California’s politicians can impose utterly draconian curbs on residential water consumption, and it won’t make more than a small dent in the problem. We have to increase the supply of water.

Desalination is An Affordable Option

One way to increase California’s supply of fresh water is to build desalination plants. This technology is already in widespread use throughout the world, deployed at massive scale in Singapore, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and elsewhere. One of the newest plants worldwide, the Sorek plant in Israel, cost $500 million to build and desalinates 627,000 cubic meters of water per day. [4] That means that five of these plants, costing $2.5 billion to build, could desalinate 1.0 million acre feet per year. And since these modern plants, using 16″ diameter reverse osmosis filtration tubes, only require 5 kWh per cubic meter of desalinated water, it would only require a 700 megawatt power plant to provide sufficient energy to desalinate 1.0 million acre feet per year. [5] Currently it takes about 300 megawatts for the Edmonston Pumping Plant to lift one MAF of water from the California aqueduct 1,926 ft (587 m) over the Tehachapi Mountains into the Los Angeles basin. And that’s just the biggest lift, the California aqueduct uses several pumping stations to transport water from north to south. So the net energy costs to desalinate water on location vs transporting it hundreds of miles are not that far apart. [6]

The entire net urban water consumption on California’s “South Coast” (this includes all of Los Angeles and Orange County – over 13 million people) is 3.5 MAF. [7] Desalination plants with capacity to supply 100% of the urban water required by Los Angeles and Orange counties would cost under $10 billion, and require 2.5 gigawatts of electric power. These power stations could also be built for under $10 billion. [8]

Imagine that. For $20 billion in capital investment we could provide 100% of the fresh water required by nearly all of Southern California’s urban water users. For around $50 billion, 100% of California’s urban water requirements, statewide, could be financed – the desalination plants and the power stations.

California’s taxpayers are currently condemned to shell out at least 500 billion dollars over the next 20-30 years so a train that hardly anyone will ride will careen through expropriated land, and pension funds can invest 90% of their assets out-of-state so public sector employees can retire 10-15 years early with pensions that are 3-5 times greater than Social Security. For less than one-tenth of that amount, we can solve our water crisis by investing in desalination. Why not, environmentalists? We’re willing to carpet the land with solar farms, exterminate raptors with the blades of wind turbines, and incinerate the rain forests to grow palm oil – all financed by selling carbon emission permits. Why not disburse brine offshore, where the California current will disburse it far more efficiently than any desalination plant situated on the Mediterranean Sea?

Another way to solve California’s urban water crisis is to recycle 100% of indoor water. Quaternary treatment, where water from sewage is purified and sent back upstream for reuse, is another proven technology already in limited use throughout California. In theory, not one drop of indoor water use can be wasted, since all of it can be reused.

And, of course, imagine how quickly California’s water crisis could be solved if farmers could sell their water allotments to urban water agencies. As it is, myriad restrictions largely prevent them from exercising this option, even though many of them could profitably sell their water allotments and make more than they make farming the crop. Do we really need to grow rice in the Mojave desert to export to China?

Environmentalists alone are not powerful enough to stop Californians from acting to increase water supply. Powerful government unions, pension funds, and anti-competitive corporate interests all have a stake in perpetuating artificial scarcity and authoritarian remedies. It suits them because it consolidates their power, and ensures they get a bigger slice of a smaller pie.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.


(1) Total Precipitation in California during wet, average, and dry years:
California Water Supply and Demand: Technical Report
Stockholm Environment Institute
Table 2: Baseline Annual Values by Water Year Type and Climate-Scenario (MAF)

(2) California water use by sector:
California Water Today
Public Policy Institute of California
Table 2.2, Average annual water use by sector, 1998–2005

(3) California urban water use by sector:
California Dept. of Water Resources
2010 Urban Water Management Plan Data – Tables
Download spreadsheet “DOST Tables 3, 4, 5, 6, 7a, 7b, & 7c: Water Deliveries – Actual and Projected, 2005-2035”

(4) Cost of modern reverse osmosis desalination plant:
Technology Review
Megascale Desalination: The world’s largest and cheapest reverse-osmosis desalination plant is up and running in Israel.

(5) Energy required to desalinate seawater using reverse osmosis technology:
Encyclopedia of Desalination and Water Resources
“Energy Requirements of Desalination Process”
Table 1. Energy requirements of four industrial desalination processes.

(6) part one – Tehachapi lift of 1,926 feet:
Wikipedia, California Aqueduct

(6) part two – energy required to lift water:
University of California, Energy Required to Lift Water
Table 1. The Amount of Energy in Kilowatt-Hours (kWh) Required to Lift One Acre-foot of Water (325,851 gallons) One Foot of Elevation

(7) California water use by sector:
California Water Today
Public Policy Institute of California
Table 2.2, Average annual water use by sector, 1998–2005, ref. “South Coast”

(8) The cost to construct a modern natural gas power plant:
U.S. Energy Information Administration, Capital Costs for Electricity Plants
Download Table 1, “Updated Estimates of Power Plant Capital and Operating Costs” (ref. Natural Gas – the most modern and expensive version)

*   *   *

An Insider Candidly Interprets the Divisiveness of a Local Union Initiative

Over the past 15 years, local elected officials in California have frequently claimed publicly and privately that union Project Labor Agreement mandates for taxpayer-funded construction contracts are the most intense, time-consuming, and divisive issues they’ve ever considered.

When Project Labor Agreements are placed on local government meeting agendas, modern records are often broken for the number of speakers at meetings of that particular government. Meetings stretch for several hours as factions argue and attack each other over whether or not unions should control the workforce for lucrative construction contracts worth millions or even billions of dollars. The excitement and controversy attracts the attention of news media. Local business, community, and political leaders exert their own pressure on elected officials. Routine business (such as educational policy) is suspended as board members and staff try to understand, navigate, or sidestep the arcane policy arena of construction labor issues.

Personal written confirmation about the agonies of considering a Project Labor Agreement mandate was recently provided by one of ten applicants for a vacancy on the board of the Alameda Unified School District. He was a board member of the San Gabriel Unified School District when it voted on a Project Labor Agreement mandate in 2010. Here is some background about that fight, followed by his own perspective of what caused the divisiveness.

In 2009, the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council began pushing a Project Labor Agreement proposal at the San Gabriel Unified School District (located just east of Los Angeles). The board was split on the proposal.

When the Project Labor Agreement was publicly introduced for board consideration, a large and vocal group in San Gabriel organized to oppose it. The group was led by influential community leaders who had supported the bond measure in the 2008 election and were outraged to see outside special interests interfere with the traditional bidding process and raise the cost of construction.

Union representatives made a formal presentation in support of the Project Labor Agreement at the February 2, 2010 board meeting. Then opponents of the Project Labor Agreement were scheduled to make a formal presentation at the April 6 board meeting.

Well in advance of the meeting, union activists from throughout the Los Angeles area occupied the meeting room seats and effectively prevented numerous San Gabriel residents opposed to the PLA from entering. At one point there was a ruckus outside the room as angry people clamored to squeeze into the meeting room while police tried to limit the number of people in the room to the legal capacity. The board chairwoman (opposed to the Project Labor Agreement) fruitlessly asked if out-of-town attendees would be willing to give up their seats.

The board voted 3-2 to place a resolution on the next meeting agenda to direct staff to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council. The board then approved the resolution on a 3-2 vote on April 20.

Despite continued opposition from community leaders and a flurry of mailers to residents criticizing the proposal, the board ended up voting 3-2 on November 1o, 2010 in front of approximately 100 irate residents to give the unions their desired Project Labor Agreement.

The most aggressive proponent of the union deal was Scott Svonkin, who had ambitions to run for the board of the Los Angeles Community College District (where he is now board president). Another board member who voted for the deal was Phillip Hu, although he was more measured and civil in expressing his position.

Five years later, Hu would cite his experience with the Project Labor Agreement fight as a qualification as he sought an appointment to the Alameda Unified School District board. Here is the excerpt from his application, dated January 8, 2015.

Phillip Hu Statement on PLA

This interpretation insinuates that the elected board’s discord over the Project Labor Agreement and the community objections  to it were based on class consciousness. An older, wealthier white establishment opposed a government policy that guaranteed jobs to workers represented by unions that defend the interests of working class immigrants and non-white residents. Residents who were paying for the construction with their taxes were resisting redistribution of wealth under a just system.

Hu does not address arguments against the Project Labor Agreement based on phrases and words such as “fiscal responsibility,” “freedom of choice,” “fair and open competition,” and “merit.” It would be interesting to see if he regards these words as intellectual cover for the selfish interests of the “more affluent, more homogenized, the traditional power base.”

Note that Hu may have a predisposition to see the world through the lens of “class consciousness.” In his application for the Alameda Unified School District board, Hu identifies himself as Government Affairs Director/Communications Director of Public Employees Union Local No. 1.

***As I prepared to hit the Publish button for this post, a Tweet from Alameda Unified School District announced that the board selected Phillip Hu to fill the vacancy. Seven months after moving to Alameda, Mr. Hu is poised to vote for another Project Labor Agreement. (In November 2014, voters approved Measure I and authorized the district to borrow $179.5 million for school construction via bond sales.)


Full application of Phillip Hu for the Alameda Unified School District board vacancy

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.

More Taxpayer Money Spent Justifying Union Political Agenda in California

About 95% of the public policy studies and reports circulating among California state and local governments reject a free market approach to societal challenges. Instead, these studies and reports advocate more government spending, more government programs, and more government intrusion into commerce and personal behavior.

Obviously “Progressive” intellectual thought in California gets a disproportionate share of funding. Who funds the policy institutes churning out the vision that will likely define the future of the state?

You do. For many of these operations, government is a major source of funding.

Federal, state, regional, and local governments move money around with little accountability through grants and contracts. Some of it ends up going to Left-leaning policy institutes.

One notorious example of a government-funded policy institute is the union-oriented University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program. After the California Labor Federation succeeded in establishing the program with a $6 million appropriation in the 2000-01 state budget, the annual budget always included a specific line-item amount for the program. The UC Labor Program received a total of $37.4 million in direct appropriations until Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the $5.4 million assigned to it in the 2008-09 state budget. It continues to operate today with help from taxpayers.

Last week top administrators of the City of Los Angeles decided to contract with the University of California Institute for Labor and Employment (affiliated with the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program). For the second time in a year, the labor institute will analyze a proposal to increase the minimum wage in the City of Los Angeles. The public contract for the second analysis is reportedly worth $84,000.

A few Los Angeles City Councilmembers are objecting publicly to the contract because of the obvious bias of the labor institute. Chances of a negative report from this operation are zero, as shown from the first analysis.

Union leaders and lobbyists attained a major victory. They can use these minimum wage studies as a basis to promote minimum wage increases throughout Los Angeles County, the state of California, and in states and cities throughout the rest of the country. Best of all, they don’t have to pay for the studies.

Another example of taxpayer-funded Progressive policy analysis and promotion now getting attention is the Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan – Economic Prosperity Strategy.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a $4,991,336 grant to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area to develop and implement this plan. In collaboration with the Association of Bay Area Governments, some of this federal money was transferred to “Community-Based Organizations” that have close relationships with unions.

Now the plan has been developed through the involvement of union front groups such as Working Partnerships USA and the San Mateo County Union Community Alliance. “Community Outreach” to the nine Bay Area counties is underway. (See below for information about the five “launch meetings.”)

The plan designates $800,000 (including $760,000 in federal funds) specifically to the outreach program, which some might call “lobbying and public relations.” Already the Oakland City Council has scheduled an agenda item at its January 13 meeting to discuss the plan.

On January 15, union officials and community organizers will hold a “launch meeting” at the Redwood City Library about the Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan’s Economic Prosperity Strategy. Attendees will get to hear a presentation about “Pursuing Project Labor Agreements and Community Benefits Ordinances.” (In other words, how to give unions a monopoly on public and private construction projects.) Project Labor Agreements are a specific recommendation in the plan and are referenced several times.

That particular workshop will not proceed without controversy and fierce resistance from the Merit Shop sector of the construction industry. But it’s unclear if and how corporations and business groups in the San Francisco Bay Area will respond to a well-funded coordinated campaign in nine counties to promote a wide variety of leftist policy objectives. Obvious business targets of the plan include residential and commercial developers, high-tech and biotech companies that contract out for services, and transportation related to the Port of Oakland.

Strangely, the Bay Area Council – “The Voice of Bay Area Business” – provided research support for the Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan. There’s a famous but apparently apocryphal quotation attributed to Vladimir Lenin: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” In this case, the rope is being purchased with taxpayer money.

Here is the notice about the “launch meetings.”

EPS [Economic Policy Strategy] Launch Meetings

Dear Friends,

We are wishing you very happy holidays and best wishes for 2015. To kick off the year, the Economic Prosperity Strategy drafting team is hosting a series of launch events to build towards our Capstone Conference in April. The workshops are scheduled for January 13, 15, 23, 26 and February 2. Each workshop is in a different location and will focus on different themes in the EPS. We are inviting all stakeholders from all of the Regional Prosperity Plan working groups, all community members who participated in the initial EPS workshops and all local and regional policy makers who will have a role in implementing the strategy. Please share the invitation with your networks. Call or e-mail if you have any questions, 510-207-6346 orkss@well.com.

Best wishes,

Kirsten (The Rev. Kirsten Snow Spalding, San Mateo County Union Community Alliance)

Economic Prosperity Strategy Launch Meetings 2015

In October 2014, a team of partner organizations working for MTC and ABAG issued the “Economic Prosperity Strategy: Improving economic opportunity for the Bay Area’s low- and moderate-wage workers.” The report is available for download at http://planbayarea.org/pdf/EconomicProsperity_web_single.pdf. The report, part of the Bay Area’s Regional Prosperity Plan, was produced with input from hundreds of participants throughout the region, including representatives from economic development organizations, community members, non-profits, businesses, labor, local governments, workforce development partners and others.The thrust of the Economic Prosperity Strategy was that achieving improved economic opportunity for all requires working on three goals simultaneously:

GOAL A: Strengthen career pathways to middle wage jobs (that pay between about $18 and $30 per hour).

GOAL B: Grow the economy with a focus on middle-wage work.

GOAL C: Improve the quality of jobs for current and future lower-wage workers.

Now, it is time to dig into the findings, learn from pilot projects and talk about what it will take to implement the Bay Area’s vision of economic prosperity for everyone.In a series of five meetings around the Bay Area, we will focus on these three goals and invite all stakeholders to share in implementing this vision for the Bay Area. This is your chance to shape how we collectively move forward.

EPS Workshop #1: Expanding Economic Opportunity through Basic Skills and Entrepreneurship

Tuesday, January 13, 2015, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Monument Impact, (Formerly Michael Chavez Center & Monument Community Partnership), 2699 Monument Blvd, Ste G Concord, CA 94520

• Expanding job-focused basic skills training

• Improving career navigation systems and supporting pathways, at the k-12 level and beyond

• Focusing on business formation and expansion

Hear from pilot projects including: the Michael Chavez Center in Concord, the Multi-cultural Institute’s three County day laborer program, the Allies for Innovation basic skills collaborative in Santa Clara and San Mateo, a worker cooperative project in the East Bay and an entrepreneurship program in Sonoma.

EPS Workshop #2: Building Career Pathways in the Construction Sector

Thursday, January 15, 2015, 9:30-11:30 a.m.  Redwood City Library, 1044 Middlefield Road, Redwood City 94063

• Focus on the Construction Sector

• Establishing industry-driven, sector-based regional training partnerships.

• Pursuing Project Labor Agreements and Community Benefits Ordinances

Hear from the Construction Careers Initiative, an industry driven pre-apprenticeship program in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, from local developers and from Building and Construction Trades Councils about initiatives to improve construction sector wages and working conditions and create comprehensive packages of community benefits as new projects are planned and built.

EPS Workshop #3: The Invisible Workforce: Strategies to Lift Up the Low-Wage Contracted Service Sector

Friday, January 23, 2015, 10 a.m. -12 p.m., Pipe Trades Training Center, 780 Commercial Street, San Jose, CA 95112

• Upgrading conditions in lower-wage jobs

• Organizing and professionalizing industries

• Emerging approaches to improving working conditions in contracted service jobs

Hear about issues in several predominantly low-wage industries in the Bay Area, particularly contracted service industries which tend to grow in the “footprint” of driving industries and often remain below the radar. Discuss emerging approaches that address these issues, regional implications of these trends and how to build stronger coordination across cities and sectors that are dealing with the growth of low-wage contracted service work.

EPS Workshop #4:  Coordination between Economic and Workforce Development, Transportation and Housing Plans

Monday, January 26, 2015, 2-4 p.m. SPUR Urban Center, 654 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105-4015

• A Vision for Economic Prosperity for Everyone

• Cross-Sector Collaborations

• Regional and Sub-regional policies

Hear from regional policy makers, local jurisdictional leaders, workforce and economic development agencies and the researchers and drafters of the economic prosperity strategy.

EPS Workshop #5: Planning for Manufacturing, Logistics and Industrial Job Growth

Monday, February 2, 2015, 2-4 p.m.  Metropolitan Transportation Commission, 101 Eighth Street, Oakland, California 94607

• Focus on the Logistics and Goods Movement Sectors

• Develop land use plans that support transit-oriented jobs, industrial uses and housing.

• Develop a regional strategy to preserve and invest in industrial land.

Hear from regional planners about planned investments in goods movement infrastructure, from local jurisdictions engaged in sub-regional strategies like the Port of Oakland and the Northern Waterfront Initiative and Design It, Build It, Ship It, an industry-led workforce and economic development collaborative.

Sources: UC Labor Program Studies of Minimum Wage for City of Los Angeles

Documents: Procure an Economic Analysis – Los Angeles City Council Economic Development Committee

Business Leaders Criticize City’s Choice to Study Minimum Wage Hike – Los Angeles Times – January 8, 2015

Minimum Wage Consultant Pick Draws ComplaintsLos Angeles Daily News – January 8, 2015

Two L.A. Councilmen Ask to Reconsider Team Set to Study Minimum WageLos Angeles Times – January 9, 2015

L.A. Needs a Fresh Analysis of the Effects of a Minimum-Wage HikeLos Angeles Times (editorial) – January 12, 2015

Sources: San Francisco Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan – Economic Prosperity Strategy

San Francisco Bay Area Economic Prosperity Strategy

Oakland City Council Informational Report for January 13, 2015 Meeting – Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan

San Francisco Bay Area Economic Prosperity Strategy Launch Meetings 2015

HUD FY2011 Sustainable Communities Grantees

San Francisco Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan ABSTRACT

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 @DaytonPubPolicyThis article was originally published in www.FlashReport.org on January 12, 2015 as Taxpayers Fund Biased Policy Justifications for LA Minimum Wage and Bay Area Prosperity Plan.

Caught and Exposed: Secret Union Dealings of a College District

The Rancho Santiago Community College District in Orange County (California) declared in a December 8, 2014 letter that it “unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist from, and not repeat the challenged past action…” That action involves secret dealings with unions.

A construction trade association was willing to threaten litigation to make this happen. And to emphasize its seriousness, the association also made an elected board member accountable to voters for his involvement in the secret dealings. That candidate ended up losing a key election for a California State Senate seat.

What was done wrong? While negotiating a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions for future construction contracts, the elected board of trustees for this community college district appeared to violate state law requiring government entities to give public access to its deliberations and actions. The board discussed the proposed content of the Project Labor Agreement in closed session meetings. The public could not know what was happening.

California construction trade unions seemed to be encouraging local governments to discuss embarrassing Project Labor Agreement controversies (such as trade jurisdictional disputes among unions) out of sight of the public. A month before the closed session board meetings at the Rancho Santiago Community College District, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority had been caught also planning to discuss Project Labor Agreement terms and conditions in a closed session meeting.

If this practice continued, it would undermine the public’s ability to comment on Project Labor Agreements.

An attorney representing the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) initiated correspondence with the Rancho Santiago Community College District objecting to the board’s closed session meetings. Objections were based on California Government Code Section 54960 (part of the Ralph M. Brown Act), which authorizes any interested person to seek judicial action to stop or prevent violations or threatened violations of state laws related to open and transparent government conduct.

In response, the president of the college board of trustees provided the following statement:

The Board of Trustees of the Rancho Santiago Community College District has received your cease and desist letter on behalf of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Southern California, Inc. dated October 10, 2014, and clarification letter on November 6, 2014, alleging that the following described past action of the legislative body violates the Ralph M. Brown Act:

• Holding closed session negotiation and discussions regarding the terms of project labor agreements, including the ”Community and Student Workforce Project Agreement.”

In order to avoid unnecessary litigation and without admitting any violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Board of Trustees of the Rancho Santiago Community College District hereby unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist from, and not repeat the challenged past action as described above.

But it wasn’t enough just to get a letter from the college district. There needed to be true public accountability for the scheme.

As it pursued the violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors began informing the public about the involvement of community college board member Jose Solorio in the Project Labor Agreement scheme. Solorio was in a highly competitive election for an open State Senate seat.

Here’s a mailer sent to voters in the district.



In the end, Solorio lost the election to Republican Janet Nguyen, allowing Republicans to gain a seat in the California State Senate and deprive Democrats of a supermajority. The college district agreed not to engage in closed session discussions about Project Labor Agreements. And a warning was sent to union officials and their political sycophants about doing their business in secret.


“cease, desist from, and not repeat” letter from President of Board of Trustees of Rancho Santiago Community College District – December 8, 2014

Hiding of Solorio Backed Union Deal Likely To End in Lawsuit – OC Political – November 1, 2014

Ralph M. Brown Act (California Government Code Section 54950-54963)

Will California Union Officials Get to Discuss Project Labor Agreements in Closed Session?www.UnionWatch.org – November 26, 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 Win First Victory to Control Projects Funded by Water Bond

It was unlikely that a few isolated and marginalized critics would discourage California voters from approving a statewide ballot measure (Proposition 1) authorizing the state to borrow more than $7 billion for water projects. As Proposition 1 stated, “California has been experiencing more frequent and severe droughts and is currently enduring the worst drought in 200 years. These droughts are magnifying the shortcomings of our current water infrastructure.”

As a result, Proposition 1 passed on November 4, 2014 with 67.1% of the vote. Few people heard or heeded warnings from negative ninnies alleging that state agencies and local governments would surely squander the borrowed billions from Wall Street on special interest enrichment schemes.

Now the rains are coming to ease the crisis. Meanwhile, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors today (December 9, 2014) took the first legislative action to prove the negative ninnies were right.

MC-MCWRA PLA SlideAt the demand of California Assemblymember Luis Alejo, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 and the Water Board voted 6-1 to direct staff to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council for the Interlake Tunnel Project. All construction companies will be required to sign this union agreement as a condition of working on the project.

This project is likely to be among the first – if not THE first – water project to obtain Proposition 1 water bond funding from the California Water Commission. At Monterey County Board of Supervisors meetings on October 14 and October 28, Assemblyman Alejo told the board that he had received a commitment from Governor Brown for $12-15 million for the project.

But Assemblyman Alejo also first suggested and then declared to the board that the money would only come if the county adopted a specific “design-build” procurement procedure authorized in Assembly Bill 155, introduced by Assemblyman Alejo and signed into law by Governor Brown. Assembly Bill 155 included a provision requiring the county to impose a Project Labor Agreement if it bid the Interlake Tunnel Project using the design-build procurement method.

Documents subsequently obtained from Monterey County through a public records request exposed how state and local construction union lobbyists inserted this Project Labor Agreement mandate into the bill with the enthusiastic participation of Assemblyman Alejo. Democrats (and one Republican) moved this bill through the state legislature, despite votes by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors and the Salinas River Basin Management Plan Committee to oppose Assembly Bill 155 because of the unwanted Project Labor Agreement mandate imposed by the legislature on their own project.

By the time the scheduled vote on the Project Labor Agreement appeared on the December 9, 2014 joint meeting of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors, the design-build procurement procedure had become a sideshow to the real issue: giving the unions a Project Labor Agreement. A staff presentation stated that a Project Labor Agreement would be imposed on the Interlake Tunnel Project no matter what kind of bid procurement system was used.

And no one wanted to let the public know why the unions were getting a monopoly on construction of a project expected to receive federal, state, and local funding courtesy of the taxpayers. The staff report and staff presentation for the item did not define or explain a Project Labor Agreement, nor did it indicate any reasons why a Project Labor Agreement was needed.

Monterey County Water Resources AgencyNo one on the Board of Supervisors or Water Board wanted to explain it either. Any ordinary residents watching the meeting and looking at the background documents would have been mystified. However, they would have recognized that Assemblyman Alejo and union lobbyists at the meeting were very intent on making sure that the boards made an unambiguous commitment to mandate a Project Labor Agreement.

Water Board member Mike Scattini, a representative appointed by the Grower-Shipper Association, was the one NO vote. The other eleven board members supported the deal or surrendered to the deal, for ideological reasons, political reasons, or pragmatic reasons.

California local governments are getting accustomed to the idea that the state will withhold funds for their projects and activities unless they acquiesce to the union political agenda. For example, charter cities throughout the state have been scrambling in the last few months to modify their municipal codes to express complete submission to state prevailing wage laws.

Water agencies will soon learn that money borrowed by the state via water bond sales comes to local governments with some costly and anti-competitive conditions imposed from the capitol. The Interlake Tunnel Project was estimated in June to cost $22 million; now it is estimated to cost $63 million – including $32.2 million just for the construction component. It’s unknown if the estimate includes cost increases anticipated from the reduced bid competition under a Project Labor Agreement.


How a Bill Becomes a Law in California: Assembly Bill 155 (2014) (with links to cited source documents)

Agenda and Reports for December 9, 2014 Special Joint Meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Board of Supervisors of the Water Resources Agency and the Water Resources Agency Board of Directors

Proposition 1 – Water Bond. Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects

Election Results – Proposition 1

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.

Federal Money to Ivanpah Solar Power Plant Would Be Prize for Unions

Fairly or not, news media has recently brought negative public attention to the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a $2.2 billion thermal solar power plant built under a union Project Labor Agreement in California’s Mojave Desert.

Owners of Ivanpah (BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy, and Google) have applied for a $539 million tax credit to help repay a $1.6 billion U.S. Department of Energy loan from 2011. Some news sources have asserted that the power plant has failed to meet performance expectations for energy generation while greatly exceeding performance expectations for bird kills.

This public criticism peaked around November 10, the day when construction union officials inopportunely held a press conference to promote public policies to grow a “blue-green” economy in California.

At an electrical union facility in San Leandro (near Oakland), union officials, leaders of the Sierra Club, an Obama Administration official, and a college professor used the press conference to highlight the need for unions to control California’s so-called “green energy” construction and maintenance.

A professor at the University of Utah who regularly produces studies on behalf of construction unions used the press conference to release a new study calling for “stronger labor policies & alliances in order for a just transition to clean energy.” His study reiterates many of the claims in an earlier 2012 study from the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program.

What are these policies and alliances? The Ivanpah solar power plant is a typical example of how unions are obtaining monopolies on construction of most green energy generation facilities in California. Merit is not the primary basis for getting the work.

Ivanpah from California Energy Commission websiteBrightSource Energy had submitted an application in August 2007 to the California Energy Commission for construction and operation of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. In December 2007, a phony environmental organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) intervened in the approval process for the power plant.

Throughout 2008, CURE provided status reports to the California Energy Commission about its evaluation of the project and its intent to request data from BrightSource Energy about the environmental impact of the power plant. It was a typical union threat to “greenmail” a developer by objecting to a proposed project on environmental grounds and gumming up the approval process until the developer signs a union agreement.

In December 2009, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and the Building & Construction Trades Council of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties announced a Project Labor Agreement for construction of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Union officials had indicated a month earlier that negotiations between the newly-selected general contractor and unions had been completed.

Once the Project Labor Agreement was signed, California Unions for Reliable Energy disappeared. Legitimate environmental organizations were left with the task of protecting the desert tortoise.

An article about Ivanpah in the August 2011 issue of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers national newsletter bragged about the involvement of unions in construction of the power plant:

Marc Joseph, an attorney who has handled negotiations over project labor agreements and has worked to remove obstacles to solar development for the California Building and Construction Trades, estimates that, in California alone, projects on the books will total more than 27 million man-hours of work for the trades…

At California’s Ivanpah Dry Lake in the Mojave near the Nevada border, members of San Bernardino Local 477 are building a solar energy system for BrightSource Energy under a project labor agreement that will provide 4 million man-hours of work to the building trades.

Most outrageous in this article is the cynical praise from the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California to the California Energy Commission for approving the project without “lengthy delays.”

At a groundbreaking ceremony last October, Bob Balgenorth, president of the state’s Building and Construction Trades Council and former business manager of Santa Ana Local 441, thanked the Obama administration for making available $1.4 billion in Department of Energy loan guarantees and placing Ivanpah on the list of 16 priority clean energy projects. He also praised the California Energy Commission for approving the project, also funded with $300 million from NRG Energy and $168 million from Google, without the lengthy delays that often stymie facility startups.

To see who actually triggers many of those “lengthy delays” at the California Energy Commission, see the 2013 UnionWatch articles Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants? and Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting.

As BrightSource Energy and its partners continue to press for federal grants and repayment extensions on its $1.6 billion federal loan to build Ivanpah, members of Congress should be aware of how unions managed to get control of the construction. Should American taxpayers subsidize a “blue-green economy” based on tactics many Americans would describe as extortion?

Since the majority leaders in the California State Legislature have no interest in constraining union abuse of the state’s environmental laws, perhaps the flow of federal money from Washington, D.C. needs to stop going to projects owned by developers who succumb to union demands in order to evade environmental objections. Withholding federal money might pressure the State of California to curtail the brazen and widespread exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Warren-Alquist State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Act for purposes unrelated to environmental protection.


Sun Farms Grow IBEW Employment – The Electrical Worker Online – August 2011

Environmental and Economic Benefits of Building Solar in California: Quality Careers— Cleaner Lives – UC Berkeley Labor Center – November 10, 2014

2007-12-21 – Ivanpah Solar – CURE Petition to Intervene
2008-03-21 – Ivanpah Solar – CURE Status Report 1
2008-12-05 – Ivanpah Solar – CURE Status Report 2
2009-11-11 Ivanpah Solar – Inland Solar Project Tapping Large Union Workforce
2009-12-17 Press Release – Project Labor Agreement Signed – Ivanpah Solar

World’s Largest Solar Plant Applying for Federal Grant to Pay Off Federal Loan – Fox News Channel – November 8, 2014

The Top Five Things Some Media Can’t Seem to Remember about Ivanpah – BrightSource blog – November 13, 2014

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


Unions Try to Monopolize California's Global Warming Solutions

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

California Can’t Let Just Anyone Check Your Dimmer Switches

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

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

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

Dimmer Switches Were Supposed to Brighten the Future for Unions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2013 California Building Energy Efficiency Standards

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

National Lighting Contractors Association of America (NLCAA)

California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (CALCTP)

Public Utilities in “Collaboration” with CALCTP

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

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

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

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


California Union Uses "Greenmail," Manufacturer Takes Plans Out of State

When it comes to organized labor, California is a friendly state. We long ago eschewed right-to-work status. Labor unions enjoy a web of laws that ease organizing workers, like  farmworkers,refinery employeesteachers, and state and local government workers. Other laws give union contracts special status unavailable to nonunion employees, such as the ability to work longer days without triggering overtime and avoid the new sick leave mandate. Employers who obtain workers from a union hiring hall are not subject to the new joint liability mandate applicable to other labor contractors.

But who would have thought one of the most powerful union organizing tools may be the state’s premier environmental statute, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)?

CEQA is best known as the vanguard of disclosure, transparency and mitigation of environmental impacts. More recently, CEQA has been fingered as an easy ticket to litigation by project opponents, NIMBY activists, or even business competitors. Labor unions have leveraged the law to obtain sweetheart contracts for construction projects.

Add to that list – union organizing tool. And subtract 250 skilled manufacturing jobs.

Los Angeles County’s sprawling Metro system needs new rail cars, so the Metro board let a contract with Kinkisharyo International for 175 new cars. The company planned to assemble these cars in a new $50 million, 400,000 square-foot facility in Palmdale. They would eventually employ 250 skilled, well-paid workers.

Not so fast, said Local 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

As a public works project, it’s a given that  the job would pay prevailing wages, and it’s virtually certain that union workers would fill these jobs. But IBEW further insisted that the company allow the union to organize the workers by “card check,” which permits the union to gain exclusive representation if a majority of workers sign cards in its favor, without a secret ballot election. Not surprisingly, the company rejected this attempted power play, countering that the union should attempt to organize workers the old fashioned way.

So how did IBEW respond? By threatening to file a CEQA lawsuit.

A local “citizens group” was organized by the local and its law firm. They complained that the project could cause “widespread environmental damage.” Not explicitly stated, but surely well understood, was that these environmental impacts could be mitigated by permitting IBEW Local 11 to use card check to organize the plant’s employees.

Let’s be clear – there is nothing illegal or even that surprising about this tactic. CEQA has  developed into a blunt tool available to any party with the imagination to wield it. IBEW has joined a club that’s not terribly exclusive, but is frequently successful.

Sadly, the outcome was predictable.

The citizens group filed a CEQA appeal. Kinkisharyo has opted to look for a new out-of-state location for its plant in order to meet Metro’s delivery schedule. And the 250 jobs that could have bolstered the High Desert’s economy will be welcomed by a state that doesn’t prize litigation over economic growth.

Loren Kaye is the President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education. This article originally appeared in Fox & Hounds Daily and appears here with permission from the publisher.

Now in California: Nation's Most Prominent Union-Oriented Prevailing Wage Scholar

A leading intellectual advocate for government policies that favor and benefit construction trade unions is on sabbatical from his home university and spending several months in proximity to one of California’s union-oriented labor institutes, the Institute for Labor and Employment (an affiliate of the Miguel Contreras Labor Program) based at the University of California, Berkeley.

IMG_5333Over the past 20 years, University of Utah economics professor Peter Philips has become the nation’s preeminent academic in support of government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wage”). Construction union leaders appreciate his studies that purport to show that prevailing wage did not increase the cost of school construction in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and other states in the 1990s. In addition, they appreciate his testimony before state legislative committees and local governments throughout the country. His article about prevailing wage in British Columbia was published this month, and his article about prevailing wage (“common wage”) in Indiana is supposed to be published in January 2015.

Some of his recent work has argued that California’s charter cities do not benefit from using their constitutional authority to enact municipal prevailing wage policies that deviate from state prevailing wage law. His study entitled The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities was published in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, described as “the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment’s top-ranked academic journal.”

(For a response to this article, see the www.UnionWatch.org article Journal Article on Prevailing Wage Debunked, But Only Outside Academia and my analysis entitled University of Utah Study on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Policies in Five California Cities: Not a Reliable Tool for Policymakers. Also, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 4th Edition.)

Professor Philips has also written studies on other construction labor issues. For example, he released The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in March 2013, when the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was opposing proposed changes to environmental laws that would hinder their ability to exploit these laws to obtain Project Labor Agreements from developers. This study was reported in www.UnionWatch.org in the article Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections(For examples of this practice of environment permit extortion, or “greenmail,” see the www.UnionWatch.org article Revised List of Union Actions in 2013 Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).)

Professor Philips reports that his study on the employment impact of solar power plant construction in California will be released in November 2014, in conjunction with a press conference in Oakland featuring the Sierra Club, Obama Administration officials, and construction union leaders. Most solar developers in California have signed Project Labor Agreements with construction unions to avoid delays caused by union objections to the projects under the California Environmental Quality Act. (See the www.UnionWatch.org articles Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting and Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants?)

On October 13, 2014, Professor Philips was the lecturer for a colloquium at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley entitled Prevailing Wage Laws in Construction: Wage Mandates as a Means of Promoting Collective Bargaining. Attendees appeared to be predominately graduate students and labor institute personnel, although a researcher of the union-affiliated organization Smart Cities Prevail was also there.

I reserved a spot in advance for myself, as instructed in the announcement for the colloquium, and no one hassled me about being there. In fact, Professor Philips asked me a question at the end of the colloquium. I was able to make a few remarks at a forum where different views about the fundamental roles of government and unions are probably quite uncommon.

Here are some of my observations from the hour-long presentation on prevailing wage by Professor Philips.

    Labor Institute director Michael Reich introduces Professor Peter Philips.

    Labor Institute director Michael Reich introduces Professor Peter Philips.

  • Professor Philips was introduced by Michael Reich, Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. They met in the 1970s in the very room where this colloquium was held 40 years later. Older generations seem to dominate the fading academic field of what was once called “industrial relations.”
  • Professor Philips genuinely believes in the “virtues” of collective bargaining and supports the concept of government intervention to encourage collective bargaining in the construction industry. He frequently refers to the development and support of “human capital” in a “turbulent” industry and believes unions fulfill that role by providing sustained employee benefits and training. One of his slides appeared to show a “Non-Union” maid throwing bathwater out the window with “human capital” in it. (A slide showing a union official throwing bathwater out the window with “taxpayer money” in it was not included in the presentation.)
  • He emphasized to the PhD students at the colloquium that “being effective” requires speaking and crossing three arenas: economic, legal, and political. This conforms to the contemporary idea of university labor institutes as not merely research operations, but activist programs meant to pursue advancement of society through a progressive political agenda. (Your tax money in action.)
  • He asserted that groups such as Associated Builders and Contractors (my former employer) and conservative think tanks claim to oppose government-mandated prevailing wages because of concern for fiscal responsibility, but in reality are motivated by a desire to eliminate government policies that allow unions and unionized contractors to be competitive. At the same time, he claims prevailing wage does not increase costs of construction. A few students asked about this apparent contradiction: why does government need to impose a prevailing wage to help unions if prevailing wage does not increase costs? In response, Professor Philips hedged his bets and suggested that prevailing wage raises the cost of construction about 5%. Then he claimed that prevailing wage opponents cite higher percentages of savings because 5% does not inspire elected officials to eliminate the policy.
  • He contended that “Merit Shop” was a much better “descriptor” for non-union construction than “non-union,” because in this system workers are paid “variegated” wages based on merit, rather than a common wage based on collective bargaining. (Obviously he does not regard this particular recognition of “merit” as beneficial to human capital.) He briefly discussed the rise of the Associated Builders and Contractors construction trade association from its founding in 1950 through its dramatic expansion in the 1970s as it worked with the Business Roundtable to curb inflation.
  • He contended that class lines were blurred in construction: someone who starts in the industry as an apprentice can become a company owner. This is a challenging statement for union activists and academic advocates of unionism who believe class consciousness is essential to establishing “workplace democracy” through collectivism. It reminded me of claims I’ve heard over 20 years from both union and non-union officials that the ultimate ambition of a union apprentice is to become a union business agent, while the ultimate ambition of a non-union apprentice is to become a company owner.
  • Professor Philips is critical of what he sees as non-union efforts to infect construction with “Taylorism,” that is, breaking the work process down into small distinct responsibilities within a mass production system. He sees “human capital” developed through comprehensive union-sponsored apprenticeship training as a contrast to Taylorism. He also describes the non-union business model as “myopic bidding,” which I took to mean narrow consideration for a specific project without consideration of long-term costs.

It seems that Professor Philips is spending some of his time in California working on a project to describe how the Merit Shop operates, with the intent of contrasting it to the alleged virtues of a collective workforce. Here’s how Professor Philips seems to perceive Merit Shop construction:

  • A large Merit Shop company has a core workforce of very-well-paid, exceptionally talented and motivated long-term employees who travel regionally to work on significant construction projects. Some of these workers participated in or graduated from union apprenticeship programs but ultimately become disgruntled with their unions for ideological reasons or personal grievances. They tend to be zealous backers of the Merit Shop movement.
  • Below these core workers are two systems: (1) workers hired through a traditional process of submitting resumes in order to perform single jobs and then casually released at the end of the project without health insurance or other benefits; and (2) an extensive “highly articulated” network of small non-union subcontractors, either self-employed or with a small number of loyal, closely-tied employees.
  • For training, Professor Philips claims that the Merit Shop wants government to provide subsidies to train workers in vocational programs, as opposed to choosing to fund worker training themselves through employer payments to formal apprenticeship programs.

While Professor Philips is in California, he would like to talk with some Merit Shop contractors about their business practices. Keeping in mind that Professor Philips has some presuppositions about labor relations (as all people have), you may contact me as an intermediary if you are interested in talking to him about your business.

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.


Documents Expose Union Lobbying Scheme to Control Water Project Construction

Union dealing and scheming over state legislation in California occurs behind closed doors. The sudden and unexplained recent flip of the union position on a state plastic bag ban is a typical example.

Rarely is the true story ever revealed to the public, who ends up paying for those secret deals.

2014-06-01 Alejo Email on AB 155 and PLA Mandate on MCRWA Interlake PipelineA rare exception has emerged with Assembly Bill 155. Based on information collected and organized about the union manipulation of the legislative process for this one bill, someone could write a dissertation about how a bill really becomes a law – at least in California.

Now at Governor Brown’s desk for signature or veto, this bill would allow the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use design-build contracting for a pipeline connecting two reservoirs.

Union lobbyists at the state and county level decided they would extract a union monopoly for construction of the project in exchange for letting the agency get its alternative bidding procedure. They had an ambitious member of the State Assembly eager to help them out. For the first time, a bill was advanced in the state legislature directing a local government to require a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of awarding its construction contracts.

2014-06-30 Alejo Wants to Get Going on PLA for Interlake Pipeline ProjectPolitical finesse is no longer required when you know you control the government. The behind-the-scenes union plotting and pressure became so crudely brazen that the Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors ended up repudiating its own bill.

AB 155 continued to advance through the legislature anyway, propelled by the momentum of union desire to get this Project Labor Agreement language into state law as a precedent for state mandates on future projects. Ends will justify the means if Governor Brown signs it.

Through diligent research and strategic opposition, advocates of fair and open bid competition were able to obtain enough documents to develop an extensive chronological chart revealing the entire plot, complete with links to source documents. The chart is below, or you can access a PDF version at “How Legislation Is Made (California Assembly Bill 155 – 2014).”

How Legislation Is Made (California Assembly Bill 155 – 2014)




May 14, 2014

California governments are encouraged to respond to a serious drought by initiating planned construction projects meant to improve water storage. The Monterey County Water Resources Agency and agricultural interests are inspired to resurrect a 1991 proposal for an Interlake Pipeline Project between the Nacimiento and San Antonio reservoirs and seek federal and state grants to fund it.

Relevant Material for May 14 Workshop and Meeting

May 23, 2014

A staff report about initial steps for the Interlake Pipeline Project is released in advance of a June 3 joint meeting of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors. It does not mention a requirement for construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of work.

Background for June 3 Meeting

May 27, 2014

A meeting involving top staff of Monterey County and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board is held “relating to proposed Interlake Tunnel Project legislation.” In addition, records indicate scheduling for a second “important” meeting on this date involving Lew Bauman and David Chardavoyne at the Tanimura & Antle corporate office. (It is suspected by some that this meeting – held outside of a government office – may have included Bob Antle and/or union official Ron Chesshire.)

Setting Meetings for May 27

Lew Bauman is the Chief Administrative Officer for Monterey County. David Chardavoyne is the General Manager for the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. Bob Antle was a member of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors and a prominent and respected local agribusiness executive and philanthropist. (He died on August 3.)
May 28, 2014

Ron Chesshire emails Lew Bauman asking which government entity – Monterey County or Monterey County Water Resources Agency – has responsibility for Interlake Pipeline Project. He indicates he’ll bring “a document” to a scheduled May 29 meeting. The email is also sent to “our attorney” Sharon Seidenstein.

Ron Chesshire May 28, 2014 Email

Ron Chesshire is the CEO of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council. Sharon Seidenstein has handled government-mandated Project Labor Agreements as an attorney at the union-oriented law firm of Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld.
May 28, 2014 Lew Bauman emails Ron Chesshire stating that the Interlake Pipeline Project is a project for Monterey County Water Resources Agency: “a separate agency for the County.” He provides an excerpt from draft legislation authorizing design-build contracting for the project. (This excerpt is a provision mandating the design-build entity to enter into a Project Labor Agreement that will bind all of the contractors performing work on the project.) Bauman also reports that the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will vote on June 3 to start environmental review and preliminary design for the project.

Lew Bauman May 28, 2014 Email

California law authorizes some state agencies and local governments to bid certain projects through a “design-build” procurement procedure rather than a traditional “design-bid-build” procedure. The government selects the winning bidder using somewhat subjective criteria and does not need to award the contract to the lowest responsible bidder.
May 29, 2014

Ron Chesshire emails Lew Bauman with new proposed language for the Project Labor Agreement mandate in the design-build authorization bill. He also emails it to Assemblyman Luis Alejo, Cesar Diaz, and David Armanasco.

Ron Chesshire May 29, 2014 Email

Assemblymember Luis Alejo, a Democrat from Watsonville, represents the Salinas Valley. Cesar Diaz is a lobbyist at the state capitol in Sacramento for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.  David Armanasco is a public relations executive who prepared the Monterey County Water Resource Agency’s $20 million federal grant application for the Interlake Tunnel Project.
May 29, 2014

David Armanasco forwards Ron Chesshire’s email proposing new language for a Project Labor Agreement mandate to Bob Antle, who forwards it to Bob Drake and Steve Wang at EPC Consultants, Inc. for review. Antle also forwards the language to Jack Baylis, Lew Bauman, and David Armanasco. Drake approves the language.

Internal Review May 29, 2014 for Chesshire Language 

EPC Consultants was hired internally by David Chardavoyne as program manager for the Interlake Pipeline Project. Some members of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors (as well as Ron Chesshire) criticized the timing and process of selecting this consultant. Jack Baylis is a construction consultant.
June 1, 2014 Ron Chesshire emails Lew Bauman complaining that the Board of Supervisors would not be voting on June 3 for “worker protection provisions,” i.e. a Project Labor Agreement. “I am waiting to hear from the State Building Trades Council whether the proposed attached language [for state design-build authorization] is legal/acceptable at the State level.”

Ron Chesshire June 1, 2014 Email

Assemblyman Luis Alejo emails Lew Bauman, Ron Chesshire, Cesar Diaz, David Armanasco, Tony Skinner, and Sharon Seidenstein:“Let’s work this our [sic] soon and have an agreement with our local Building Trades so we can have this project move expeditiously and with strongest level of support.”

Assemblyman Luis Alejo June 1, 2014 Email

Lew Bauman responds to Assemblyman Luis Alejo: “We have forwarded legislation to your office reviewed by Building Trade counsel. We are grateful to you for your assistance with expediting this critical water supply project.”

Lew Bauman June 1, 2014 Email

Tony Skinner is the President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 952 in Ventura.
June 2, 2014

Ron Chesshire emails Lew Bauman: “we believed we were submitting language for the County to approve. We are not sure what was proposed will fly at the State. The State Building Trades is working on something and will submit within the next day or so. What we are looking for is a commitment by the County…”

Ron Cheshire June 2, 2014 First Email

Cesar Diaz emails Ron Chesshire, Lew Bauman, Assemblyman Luis Alejo; David Armanasco, Tony Skinner, and Sharon Seidenstein: “Attached are our requested amendments/ changes to the draft language in order to address our request for a Project Labor Agreement. The language provides that if the design-build authority is utilized a Project Labor Agreement would be required. The Project Labor Agreement is to be negotiated locally with the corresponding Building Trades Council(s). Its [sic] straightforward, but please contact me if you have any questions or feedback.”

Cesar Diaz June 2, 2014 Email

Ron Chesshire emails Cesar Diaz, Lew Bauman, Assemblyman Luis Alejo; David Armanasco, Tony Skinner, and Sharon Seidenstein about a 2:00 phone call between him and Lew Bauman: “I reminded him that we are never assured of what the political winds in Sacramento will bring, there can be change. Therefore, it is up to the County to make an equal commitment as provided by the proposed language to the State. The Bd of Supes will meet tomorrow and may take action to move forward. If this is the case, at a meeting in the next week or two the Supes will need to consider approving an action to accept the conditions outlined in the proposed bill regarding the conditions of construction. When this is done there will be sufficient assurance of the County’s commitment.”

Ron Chesshire June 2, 2014 Second Email

June 3, 2014 An item related to the Interlake Pipeline Project is added late as an addendum to the agenda for a joint meeting of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency board of directors. After discussion, the boards vote unanimously to authorize environmental review and design of the Interlake Tunnel Project and develop a funding agreement for this work. According to the meeting minutes, Ron Chesshire says during public comment that his organization supports the project and “will work diligently to ensure legislation moves forward for the success of the Project. The Project includes two collective bargaining areas who may also be involved in its construction.”

Relevant Material for June 3, 2014 Joint Board Meeting

Public Meeting – Monterey County Board of Supervisors and Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors
June 9, 2014

Assemblymember Luis Alejo guts the contents of his Assembly Bill 155 and inserts new language authorizing the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use design-build contracting for the Interlake Pipeline Project, provided that the design-build entity signs a Project Labor Agreement binding all contractors on the project.

AB 155 is designated as an “urgency” bill to take effect immediately, which requires two-thirds approval of both the Assembly and the Senate. In the Senate, two Republican votes are needed to achieve two-thirds because of scandals neutralizing the votes of three Democrat senators. Democrats control two-thirds of the Assembly with two votes to spare.

Assembly Bill 155 – Legislative History

June 16, 2014 Ron Chesshire send this email to Assemblyman Luis Alejo, Bob Fredenburg, Tyler Blackney, Nicole Charles, Gina Moretti, Jamie Mori, Lew Bauman, David Armanasco, Cesar Diaz, Cesar Lara, and the offices of the five members of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors:

“Assemblyman Alejo, I have reviewed the current language of AB 155. As long as there are no significant changes I believe the State has done it’s [sic] part in assuring a safe, expeditious, project which will be free of undue disruption by writing in a Project Labor Agreement provision. My concern is that the County has not entered into any talks with us to date. To wait until a Bill is passed does not guarantee a fair negotiation it only ensures that workers are at a disadvantage if a Bill is passed. The County needs to step up to the Project Labor Agreement? I presented a standard “Draft” Project Labor Agreement to Mr Bauman. We would like to enter into immediate talks with the County because we believe they must also ensure the same protections the State is currently considering. If they accept I will inform you of any progress. If the County cannot or will not act we will remove our support for the Bill.”

Lew Bauman responds in an email that this is a proposed Water Resources Project, and not a County Project. David Chardavoyne, General Manager of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, is the “appropriate point of contact for development of a Project Labor Agreement.”

Ron Chesshire Email & Lew Bauman Reply June 16, 2014

Tyler Blackney is an aide to Assemblyman Luis Alejo. Bob Fredenburg is the chief consultant for the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee. Nicole Charles is an aide to Senator Bill Monning. Gina Moretti is an aide to Assemblyman Mark Stone. Jamie Mori is an aide to Senator Anthony Cannella.

Cesar Lara is the Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council.

June 17, 2014

Tyler Blackney sends an email to Ron Chesshire, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, Bob Fredenburg, Nicole Charles, Gina Moretti, Jamie Mori, Lew Bauman, David Armanasco, Cesar Diaz, Cesar Lara, Lew Bauman, Norm Groot, and the offices of the five members of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors: “I am scrambling to get the committee all of the need materials (factsheet, background sheet, author’s statement, letters of support, etc.), which are due by end of day today. If your organization is in support of the measure and would like to be listed as such on the committee analysis, please send me a brief letter of support TODAY. Sorry for the quick turnaround but, due to urgent nature of the bill, we do not have much time.”

In another email, Blackney asks John Arriaga, “If you can also contact the labor folks and ask them to do the same (both local and state level) that would be very helpful.” It is copied to Bob Fredenburg and Laurie Johnson.

Staff Emails Plea for Material on Assembly Bill 155

Norm Groot is the Executive Director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau.

Laurie Johnson is a lobbyist with JEA & Associates, a firm that represents Monterey County at the state capitol in Sacramento.

June 18, 2014

Opponents of the Project Labor Agreement mandate in AB 155 use the meeting of the Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to launch their public attack on the bill. According to meeting minutes, “Kevin Dayton, President and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions in Roseville, voiced his opposition to certain components of AB 155, specifically referencing the design/build method of procurement. Mr. Dayton stated the Project Labor Agreement mandate and the restrictions imposed by it are at issue. He noted this is historical in the State of California as the first time this mandate has ever been included in a bill. He recommended removing this requirement from the bill to allow open bidding on the project or, alternatively, utilizing the standard authorization that has been utilized in other bills.”

Nancy Isakson of the Salinas Valley Water Coalition then stated that the Project Labor Agreement mandate in AB 155 was another illustration of lack of process. Ms. Isakson stated the Bill changes the Agency’s governing act and was not brought to the Board and/or public for proper vetting before moving forward.

Norm Groot of the Monterey County Farm Bureau said “politics is changing this” and the agency was “taking what Sacramento dishes out.” According to the meeting minutes, Groot declared “the agricultural community was angered this process was taking place without having been presented to the full Board first to ensure we were moving in the right direction. The community came together for the Salinas River Stream Maintenance Project. At that time the community emphasized they did not want Sacramento to dictate the direction. Mr. Groot stated this issue is similar and should have been brought to the community and BOD in a transparent manner.”

During a lengthy committee discussion of AB 155, staff revealed (as reported in meeting minutes) that “The language regarding the labor agreement was added in the process. The Building Trades Council added this to garner their support for the Bill” and “Our elected officials would not carry the bill without this being added.” Board member Bob Antle said that the union mandate was necessary in order to fast-track the bill and the project. He said the agency would lose seven to twelve months and would not be “shovel-ready” for grants: “Without union support, we can’t do it. It’s too late to push back; it really is.” He also reported that the head of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council said unions would oppose the bill unless a Project Labor Agreement was in it.

Relevant Material for June 18, 2014 Committee Meeting

Public Meeting – Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee

Nancy Isakson is President of the Salinas Valley Water Coalition.

Kevin Dayton is President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and the Dayton Public Policy Institute. He prepared this chart and reported on the AB 155 controversy in these four articles:

“Monterey County Water Resources Agency: Target of First State-Mandated Project Labor Agreement”

“Will a Few Republican State Legislators Open Floodgates for Costly Union Control of California Water Projects?”

“Monterey County Water Officials Abandon Bill After Unions Reshape It”

“Legislature Tries to Mix Union Mandates and Our Water Agency” page 11

June 18, 2014

Monterey County Board of Supervisors letter in support of AB 155 goes to Sacramento lobbyist John Arriaga for distribution at the state capitol. It comes with a report of trouble from county staff: “BMP Committee met this a.m. and has major concerns with the bill and the Agency Board may not be willing to sign a support letter.”

Warning of Trouble on Assembly Bill 155 – June 18, 2014

John E. Arriaga of JEA & Associates is a contract lobbyist at the state capitol in Sacramento for Monterey County.
June 18, 2014

Ron Chesshire emails Lew Bauman, David Chardavoyne, Cesar Diaz, and David Armanasco: “At a WRA committee meeting today opposition to our Bill AB 155 was aired by Don Chapin and Kevin Dayton. As previously conveyed, there are some who are in opposition to Project Labor Agreement’s. [sic] I will be very direct, WE will not accept ANY detrimental change made by them to the Bill or a Project Labor Agreement. They do not negotiate for us and we will not accept any compromise they provide. We have had to deal with them in the past and am familiar with their tactics and proposals. They do not speak for Labor and their so called compromises are nothing more than attempts to “gut” a Project Labor Agreement. I am waiting to hear from Mr Chardavoyne and it seems that Mr Antle may not have had the opportunity to convert Mr Chapin?”

Ron Chesshire June 18, 2014 Email on Opposition

Don Chapin, Jr. is President of The Don Chapin Company (a construction company based in Salinas) and a member of the Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee.
June 20, 2014 On behalf of the Salinas Valley Water Coalition (SVWC), President Nancy Isakson sends a letter to Assemblyman Luis Alejo noting the organization was not asked to provide input into the development of AB 155: “The SVWC’s primary purpose is to participate in the various governmental processes…Community participation is an essential element in any project, and critical to obtaining support for that project. Unfortunately the SVWC was not included in the development of a key element to building an inter-lake tunnel project that would benefit the Salinas Valley and the ratepayers of Zone 2C, and that is the drafting of AB 155.” 

Salinas Valley Water Coalition Letter on AB 155

But the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council and State Building and Construction Trades Council were included, from the beginning. 
June 25, 2014

California State Senate Governance and Finance Committee votes 6-1 to pass AB 155, with one Republican voting YES and the other voting NO. On this day it appears that at least two and perhaps three Republicans in the Senate will vote for AB 155, allowing it to pass as an urgency bill.

Assembly Bill 155 – Legislative History

Public Meeting – California State Legislature
June 30, 2014

According to minutes of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors meeting, “Nicole Goehring…questioned whether Directors were aware of the Project Labor Agreement included in AB 155 and behind-the-scenes meetings related to the legislation. Nancy Isakson, Salinas Valley Water Coalition, stated there was nothing on the day’s agenda regarding AB 155. Ms. Isakson noted the legislation passed the Senate Finance Committee and went straight to the Senate floor for consideration as an Urgency Bill at the beginning of August. Ms. Isakson indicated the public should have had an opportunity to openly discuss this legislation and requested updates be provided regarding the status of the Bill.” Agency staff reported to the Board that the agency “is being pushed to enter into a Project Labor Agreement…At this point it is unclear if the Agency can decline in utilization of the legislation…the Bill is not in its original form and staff does not support the changes.”

Relevant Material for June 30, 2014 Board Meeting

Nicole Goehring is the Government Affairs Director for the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. She wrote an op-ed for the Salinas Californian newspaper:“Something Fishy About County Water Agency, AB 155 & PLA”
June 30, 2014

Assemblyman Luis Alejo emails Lew Bauman, Ron Chesshire, John Arriaga, Cesar Diaz, Cesar Lara, Bob Fredenburg, and Tyler Blackney: “I haven’t heard of any progress on a meeting being set up with the Building Trades re the PLA…I am hoping this important matter can get resolved in July before the bill proceeds on the Senate floor in early August. Time is of the essence.”

Alejo also indicates that he will remove the urgency clause from AB 155 so that it can pass with a simple majority vote.

Assemblyman Luis Alejo June 30, 2014 Email – PLA Talks

July 9, 2014

The Salinas River Basin Management Committee of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency votes 4-1 to recommend to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors that it withdraw its support for Assembly Bill 155 because of the Project Labor Agreement mandate. Union officials and business representatives speak during public comment. This is the first public vote on AB 155 and the Project Labor Agreement mandate.

Relevant Material for July 9, 2014 Committee Meeting

Public Meeting – Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee
July 23, 2014

Ron Chesshire emails a 91-page package to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors rebutting organizations that criticize Project Labor Agreements.

91 Pages to Save Project Labor Agreement Mandate

July 28, 2014

After a staff presentation and extensive discussion, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency board of directors votes 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.

Relevant Material for July 28, 2014 Board Meeting

Public Meeting – Monterey County Water Resources Agency Board of Directors
August 12, 2014

As it becomes evident that Republican support for AB 155 has withered away because of aggressive lobbying by construction associations, Assemblymember Luis Alijo amends the bill to eliminate the urgency status that requires two-thirds approval in the Assembly and Senate.

Assembly Bill 155 – Legislative History

August 18, 2014

California State Senate approves AB 155 with only one Republican vote in support. The Republican who voted for the bill in the Governance and Finance Committee votes NO on the floor.

A legislative analysis indicates that AB 155 is supported by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union No. 234 and the California State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

Assembly Bill 155 – Legislative History

Public Meeting – California State Legislature
August 28, 2014

California State Assembly approves AB 155 on a party-line vote. No Republican votes for the bill; no Democrat votes against it. The bill goes to Governor Brown.

Assembly Bill 155 – Legislative History

Public Meeting – California State Legislature
September 5, 2014

An article in the Salinas Californian newspaper reports on public records that reveal union backroom threats and deals to get a state-mandated Project Labor Agreement in AB 155.

“Interlake Tunnel Sparks Labor Controversy”

September 13, 2014

An article in the Salinas Californian newspaper reiterates arguments of union officials for a Project Labor Agreement on the Interlake Pipeline Project. Ron Chesshire is quoted as saying the state should require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements “for all public projects as required under state public contract law.” Cesar Lara is quoted as saying “Any public project should have a Project Labor Agreement.” The bold agenda beyond AB 155 is revealed.

“Labor Agreements Key to Monterey County Interlake Tunnel, Unions Say”

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.

Watsonville City Council Rejects Accountability Measures in Union Deal

Tonight (August 26, 2014) the Watsonville (California) City Council voted 6-1 to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council for city projects with a cost exceeding $600,000. The (unsigned) Project Labor Agreement was provided to the city council at the meeting.

The city council also voted 7-0 for a vague adjunct “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council about promoting “pre-apprenticeship” training.

This vote was a follow-up to a city council vote on October 8, 2013 to proceed with a Project Labor Agreement policy. (For details, see Watsonville City Council Imposes Requirement for Construction Contractors to Sign Project Labor Agreement with Unions.)

Tied in with the Project Labor Agreement is a Memorandum of Understanding about creating pre-apprenticeship programs.  This MOU was poorly drafted and peppered with flaws:

1. It does not define a pre-apprenticeship program.

2. It establishes an “ultimate goal” for unions to develop a pre-apprenticeship program “for use toward meeting the City’s local hire goal,” but the city’s local hiring ordinance requires “qualified individuals” to be enrolled in a certified state or federally approved apprenticeship program or be classified as journey persons with at least five years experience in their craft. It does not recognize pre-apprenticeship programs.

3. It requires the City of Watsonville to provide the unions with contact information for community groups that “advocate for training in careers to better one’s life.” Why aren’t the unions aware of these groups already? And why doesn’t the MOU simply list local recruitment sources and community organizations acceptable under the city’s local hire ordinance? That ordinance – enacted by the city council in 2002 with backing from the same construction unions – requires contractors on certain public works construction contracts “to make good-faith efforts” to employ local workers “with the assistance of the Employment Development Department, and/or local recruitment sources, and/or local union hiring halls, and/or community organizations designated by the City to hire qualified Tri-County Residents…” Ironically, unions are regarded as one of the groups that advocate for training.

4. It cites alleged data from the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) that “community members” in and around the City of Watsonville showed “significant interest” in entering an apprenticeship program for the construction trades, but insinuates that unions can’t find these people without assistance from the city. Why can’t the unions use the data from this state agency to recruit people for their pre-apprenticeship programs?

5. The City of Watsonville only makes the unions accountable to the MOU to the extent that the unions have to keep a list of individuals who have “gone through the program” and give a report once a year to the city about “how the program has performed.” There is no independent evaluation of the program. Compare this to the local hiring ordinance, which requires contractors to do the following:

…keep, and provide to the City, on forms acceptable to the City, an accurate record documenting the good-faith effort of complying with the provisions of this Chapter. Said records shall include: a listing, by name and address of all local recruitment sources contacted by the contractor, the date of the local recruitment contact and the identity of the person contacted, the trade and classification and number of hire referrals requested, the number of local hires made as a result of the contact, and the identity and address of the person(s) hired pursuant to the contract.

When one city council member and one public speaker suggested that the Memorandum of Understanding should include more provisions for performance accountability, the head of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council complained he was being “torpedoed.” Union-backed city council members focused on rhetoric and praised the “innovative,” “groundbreaking,” and “historical” policy. After the vote, some of them posed for photos with the group of union officials who attended the meeting in support of the policies. Look for these photos in the next union newsletters and in future campaign mailers.


August 26, 2014 Staff Report for City of Watsonville Project Labor Agreement

August 26, 2014 Resolution to Mandate Project Labor Agreement on City of Watsonville Projects with Cost Exceeding $600,000

August 26, 2014 Memorandum of Understanding Between City of Watsonville and Monterey/Santa Cruz Counties Building and Construction Trades Council

Watsonville Municipal Code Title 7, Chapter 15 – Local Hiring – Contractors Providing Public Works and Public Improvements

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.