Journal Article on Prevailing Wage Debunked, But Only Outside Academia

A survey of academic journal articles in the fields of labor relations, labor economics, and labor history reveals scholarly consensus: union-backed public policies are good for the economy!

No one ever rebuts these journal articles, so they must be true. And why would anyone assume otherwise? As a union official said about one of these studies at a city council meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area many years ago, “It’s from a college. Written by a doctor!”

Public deference to college professors can be a powerful political weapon. For example, union lobbyists and elected officials across the country frequently cite a recent article published in an academic journal when arguing for policies that impose or expand “prevailing wage” laws on public works construction projects. It was written by a University of Utah economics professor and two other researchers and appeared in October 2012 in Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society.

This journal is published under the auspices of the Regents of the University of California by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, an affiliate of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program. This is one of the numerous taxpayer-funded labor institutes at state universities that produce studies meant to advance the union political agenda.

Slapping the university logo on such studies provides instant credibility that cannot be attained from the logo of an openly union-affiliated organization such as “The California Labor Federation Institute for Policy Research.” After all, the California Labor Federation does not have the scholarly cachet attained from faux-Gothic buildings, cap-and-gown graduations, or sports teams playing in bowl games or “March Madness®.”

Coasting on the reputation of the University of California, this highly-cited journal article “The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities” claims to prove that government-mandated wage rates on construction contracts have not negatively impacted bidding for public works projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It sounds like the economics is settled on government-mandated prevailing wage rates. Or is it?

You will not find many college professors who specialize in investigating and debunking the claims of university-based labor institutes. And the concept of “peer review” seems tenuous in an intellectual field where every expert necessarily holds the same enlightened ideology.

I don’t have any graduate degrees hanging on the wall or the honor of being called “Professor” by my community, but I pretend expertise on government-mandated prevailing wage laws in California. For example, I have written four editions of an influential but detested report on the issue, entitled “Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

With this feeble credential, I decided to take a closer look at what people with doctorates say about prevailing wage policies in California. In my first scan of the article, I saw numerous statements worthy of rebuttal, or at least quibbling. But one item caught my attention.

The study claims that the five cities used for comparison purposes – Palo Alto, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and San Carlos – are in Santa Clara County. But San Carlos is actually in San Mateo County.

Why does this matter? The California Department of Industrial Relations determines prevailing wage rates by obtaining the applicable union Master Labor Agreements for each construction trade or construction professional service occupation. It adds up all of the employer payments indicated in the union agreement, and the total of those payments becomes the prevailing wage.

This means prevailing wage rates are based on the geographical jurisdictions of each local union. While some construction trade unions have large geographical jurisdictions (some as large as the entire State of California), other unions have jurisdictions as small as one county. As a result, prevailing wage rates will differ for some trades even when job sites are only a mile apart, simply because they are in different counties.

Apparently the Utah-based authors of the study actually believed the union rhetoric that claims California determines prevailing wage rates by region based on surveys of employers. Actually, the state has not conducted surveys of employers to ascertain dollar amounts of prevailing wage rates in at least 25 years, if ever. (A few surveys have been conducted to determine which construction trade union has jurisdiction of a disputed job classification, such as installation of metal roofs or off-site hauling to-and-from a job site.)

This geographic error ended up as one of many identified mistakes. In the end, I outlined 17 problems with the journal article. Even the raw data set for the key city of Palo Alto appeared to be inaccurate and incomplete. If someone had the time and money to replicate the entire study, the whole thing would probably be exposed as false.

My report, entitled University of Utah Study on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Policies in Five California Cities: Not a Reliable Tool for Policymakers,” should create appropriate concerns about the study as policy guidance for state and local governments.

Will I seek to have the editors of Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society retract the faulty article? Of course not!

Even if I possessed academic credibility with a PhD and a professorship at a well-known secular liberal arts college, professors and administrators associated with university labor institutes are in cahoots with the union movement, sometimes explicitly through boards of directors, advisory committees, and funding sources. In academic circles nowadays the definition of truth is malleable, especially when progressive principles of social justice are at stake.

They’ll keep publishing, and maybe once in a while a layman will expose a flawed study or two.


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.

"Staggering" Cost of New High School in California: Project Labor Agreement Blamed

UPDATE – July 29, 2015: According to a Facebook post of the Ventura County Star VCS School Watch,” “about 140 workers are on site six days a week, preparing the $78.2 million Rancho Campana High School for its opening Sept. 2.” And according to a July 29, 2015 Ventura County Star article (“Frantic Pace Kept to Open Rancho Campana High“), “Assistant Superintendent Steve Dickinson said the total cost of the school will be $78.2 million, up from a projected $76.8 million earlier this year. He said most of the increase in cost is due to a decision to install pavers on the campus grounds instead of just concrete.”

These numbers are far higher than the “staggering cost” reported below.


Sometimes you can predict the future.

In the fall of 2013, business and taxpayer organizations warned the elected board of the Oxnard Union High School District in Ventura County (north of Los Angeles, on the coast) that it would endure reduced bid competition and higher construction costs if it required companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council as a condition of working on the Rancho Campana High School construction project.

The union-backed proposal abruptly emerged at the board’s October 9 meeting and consumed the board and district administrators for more than two months.

In 2004, voters had approved Measure H, authorizing the district to borrow $135 million via bond sales for construction of two new schools and modernization of existing schools. Ten years later, the district was ready to use Measure H bond proceeds to build the new Rancho Campana High School at an estimated construction cost of $42-45 million.

On October 23, the school district awarded a lease-leaseback contract for construction to the local construction company S.C. Anderson. This contractor then waited to see if a divided board would mandate a union Project Labor Agreement in its bid documents.

At their November 20, 2013 public meeting, board members bickered with district administrators and among themselves over language to be included in the Project Labor Agreement. They scheduled a special board meeting for Monday, November 25 at 5:00 p.m. to approve a final negotiated version of a Project Labor Agreement. Staff was told to clear their schedules to meet with union officials and representatives of the lease-leaseback contractor until a deal was reached.

Union political pressure made the deal inevitable. At its November 25 meeting, the board voted 3-2 to tentatively approve a Project Labor Agreement. On December 9, the district’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee voted 4-1 to recommend that the board reject the final Project Labor Agreement because of the likelihood of increased costs and other reasons. But on December 18, the board again voted 3-2 for the final Project Labor Agreement. Subcontractors then submitted bids to S.C. Anderson for 49 packages by the January 30, 2014 deadline.

When the board considered the Project Labor Agreement at meetings in the fall of 2013, the meeting room was packed – overflowing with union officials and activists. But only a handful of ordinary citizens were at the February 12, 2014 board meeting to see the results.

Staff presented a preliminary Guaranteed Maximum Price of $58,285,794, about 30% higher than the $45 million at the high range of the estimate.

One school board member called it a “staggering amount” and a “setback” for the school district. Staff for the district’s construction management firm identified four factors in a written report (and identified an additional factor at the board meeting) that likely contributed to the price far above the estimate.

The “biggest factor” cited was the government-mandated Project Labor Agreement. Local subcontractors told district staff and the lease-leaseback contractor that they declined to bid because of the district’s Project Labor Agreement mandate. Staff also insinuated that subcontractors for some trades became aware of the lack of bid competition and inflated their bid amounts. (Go to 1:15:30 of the board meeting video to hear these remarks.)

Most damaging was the electrical package, the most expensive of the 49 packages. There were three bids very close to each other, but those three bids were double the original estimate. Is it any surprise that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) aggressively lobbies elected officials at California local governments to mandate Project Labor Agreements?

This result is consistent with the results of a comprehensive economic study (Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California) published in July 2011 by the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego.  It concluded that the cost of California school construction under Project Labor Agreements is 13 to 15 percent higher than when school districts do not mandate Project Labor Agreements. Union leaders and their academic sycophants continually try to undermine the credibility of this study, but anecdotal evidence continually confirms that the study is accurate.

Project Labor Agreements cut bid competition and raise construction costs, for the benefit of unions at the expense of taxpayers. You can predict the future.

Sources

Minutes of November 20, 2013 board meeting

Minutes of November 25, 2013 special board meeting

Minutes of December 9, 2013 board meeting (includes Oversight Committee recommendation against the Project Labor Agreement)

Consideration of Approval of Final Project Stabilization Agreement for Rancho Campana High School Construction Project (Staff Report and Proposed Project Labor Agreement for December 18, 2013 board meeting)

Minutes of December 18, 2013 board meeting

Video of February 12, 2014 board meeting


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.

 

Construction Unions Should Fight for Infrastructure that Helps the Economy

One primary reason California has the highest cost-of-living (and cost of doing business) in America, combined with a crumbling infrastructure, is because California’s construction unions have allied themselves with environmental extremists and crony “green” capitalists, instead of fighting for what might actually help their state.

California’s construction unions ought to take a look around the rest of the country, where thousands of jobs are being created in the energy industries – really good jobs – doing something that actually helps ordinary people. Because the natural gas revolution unleashed in North Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio is creating thousands of jobs in those states at the same time as it lowers the cost of energy for consumers who struggle to make ends meet.

More generally, construction unions should remember that it is not only how much their own members earn that matters, but how much things cost everyone. If things cost less, you can make less yet enjoy the same standard of living. When unions fight for high paying jobs on projects that are useless, they only help themselves. When they fight for projects – such as natural gas development – that lower the cost of energy, they are helping everyone.

The California Public Policy Center released a new study this week entitled “The Benefits and Costs of Oil and Gas Development in California,” written by Dr. Tim Considine, an energy economist with the University of Wyoming. In the study, Considine estimates the recoverable reserves of shale oil in the South San Joaquin Valley to total 15 billion barrels, with another 10 billion barrels offshore in the Santa Barbara Channel, accessible now from land-based wells using slant drilling. At $100 a barrel, this is $2.5 trillion worth of oil. And where there’s oil, there’s gas – over 12 trillion cubic feet just offshore in the Santa Barbara channel. What are we waiting for?

Developing these sources of energy over the next 25 years in California, according to Considine, could create up to 500,000 high paying jobs in the energy industry and inject hundreds of billions of tax revenue into the state’s government. When are California’s construction unions going to fight for something that actually helps all Californians?

Instead, apparently, they are lobbying hand in hand with environmental extremists for a “Bullet Train” that almost nobody will ever ride – costing taxpayers over $100 billion so it can operate at a loss – and “Delta Tunnels” that will cost tens of billions and not increase the supply of fresh water in California by so much as one drop.

Can unions themselves be guilty of “labor malpractice”? Because unions are supposed to fight for the interests of ordinary people. They are not supposed to join hands with rich, elitist, misanthropic environmentalist fanatics who live in wealthy coastal enclaves, who would be thrilled if gasoline cost over $10.00 a gallon, and electricity rates were over $1.00 per kilowatt-hour. That’s where we’re headed in California if construction labor doesn’t wake up and fight for ordinary people.

Here are two visions of California’s infrastructure priorities:

(1) Spend $150 billion on a bullet train that almost nobody rides and operates at a loss, and build two “delta tunnels” that do not result in one drop of additional water storage or supply. Prohibit development of any fossil fuel reserves in California. Finance this prodigious waste of money through increasing taxes along with proceeds from “carbon emissions auctions” that enrich Wall Street billionaires and crony “green” capitalists. Continue to neglect California’s infrastructure.

(2) Develop California’s energy resources using private financing, creating hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs, generating hundreds of billions in tax revenue, and lowering the cost of energy to consumers. Use proceeds to help finance infrastructure investments that benefit all Californians:
–  New aquifer and surface water storage.
–  Desalination plants on the Southern California coast.
–  New power stations – natural gas and nuclear.
–  New natural gas pipelines connecting California to the rest of North America.
–  A liquid natural gas terminal off the Central California coast.
–  Upgraded freeways, bridges, and existing rail corridors.

Which of these visions delivers prosperity to the most people? Which creates more jobs for members of construction unions? Which reflects truly beneficial infrastructure priorities for California?

California’s construction unions have thousands of members who want to build and produce real assets. This distinguishes them from public sector unions, who have an incentive to deny infrastructure spending because it takes tax revenue out of their own pockets. Public sector unions use environmentalist extremists for cover – it justifies them keeping public funds for their pay and benefits instead of investing in infrastructure. There is NO identity of interests between public sector unions and construction unions, other than a residual ideological affinity that falls apart under logical examination.

Perhaps it is time for California’s construction unions, joined by people of conscience from all unions, to care more about all of California’s workers. Perhaps it is possible for construction union leadership to agree to disagree with union reformers on the issue of open shops vs closed shops, or project labor agreements vs. free and open competition, and at least recognize together that environmentalist extremists have too much power in California. They should be challenged, before more money we don’t have is spent on projects we don’t need, simply because it was politically feasible and created a handful of jobs.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center

RELATED POSTS

Bipartisan Solutions For California, October 27, 2013

Forming a Bipartisan Consensus for Public Sector Union Reform, January 28, 2014

Come to San Francisco for a Government-Mandated 35-Hour Workweek

Where in the United States can you get a government-mandated 35-hour workweek, like the French national government adopted in 2000 (but modified in 2008)?

Go to San Francisco and become a construction worker in the following trades on public works projects:

  1. Electrician: Inside Wireman
  2. Electrician: Cable Splicer
  3. Plumber: Air Conditioning & Refrigeration/HVAC – Service Work
  4. Sheet Metal Worker
  5. Terrazzo Worker
  6. Terrazzo Finisher

State law requires a 7-hour day and 35-hour work week for these trades in San Francisco on government projects or private construction projects receiving government financial assistance.

How does this happen?

Under California law, the state determines the government-mandated wage rate (“prevailing wage”) for construction trades based on the “modal” – that is, the most common – single wage rate. In practice, the California Department of Industrial Relations does not conduct surveys of contractors, contractor associations, or workers to determine the modal rate.

Instead, it assumes that the modal rate – and therefore, the prevailing wage – is the cumulative total of employer payments required in the applicable union Master Labor Agreement for that trade in that region for each hour worked. When the state looks at a union Master Labor Agreement to determine the prevailing wage rate, it dutifully incorporates all of the work provisions indicated in the union agreement. Here are some examples:

  • Section 1 of Article IV of the Inside Agreement between Local Union 6 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the San Francisco Electrical Contractors Association states that “Seven (7) hours shall constitute a day’s work: from 8:00 A.M. to 12:00 Noon, and from 12:30 P.M. to 3:30 P.M. five (5) days from Monday to Friday inclusive shall constitute the workweek. All work performed before or after the times specified above and on Saturdays, Sundays and the following Holidays shall be paid for at the rate of double time.”
  • Article 9, Section 52 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the United Association (U.A.) Local Union No. 38 and the Northern California Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA), the Master Plumber’s Association of California, and Independent Contractors states that “The regular workday shall consist of seven (7) consecutive hours…and the regular work week shall consist of thirty-five (35) hours of work…”
  • Item 7, Section B of the Union Agreement between the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union No. 104 and the Bay Area Association of SMACNA (Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors, National Association) states that “Commercial overtime in San Francisco shall be based on a seven (7)-hour day and not an eight (8)-hour day.”
  • Article XI, Section 51 of the Master Labor Agreement between the Terrazzo and Mosaic Association and the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3 states that “The regular workday shall be seven (7) continuous hours, except for one-half hour off for lunch…”

And yes, the 35-hour work week for these trades applies to contractors on public works in San Francisco whose employees are not represented by a union. Occasionally a contractor is caught by the City and County of San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) for not recognizing the 7-hour work day or 35-hour work week as part of the prevailing wage rate.

There are apparently some other American unions that have a 35-hour work week in their collective bargaining agreements. For example, the New York Times Company and its Newspaper Guild has maintained this shorter work week in their contract despite attempts by the newspaper in contract negotiations to change it to 40 hours. Employees at other New York City newspapers represented by various unions also have or had 35-hour work weeks. The New York City Housing Authority has a 35-hour work week for some positions.

But where else besides California does the government establish a 35-hour work week as a matter of law, even for workers not in a union?

35 Hour Work Week San Francisco


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 High-Speed Rail Business Plan Misrepresents Project Labor Agreement

Before submitting its business plan to the state legislature every two years, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is required to produce a draft and encourage public comments. Its new 2014 draft plan includes a deceptive paragraph touting the union Project Labor Agreement added to bid specifications without any public deliberation or vote. This deserves public comment.

Background on the Project Labor Agreement for California High-Speed Rail

At its December 6, 2012 meeting, the California High-Speed Rail Authority board voted for a fairly innocuous Community Benefits Policy that stated the Authority’s desire for “optimizing benefits to California communities, small businesses, and residents through participation of community-based small businesses and individuals in economically distressed areas in the construction of the system.” It was a scheme to provide legal backing for a union monopoly on construction of the California High-Speed Rail system, the most expensive construction project in human history.

In late December 2012, the California High-Speed Rail Authority staff added an addendum to the bid documents for the 29-mile initial construction segment of rail line between Madera and Fresno. Disguised under the name “Community Benefit Agreement,” the Project Labor Agreement mandated by the High-Speed Rail Authority is a traditional boilerplate agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California for construction companies and professional construction service companies.

For the agreements, see the December 26, 2012 Draft Project Labor Agreement as Addendum 8 and see the August 13, 2013 final executed version of the Project Labor Agreement for California High-Speed Rail.

To portray this union mandate as something that would help “disadvantaged” workers in California’s Central Valley to get jobs, the Project Labor Agreement included a section that set a goal for contractors to hire certain classifications of people (such as homeless, ex-offenders, etc.) from zip codes anywhere in the United States that would fall under a definition of “economically disadvantaged” or “extremely economically disadvantaged.”

Not surprisingly, the public responded with disbelief and derision to the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s absurd claim to be a solution to social problems by serving as an employment agency. For example, the March 4, 2013 Sacramento Bee article High-Speed Rail Project Targets ‘Disadvantaged’ Workers in the Central Valley reported the following:

In addition to veterans, former foster children and single parents, the classification includes high school dropouts, the homeless and people who have been convicted of a crime. “There’s another chapter in the high-speed fail saga, and I almost can’t do this one with a straight face,” Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, said in a recent installment of “Are You Kidding Me?” a video series in which Jones vents political frustrations. “What a social engineering disaster this is going to be, and add to California’s laughingstock reputation.”

The Sacramento Bee March 5, 2013 editorial Should Ex-Cons Get Dibs on Rail Project? was also skeptical:

People who are qualified, have been in prison and served their debt to society should not be denied a chance to work on high-speed rail or any other government project. But that they should be given preference above other equally qualified long-term unemployed is absurd…The real beneficiaries of the agreement are the state’s building trades unions. Embedded in the agreement are provisions that make it more likely that union workers will be employed on the project almost exclusively…

And that claim is true, of course. A line-by-line analysis of the so-called Community Benefit Agreement reveals its subtle, tricky language. Loopholes will allow unions to control the project workforce while avoiding the challenging task of overcoming the problems of individuals who have difficulty finding and holding decent jobs. For a comprehensive analysis of the Project Labor Agreement, see my January 11, 2013 blog post Analysis of the Phony Community Benefits and Other Provisions in the Union Project Labor Agreement for the First Segment of California’s High-Speed Rail.

What the Project Labor Agreement does achieve is a guarantee of construction trade union support for an extremely costly, unpopular, and troubled project. See my January 21, 2014 www.UnionWatch.org article Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed Rail.

For a narrative on how the Project Labor Agreement was apparently planned and implemented behind the scenes, see my April 29, 2013 blog post Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Which Elected Official Was the Catalyst for the Project Labor Agreement on California High-Speed Rail: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

What Does the Draft 2014 Business Plan Claim About the Project Labor Agreement?

Connecting California, the Draft 2014 Business Plan for the California High-Speed Rail Authority issued on February 7, 2014, states the following on page 23 about the Project Labor Agreement:

Additionally, the Authority Board of Directors has approved a Community Benefits Policy that will ensure that 30 percent of the hours will be performed by National Targeted Workers and that 10 percent of the hours will be performed by disadvantaged workers. According to the National Targeted Hiring Initiative, disadvantaged workers either live in an Economically Disadvantaged Area or face specific barriers to employment. The impact of the Authority’s policy will be most strongly felt in the Central Valley where the design-build contractors will be required to fulfill these requirements and where the majority of workers will qualify as disadvantaged workers. At the same time, the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board received a $1.5 million grant to train hundreds of people for jobs in constructing the project.

This paragraph is riddled with inaccuracies and distortions. If you choose as a resident taxpayer of California or the United States to comment on this paragraph, below is a list of some ideas worthy of your elaboration.

Problems with Draft Business Plan Description of the Community Benefits Policy

1. The vague and innocuous “Community Benefits Policy” adopted by the Board of Directors was in practice implemented through a Project Labor Agreement subsequently negotiated and executed between the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The Draft Business Plan distorts by not recognizing this.

2. The California High-Speed Rail Authority board has never commented on the Project Labor Agreement (aka “Community Benefit Agreement”), discussed it as a formal agenda item, or voted on it. In a January 16, 2013 email about the Project Labor Agreement to the former chairman of Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, the Small Business Advocate of the California High Speed Rail Authority stated that “The Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is an internal administrative document that was not necessarily intended to be circulated for public comment.”

3. As the implementation document for the “Community Benefits Policy,” the Project Labor Agreement (aka “Community Benefit Agreement”) does not and cannot “ensure” that any percentage of hours will be performed by any specific type of worker. It sets goals and requires signatory parties to “exert their best efforts,” have “efforts made,” make their best effort,” “make every effort,” “recognize a desire,” “acknowledge” goals, and “exercise full support of this policy.” The Draft Business Plan distorts by not recognizing this.

4. As the implementation document for the “Community Benefits Policy,” the Project Labor Agreement (aka “Community Benefit Agreement”) does not and cannot “ensure” that Central Valley workers from “Economically Disadvantaged Areas” will perform any percentage of hours. Workers from any “Economically Disadvantaged Area” in the country are eligible to fulfill the goals. The Draft Business Plan distorts by not recognizing this.

5. As the implementation document for the “Community Benefits Policy,” the Project Labor Agreement (aka “Community Benefit Agreement”) does not and cannot “ensure” that truly “disadvantaged” workers will fulfill the goals. First, a specific zip code may include households in dire poverty but also include households that are well-off. In addition, the nine categories of “disadvantaged worker” include a category for a military veteran of any background or an entry-level apprentice, who may come from any background. The Draft Business Plan distorts by not recognizing this.

6. The Draft 2014 Business Plan states that “the majority of workers [from the Central Valley] will qualify as disadvantaged workers.” This is conjecture – no one has been hired yet for any trade work. In addition, there is no indication of how many workers will actually be long-term residents of the Central Valley, how residency will be determined, or how unions will dispatch workers through the “registration facilities and referral systems established or authorized by this Agreement and the signatory Unions” as indicated in the Project Labor Agreement (aka “Community Benefit Agreement”). The Draft Business Plan distorts by not recognizing this.

7. The Draft 2014 Business Plan does not mention key provisions of the Project Labor Agreement (aka “Community Benefit Agreement”) related to union hiring hall dispatching procedures and mandatory employer and employee payments to union trust funds:

  • Contractors must “recognize that the Unions shall be the primary source of all craft labor employed on the Construction Contract for the Project” (Section 7.1) through a system in which “one Core Worker shall be selected and one worker from the hiring hall of the affected trade or craft and this process shall repeat until such C/S/E’s requirements are met or until such C/S/E has hired five (5) such Core Workers for that craft., whichever occurs first. Thereafter, all additional employees in the affected trade or craft shall be hired exclusively from the applicable hiring hall list.” (Section 7.1.2)
  • Employees must “comply with the applicable Union’s security provisions for the period during which they are performing on-site Project work to the extent, as permitted by law, of rendering payment of the applicable monthly dues and any working dues” (Section 6.2)
  • “All employees covered by this Agreement (including foremen and general foremen if they are covered by the Schedule A Agreement) shall be classified and paid wages, benefits, and other compensation including but not limited to travel, subsistence, and shift premium pay, and contributions made on their behalf to multi-employer trust funds, all in accordance with the then current multi-employer Schedule A Agreement of the applicable Union.” (Section 8.1) 

8. Although the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board did receive a $1.5 million grant to train construction workers, the Draft Business Plan does not indicate that training is being done through construction trade unions with additional requirements related to union representation. It does not indicate how much grant money is being transferred to union-affiliated trust funds or how trainees will pay union dues and initiation fees.

9. There are reports that the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board web site was not functional for months because of an alleged “backlog of registrants.” How many people registered, what was the extent of complaints that led to the shutdown and continued during the shutdown, and has this program adequately served the public? The Draft Business Plan neglects this issue.

10. Has the Project Labor Agreement (aka “Community Benefit Agreement”) been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, as required in Section 3 of Executive Order 13502? The Draft Business Plan neglects this issue.

How Do Californians and Americans Comment on This Matter?

To ensure that the public has an opportunity to respond, the Authority is providing five methods for submitting comments on this draft plan:

1. Online comment form through the Draft 2014 Business Plan website at http://www.hsr.ca.gov/About/Business_Plans/Draft_2014_Business_Plan.html

2. By email at 2014businessplancomments@hsr.ca.gov

3. By U.S. mail to the Authority:

California High-Speed Rail Authority
Attn: 2014 Business Plan
770 L Street, Suite 800
Sacramento, CA 95814

 
4. Voice mail comment at 916-384-9516.

5. Provide public comment at the Authority’s Board of Directors Meeting on February 11, March 11 and April 10.

The Draft 2014 Business Plan can be found online at http://www.hsr.ca.gov/About/Business_Plans/Draft_2014_Business_Plan.html

 


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

 

 

 

How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 3

This is Part Three, explaining how unions may attempt to win control of the construction and permanent jobs at the ancillary development around the arena. Part One explained the background of how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena itself. Part Two explained the union plot to monopolize the service jobs at the arena.

Factions in the Construction Industry: Trusting Pragmatism Versus Principled Cynicism

Leaders of the Sacramento regional construction industry were on the sidelines as the new ownership of the Sacramento Kings basketball team privately negotiated a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions for construction of the new downtown arena. Yet construction business associations such as Associated General Contractors (AGC) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) still supported the city’s plan for the arena.

In a pragmatic decision, these construction associations took the risk to trust that private developers for buildings near the arena will not require their contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements. This development will supposedly include 475,000 square feet of office, 350,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, up to 550 new residential units, and up to 250 hotel rooms, for a grand total of as much as 1.5 million square feet. Up to 11,000 jobs would result.

In exchange for acquiescing to the Project Labor Agreement on the arena, these associations expect fair and open competition for adjacent projects within the city’s Entertainment and Sports District. The Sacramento Bee reported this perspective expressed at a January 27, 2014 rally of contractors and union leaders in support of the arena:

John Cooper of Associated General Contractors said his group, which represents both union and nonunion builders, supports the arena project. “We see an opportunity for huge leaps and bounds when it comes…to job creation,” said Cooper, the AGC’s regional manager.

But Cooper said he’d “pull my support” if the ancillary development – a hotel, retail and more – isn’t open to all bidders. He said “I’ve been assured” there won’t be a project labor agreement covering this ancillary development, like there is for the arena itself.

Political consultant Chris Lehane, who is part of The4000’s leadership, said it’s “premature to ask those questions” about how the ancillary development would be built.

“Our focus right now is to make sure we get those 11,000 jobs,” Lehane said.

A handful of electrical contractors objected vehemently to this arrangement. They felt that allowing unions to have a monopoly on construction of the basketball arena would set a precedent for other major projects in the region. In addition, they did not trust union leaders or the politicians backed by union leaders to resist such a lucrative target once it was definite.

Dissenting from the major trade associations, these contractors individually provided enough campaign funding to revitalize a floundering signature-gathering campaign on petitions for a ballot measure for voters to establish a city charter provision requiring voter approval of a public subsidy for an entertainment or sports facility. Arena supporters feared – and arena opponents expected – that Sacramento voters would approve this check and balance against the proposed $258 million public subsidy for the basketball arena.

Enough signatures were collected to qualify the petition for the June 2014 ballot, but the city clerk disqualified the petitions because of numerous technical errors. The campaign then sued to overturn the city clerk’s decision, but a Sacramento County Superior Court judge agreed with the city clerk’s judgment and also ruled that the city charter could not be amended in this manner.

Can Unions Resist Grabbing More Work Through CEQA Greenmail?

Which of these two positions among bickering groups of contractors will be proven right? One possible indication of the future is an ultra-last-minute attempt by unions to amend a last-minute bill in the California State Legislature providing certain breaks to the arena and surrounding development from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the primary tool of unions to extort concessions from private developers. (This practice is known as “greenmail.”)

Late in the 2013 session, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) amended Senate Bill 743 to make some minor modifications to the California Environmental Quality Act and “expedite judicial review of the entertainment and sports center project” for the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Despite some griping from Left and Right, SB 743 passed 56-15-7 in the Assembly and 32-5-2 in the Senate. This occurred early in the evening of the last day of the 2013 session.

As the midnight deadline for legislative action approached, Assembly Bill 852 mysteriously appeared on the Assembly floor, courtesy of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). This bill supposedly made technical corrections to SB 743, passed earlier in the evening.

Reportedly a specific individual senior staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus became suspicious of the bill and investigated it. This staffer realized that it was some sort of union scheme to remove the CEQA breaks for development around the downtown Sacramento arena.

The Sacramento Bee described what happened next:

In a final flare of end-of-session drama, Assembly Republicans led the defeat of a last-minute labor-inspired cleanup bill related to legislation passed earlier in the evening to hasten the building of a new arena in downtown Sacramento.

Assembly Bill 852 surfaced late on Thursday evening, after both houses had passed Sen. Darrell Steinberg’s SB 743 to streamline the construction of a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. AB 852 was cast as a minor cleanup bill, making just a small change to the arena bill by further restricting which projects could be exempted from some environmental review.

It was requested by labor unions, Steinberg said, who feared that other businesses would get in on the streamlined environmental review procedures intended for the arena.”The concern from labor was that Wal Mart and the big box stores could potentially take advantage of that part of (SB) 743 to get an exemption,” he said.

The 2013 legislative session wrapped up in anger and partisan rancor as the Assembly Republican leadership refused to support AB 852 and accused the Democrats of trickiness. The bill only received 28 votes in the Assembly, and the legislature adjourned for the year with SB 743 intact.

Of course, there was no plan for a Wal-Mart next to the Kings arena. But the distaste of the Left for Wal-Mart provided a politically-potent rationale to “fix” SB 743. An article in Salon provided a perspective on SB 743 otherwise neglected by the news media:

Along with special exceptions for a new stadium for Sacramento’s basketball team, the new law restricts some grounds for CEQA lawsuits. “It’s going to give much more leeway to big companies to just come in and ram these projects through,” said James Araby, who directs the Western States Council of the United Food & Commercial Workers union…

The UFCW and Wal-Mart – and allies on both sides – faced off with particular fury not long before the final SB 743 vote, as legislators considered language labor argued was needed to stop the bill from becoming a loophole for unchecked Wal-Mart expansion…

[Assemblymember Lorena] Gonzalez, a former labor council secretary-treasurer, told Salon that in fights with Wal-Mart, “one of the only tools we’ve been able to use is CEQA, and specifically the traffic impact of Wal-Mart.” Following what she called “massive lobbying by the Chamber of Commerce” and “mainly by Wal-Mart,” the labor-backed amendment failed.

An official with the union-aligned Planning and Conservation League acknowledged in the article that “We all know that Wal-Mart is one of the biggest targets of CEQA lawsuits.”

Is it likely that the amendments backed by the United Food & Commercial Workers union will reappear at the last minute in a budget trailer bill or some other gut-and-amend bill in 2014? Of course it is, and every union will benefit from ending the CEQA break.

More evidence that unions will use environmental laws to target the ancillary development around the Kings arena comes from comments submitted to the City of Sacramento concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Entertainment and Sports District. As noted in Part 2, the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 49 submitted objections to the report along with remarks about wanting to retain and represent service workers at the new arena.

In addition, a group called Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity submitted objections in conjunction with a demand for a “Community Benefits Agreement” that developers must sign for ancillary development. That agreement, modeled on the L.A. Live Community Benefits Agreement for development around the Staples Center, could guarantee “union jobs” for hotels, restaurants, janitors, parking attendants, and construction trade workers, among various occupations.

Perhaps the biggest threat to the downtown arena is the possibility that SB 743 is unconstitutional and that the arena doesn’t even qualify under the criteria in SB 743. If a court agreed with either of these claims, the environmental review would probably need to start from the beginning.

How will the Sacramento Kings basketball team ownership and the City of Sacramento respond to these costly union demands, packaged with the grounds for potential environmental lawsuits? If unions exploit the weakness of SB 743, they may get the whole package – provided the resulting cost increase allows the Entertainment and Sports District to get built in the first place.

The Three-Part Series: How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento

1. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 1

(how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena)

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

(how unions are likely to win representation of the food and service workers at the new downtown Sacramento arena)

3. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 3

(how unions will likely target the ancillary development around the arena)

Sources

Union Leaders and Building Contractors Rally in Support of ArenaSacramento Bee – March 11, 2014

UNITE HERE Local 49 comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report

Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report

California Senate Bill 743

California Assembly Bill 852

Legislature Rejects Late Night Attempt to Tweak Kings Arena BillSacramento Bee – September 12, 2013

Very Sneaky, Walmart: How The Mega-Retailer Rolled Back California RegulationsSalon – October 14, 2013

Regional Sports and Entertainment Facilities in the Urban Core Attract Costly Political Meddling: Sacramento Kings as a Case Studywww.FlashReport.org – December 16, 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.

 

 

 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holding Up the New Arena with Environmental Objections

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

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

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

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

State Legislation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Litigation

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

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

Pressure from the Sacramento City Council

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

Senate Bill 71 (2013)

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

 


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

 

 

 

How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 1

Proponents of a proposed $447 million new “entertainment and sports center” in downtown Sacramento for the Kings professional basketball team claim the arena itself would generate over 4,000 full-time jobs, including employees hired temporarily for construction, employees for operations of the arena, and other outside service jobs related to arena events and activities. Proponents also claim that 11,700 total jobs would be created through construction and permanent employment at ancillary downtown development around the arena.

Unions want to represent every one of those workers who are not legitimately classified as management. Their plan is not to attain control of these jobs through merit or through selling the benefits of unionism to workers, but through backroom deals. These deals include an already-implemented Project Labor Agreement, a proposed Community Benefit Agreement, and other side agreements for employee retention and employer neutrality in organizing campaigns.

This is Part One, explaining the background of how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena itself. Part Two will explain the union plot to monopolize the service jobs at the arena. Part Three will address the construction and permanent jobs at the ancillary development around the arena.

Kings Arena

Construction of the Arena

Project Labor Agreement Long Expected

As far back as October 2003, Sacramento construction trade union officials were alluding to their desire for a Project Labor Agreement on a possible new Kings basketball arena. Groups such as the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Western Electrical Contractors Association began efforts to try to preserve fair and open competition.

For union leaders, it would be a matter of pride to declare this high-profile project as built exclusively by union workers. In addition, the sheer size of the project would pour large amounts of money into union political operations via dues and employer payments to labor-management cooperation committees. It would help all unions in the region to accelerate the political conversion of Sacramento’s suburbs from Republican federal, state, and local representation to union-backed Democrat representation.

For more detail on this early stage of the fight for fair and open competition on a new Sacramento Kings arena, see The Union Quest for a Project Labor Agreement on a New Sacramento Kings Basketball Arena: Part One – 2006

An Attempt to Prohibit Project Labor Agreements in the City of Sacramento Fails

In 2011, a coalition of construction associations, taxpayer groups, and other business interests collected signatures on petitions for ballot measures to prohibit the County of Sacramento and the City of Sacramento from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements as a condition of work. Local governments throughout the state were adopting these “Fair and Open Competition” policies through voter initiatives or elected boards.

Unions responded with a massive radio advertising campaign to scare people into not signing petitions, along with relentless in-person harassment of signature gatherers and other antics to interfere with the campaign. Then they shoved a last-minute gut-and-amend bill through the California legislature (Senate Bill 922) that nullified all Fair and Open Competition charter provisions and ordinances for counties and general law cities. It also cut off state funding to charter cities that had such policies. Because Sacramento was a charter city, the Fair and Open Competition – Sacramento campaign continued to collect signatures for the city ordinance. It submitted petitions with a total number of signatures well over the amount needed, but the measure failed to qualify in January 2012 because an astonishing number of the signatures were not valid. Union leaders gloated.

The Way Is Clear for a Project Labor Agreement

With voters no longer a threat to the union goal to impose a Project Labor Agreement, plots could proceed. A March 2012 resolution for an arena deal with potential team owners (which subsequently derailed) had an unannounced and unexpected provision for a Project Labor Agreement and Community Benefit Agreement tacked on the end through a city councilmember’s amendment, with no opportunity for public comment. See Out of Nowhere: Project Labor Agreement and Community Benefit Agreement Tacked on End of Motion for New Sacramento Kings Basketball Arena.

A “Request For Proposal For Lead Contractor” issued on June 21, 2013 by a new set of team owners informed prospective respondents that “The Contractor shall also meet and negotiate with local labor regarding a possible Project Labor Agreement for the ESC,” that is, the “entertainment and sports center.” In addition, respondents are asked to “Please describe your experience, if any, with labor on construction projects in northern California including, without limitation, negotiations with labor and the results, the size of the project, and project labor agreements.”

Announcement of a Backroom Union Deal

The public relations firm told us to celebrate the Project Labor Agreement.

The public relations firm told us to celebrate the Project Labor Agreement.

On September 4, 2013, a public relations firm hired by the Sacramento Kings (Mercury Public Affairs) informed local news media with only a few hours notice about a press conference to announce a special deal with the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building and Construction Trades Council. This deal was the long-anticipated Project Labor Agreement.The press conference featured Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, top union officials, and top Kings team officials. Their consultants were even successful in “working on getting a few women there.” But also in attendance at the press conference were uninvited protesters from local non-union construction companies.

These opponents of the backroom union deal spoiled the visual impact by holding signs and banners on the balconies overlooking the atrium where the press conference was held. At the end of the official press conference, protesters then held their own impromptu press conference (using their opponents’ unsecured audio equipment) to condemn the Project Labor Agreement and call for the arena to be built instead in the suburbs, away from union influence and backroom deals. This high-profile celebration of union political power turned into a debacle.

Protest of Sacramento Kings Arena Project Labor Agreement - September 4, 2013

Following the press conference, non-union contractors circulated a memo entitled “Eight Steps to Possibly Alleviate Taxpayer and Contractor Outrage about the Backroom Deal for a Project Labor Agreement on Construction of the Sacramento Kings Arena.” Neither the Kings nor the City of Sacramento responded.

Motivation for the Backroom Union Deal

Although no one directly involved in the proposal, negotiation, or execution of the Project Labor Agreement has explicitly admitted it in public, most informed observers claim the union deal was mainly intended to neutralize the threat of construction unions exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to delay permitting for the arena through comments, appeals, and lawsuits. Political and business leaders recognized that construction trade unions in Sacramento routinely engage in “greenmail” to hold up projects until the developer provides economic concessions (usually a Project Labor Agreement). Some recent examples within the City of Sacramento included the Railyards project and the Greenbriar and Delta Shores developments.

Once unions had control of the arena construction work, their lobbyists at the state capitol had no objections when State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (who represents downtown Sacramento) pushed through a bill (Senate Bill 743) in the last days of the 2013 California legislative session. This bill provided special breaks under CEQA to the Kings arena to hinder the efforts of other interest groups to hold up the project with environmental objections.

Perhaps this scheme satisfied construction unions, but it did not discourage Unite Here Local No. 49 from submitting objections to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Kings Arena. Nor did SB 743 discourage community organizations from submitting objections to the DEIR with the open intent of seeking a Community Benefit Agreement for the ancillary development around the arena.

Other parties even asserted in their DEIR comments that SB 743 was unconstitutional and that the arena did not actually qualify as a project under the criteria set in SB 743. If a court later agrees with these claims, a new environmental impact report will need to be drafted, and SB 743 will ironically end up jeopardizing the project altogether.

No Public Accountability or Transparency Allowed

To this day, the Sacramento City Council has never discussed or voted on the Project Labor Agreement. Even more offensive, the Project Labor Agreement has never been released for the public to review, despite Mayor Johnson citing the agreement in his State of the City address on February 12. Tweets from the State of the City event indicated that some people misheard Mayor Johnson claim that arena construction would employ “sex-offenders,” although the Project Labor Agreement apparently includes a provision to employ “ex-offenders.”

Rumors get started when backroom deals remain a secret even as they are promoted as policy accomplishments. Why is it so important to withhold this celebrated deal on a public works project from the people who will be paying for a majority of it, plus the interest on the money borrowed through the city’s sale of revenue bonds?

In addition to being an accomplishment of the city’s chief elected executive, the mysterious Project Labor Agreement has also become relevant for litigation in the state courts involving the city. The Sacramento-Sierra’s Building and Construction Trades Council cited the Project Labor Agreement as the basis for justifying its February 14, 2014 amicus brief in defense of the city’s decision not to qualify a ballot measure requiring voter approval of public subsidies for the arena.

A request to the City of Sacramento for the Project Labor Agreement under the authority of the California Public Records Act failed to produce it.

Cost Impact Is Likely But Not Acknowledged to Date

A non-binding term-sheet between the Kings and the City of Sacramento dated March 26, 2013 provides for a $258 million subsidy for the Entertainment and Sports Center. Under state law, this subsidy means that the arena is a public works project, and contractors would be required to pay prevailing wage rates based on union labor agreements.

The Project Labor Agreement will go beyond this wage requirement to cut bid competition and raise costs even further. As an additional contractual obligation, the Project Labor Agreement will require contractors to obtain workers from unions and pay fringe benefits and other payments into union trust funds.

Various studies, anecdotes, and common sense have suggested that Project Labor Agreements raise the cost of construction projects by about 15%. The March 26, 2013 non-binding term sheet for the arena stated a total cost of $447 million. Did that amount account for the reduction in bid competition resulting from a Project Labor Agreement mandate?

An Aggressive Response from Supporters of Fair and Open Competition

In Sacramento, non-union contractors dominate electrical work on public works and commercial construction. Knowing that public opinion in the City of Sacramento is strongly against providing $258 million in public funding to billionaire team owners and professional basketball players, a group of large Sacramento-based non-union contractors provided essential funding to a new organization (Voters for a Fair Arena Deal) created to finish collecting signatures on petitions to put a measure on the June ballot to require a citizen vote to authorize any public subsidies for entertainment and sports facilities.  Residents of the City of Sacramento await a judge’s ruling on whether they will get to vote in June on this ballot measure. (See “Voter Approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act”)

On February 26, 2014, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge agreed with the City of Sacramento and ruled that petitions for a vote on public subsidies contained too many inconsistencies and interfered with the city’s charter authority. Citizens will not have a chance to vote on the public subsidy, whether it is $258 million or some other amount in the end. See the decision in Camacho v. Concolino.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction is demanding that the Sacramento Kings ownership and the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building and Construction Trades Council immediately release to the public a copy of the alleged Project Labor Agreement for the proposed Kings Arena. It threatens to file a lawsuit against the City of Sacramento to get it.

Such a lawsuit could expose some embarrassing background about how and why unions obtained a monopoly on arena construction. In 2013, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction sued the City of San Diego to obtain the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion Project Labor Agreement, another Project Labor Agreement negotiated and executed in a secret backroom deal. In the process, the coalition obtained the actual union deal and the complete list of political payoffs to unions from the San Diego Mayor’s office.


Sources

Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California – study by National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego – July 2011

Proposed, Non-Binding Terms of a Potential Transaction – term sheet between the City of Sacramento and an investor group in order to retain the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball franchise and to develop a new Entertainment and Sports Center (ESC) in downtown Sacramento.

The Renaissance Report economic analysis of the impact of the new entertainment and sports center and related downtown development to Sacramento.

Mayor Kevin Johnson Announces Project Labor Agreement at September 4, 2013 Press Conference, Opposition Has One Too

Senate Bill 743 (2013)

Senate Bill 922 (2011)

Regional Sports and Entertainment Facilities in the Urban Core Attract Costly Political Meddling: Sacramento Kings as a Case Study – www.FlashReport.org – December 16, 2013

September 4, 2013 Sacramento Kings Arena Project Labor Agreement Final Press Kit – “Great…let’s circulate to key folks.”

September 3, 2013 Sacramento Kings Arena Project Labor Agreement Press Conference – “working on getting a few women there” Re Labor Presser Check-In 

September 4, 2013 – Press Conference Announcing Project Labor Agreement for New Sacramento Kings Arena – Final Press Kit

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Calls for Public Access to Backroom Union Deal Imposed on Proposed Sacramento Kings Arena – Press Release – February 19, 2014

February 14, 2014 – Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council – Amicus Curiae – Kings Arena Vote

January 31, 2014 Unite Here Local 49 CEQA Comments – Sacramento Kings Arena Draft Environmental Impact Report


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

 

Sabotaged: North Bay Business Journal On-Line Poll on Project Labor Agreement

On January 22, 2014, the North Bay Business Journal (covering Sonoma, Marin, and Napa counties in California) began an on-line “Pulse Poll” asking readers to vote on whether they supported a proposed government mandate for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on Sonoma County projects over $10 million. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors had scheduled a vote on the policy for its January 28 meeting.

The number of votes accelerated rapidly as word of the poll spread throughout the country. Tweets were sent from union organizations as far away as Philadelphia and New Hampshire urging people to vote.

By January 26, there were 10,068 Yes votes and 8,620 No votes, with a small number of people voting “I Don’t Know.”

Over the weekend, the number of Yes votes surged. Then on January 27 the North Bay Business Journal suspended the poll and posted this message:

To our readers,

Our online reader poll on project labor agreements, an issue that is now before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, drew an approximately 26,000 votes since launched Wednesday, Jan. 22. Thank you to all of you who participated with your vote on this important issue.

However, based on a review of the voting traffic patterns of the poll, we have concluded that the system in place to ensure a single vote from a single browser was compromised. Thus, the poll results — and any conclusions one tries to draw from them for or against — are invalid.

Again, thank you to our readers who took the time to vote.

Brad Bollinger, Publisher
Jan. 27, 2014

It was only an unscientific on-line poll conducted by a suburban weekly business newspaper with circulation between 6,000 and 8,000. But based on this incident, would you be in favor of an “Employee Free Choice Act” that would allow “card check” union organizing to replace a secret ballot election for unionization overseen by the National Labor Relations Board?

The board approved the Project Labor Agreement policy on a 4-0 vote.


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

Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed Rail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fresno Business Journal reported this about the press conference:

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

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

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

Bullet train path through Kings County farmland.

Bullet train path through Kings County farmland.

Sources

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

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

Election Results by County: Proposition 1A (2008)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California High-Speed Rail Scam

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

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

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

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

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

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

California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements – September 17, 2013

 


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

 

2013: A Dismal Year for Freedom in California Public Works Construction

Elections matter. The November 2012 election was a disaster on the state and local level for advocates of economic and personal freedom in California. It was a culmination of setbacks going back to the November 1996 election and only mildly interrupted by the recall of Governor Gray Davis in October 2003.

Construction trade unions entered the year confident about their political preeminence. How could they not be, with a pro-union Democrat two-thirds super-majority in the California State Assembly and the California State Senate? Here are excerpts from “Prevailing Wage: Moving Forward in California, Backward in Other States,” the monthly column from the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California for July 2013:

California’s working people have fought together with a tenacious resolve and unity in recent election cycles to elect forward-looking individuals to our Legislature and statewide offices, and we are now working hard as ever to enact good new laws that will secure them a better standard of living. It is gratifying to know that the future is looking brighter for hard-working Californians. But when I read news from elsewhere, I am saddened to see that in many other states, the ultra-rich big business interests are pushing workers backwards, removing hard-won worker protections and slashing their wages, lowering their quality of life and prospects for the future…These attacks on working people around the country illustrate the importance of our work here in California, where we want to protect and expand prevailing wages for workers…We, all of the Building Trades, and each individual local union, fought hard to defeat Proposition 32, which tried to silence our voice. We worked tirelessly to elect public officials that would listen to the concerns of everyday blue collar workers. When we compare these worthy actions with the sad developments in many other states, we see the clear benefits of our unity and activism, and the price Californians could pay if we ever fail to be vigilant, vigorous and united in our fight for a decent quality of life.

As the new head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (previously the head of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council), Robbie Hunter had something to prove. And he did it.

Has Labor Leader Overreached?” was the provocative headline of an October 9 column written by Dan Morain in the Sacramento Bee. Morain reported on the ambitious legislative agenda of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and concluded with this thought: “as he seeks to leave his mark, Hunter risks a backlash from powerful forces.”

Hunter didn’t overreach. Governor Brown signed several key union-backed bills, in particular Senate Bill 7, which cuts off state construction funds to charter cities that exercise their right under the California Constitution to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) on purely municipal government construction and private projects receiving city financial assistance. In the article “Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill,” Capitol Weekly called SB 7 “arguably the most important bill to emerge this year from the Legislature” – for good reason.

Meanwhile, 2013 set a new record for the number of Project Labor Agreements adopted by California state and local government agencies that construction contractors will have to sign with unions as a condition of working on taxpayer-funded projects. Most disturbing was that four of those Project Labor Agreements were implemented without any public deliberation or votes. (See the September 17, 2013 article “California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements” in www.UnionWatch.org.)

Advocates of fair and open competition and fiscal responsibility in the California construction industry fought aggressively to derail the construction union agenda at the state and local level. But their victories were mainly defensive or related to the public exposure of backroom union deals. It will be interesting to see if California shows a significant gain in 2013 in the percentage of construction workers who are members of a union or are represented by a union. The percentage has been steadily declining for 40 years, as reported in the February 5, 2013 article “California’s Unionized Construction Workforce: Surprisingly Low Rates…and Dropping” in www.UnionWatch.org.

2013 Year in Review – Timeline of Political Activity at the State and Local Level for California Public Works Construction

Date

Accomplishment for Advocates of Economic and Personal Freedom

Accomplishment for Construction Trade Unions

January 22 Newport Beach City Council votes 7-0 to exercise its constitutional right as a charter city to establish its own policy concerning government-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”).  
January 27   In response to an administrative appeal from construction unions, the California Department of Industrial Relations reverses an earlier prevailing wage determination and declares that a proposed hotel and restaurant at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding is a public works project and therefore subject to state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”). The developer then suspends the planned project because of the increased cost of construction.
February 12   Board of Lynwood Unified School District votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure K projects.
February 13   Board of Ohlone Community College District votes 6-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure G projects.
March 19   El Monte City Council votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for all capital projects above $500,000.
April 8   Pasadena City Council votes unanimously to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement for the Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) had commented on Draft Environmental Impact Report.
April 16   Board of College of Marin votes 6-1 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for New Academic Center.
April 16 American Canyon City Council holds discussion of Project Labor Agreement for future projects but doesn’t take any action.  
April 18 The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction files a lawsuit against the City of San Diego to obtain withheld public records related to the imposition of a Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion. The city promptly releases a copy of the long-demanded Project Labor Agreement.  
May 7   Board of Harnell Community College District (in Salinas) votes 4-3 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for a new science building.
May 7 Board of San Joaquin-Delta Community College District receives presentation from legal counsel on Project Labor Agreements. No action is taken.  
May 15 Board of Coast Community College District (in Orange County) votes 3-2 to end consideration of requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure M projects.  
June 2 A Sacramento Bee investigative report reveals that the proposed $2.8 billion Morning View movie studio for the City of Dixon is a fraud. Local construction union officials were major proponents of the project and claimed a commitment for a Project Labor Agreement.  
June 3   Without a vote of the Judicial Council, the construction manager selected by the California Administrative Office of the Courts for the New San Diego County Downtown Courthouse enters into a Project Labor Agreement.
June 6   Board of Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority votes unanimously to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for parking structures at Milpitas and Berryessa BART stations.
June 7   Board of El Monte Union High School District votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure D projects.
June 11   Alameda County Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for capital projects above $1 million.
June 11   Marin Healthcare District votes unanimously to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for the Marin General Hospital Replacement project.
June 17 The California Department of Industrial Relations proves that state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”) are inflated by announcing a settlement regarding its determination of the San Diego Hilton Bayfront Hotel as a public works project. Workers on the project from 2006 to 2008 will be paid $8,072,273 to receive their full prevailing wage.  
June 18   Board of Alum Rock Union Elementary School District (in San Jose) votes 5-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure G projects.
July 2 Board of Harnell Community College District (in Salinas) votes 4-3 to rescind the requirement for a Project Labor Agreement it imposed at its May 7 meeting for a new science building. This is the first Project Labor Agreement mandate rescinded by a vote at a California local government.  
July 8 The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction triumphantly announces that it has finally obtained internal documents from the City of San Diego outlining a secret backroom deal for unions to drop lawsuits and environmental objections to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 expansion in exchange for facilitation of a Project Labor Agreement and other economic and political concessions.  
July 18 A proposed Project Labor Agreement on the North Bay Maintenance and Operations Facility, approved for negotiations on June 27 by a 5-0 vote of the board of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, derails after negotiations are removed from closed session and fundamental differences among negotiating parties are revealed during board meeting.  
August 5   San Pablo City Council votes unanimously to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement for future projects.
August 13   Without a vote of the board, the California High-Speed Rail Authority administratively enters into a Project Labor Agreement for all California High-Speed Rail contracts.
August 20   Board of West Valley-Mission Community College District (in Silicon Valley) votes 5-2 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for an upcoming “pilot project.”
August 27   Board of San Francisco Unified School District votes 6-0 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for Measure A (2011) projects.
August 27   Gov. Brown signs Senate Bill 776, which restricts contractors’ ability to take prevailing wage credits for employer payments to labor compliance programs. Eligible programs for the credits must now be established under a union collective bargaining agreement.
August 29   Without a vote of the Sacramento City Council, owners of the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team enter into a Project Labor Agreement for the city-subsidized Entertainment and Sports Center (a new arena). As of December 31, the public still did not have access to the Project Labor Agreement.
September 4 Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson hosts a press conference to announce a Project Labor Agreement on the new Kings basketball arena. Protesters distract from event and mar it by holding an impromptu press conference immediately afterwards to condemn the backroom union deal.  
September 10   San Diego City Council votes 5-4 to impose state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wage”) on city construction contracts after 33 years of setting its own policies. (Vote on first reading was on July 30.)
September 12   Board of Sacramento City Unified School District votes unanimously to extend a dormant Project Labor Agreement through the end of 2013 to allow time to negotiate a new Project Labor Agreement for Measures Q and R.
September 12   In the last hours of the 2013 legislative session, the legislature passes Senate Bill 743, which gives the Sacramento Kings arena special breaks for review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). With a Project Labor Agreement in place, unions allow this bill to move forward for enactment by Gov. Brown.
September 12 In the last 90 minutes of the 2013 legislative session, Republicans in the Assembly stop the last-minute union-backed Assembly Bill 158, which would have modified Senate Bill 743 – passed hours earlier – and restored full CEQA authority over development surrounding the Sacramento Kings arena.  
October 8   Watsonville City Council votes 5-1 for policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for projects with estimated construction cost of $600,000 or more. (Vote on first reading was on September 24.)
October 8   Mountain View City Council votes 6-1 to impose state prevailing wage mandates on contractors for private affordable housing projects receiving city financial assistance.
October 13   Gov. Brown signs Senate Bill 7, which cuts off state funding for construction projects to any of the state’s 121 charter cities with city policies that deviate in any way from state prevailing wage laws.
October 13   Gov. Brown signs Senate Bill 54, which imposes state prevailing wage law and apprenticeship laws on private contract work at refineries.
October 22   Long Beach City Council votes 8-1 to incorporate a Project Labor Agreement into the Request for Proposals for the new Civic Center.
October 23   Board of Alameda-Contra Costa Transit (AC Transit) votes unanimously for contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement for Bus Rapid Transit Project.
November 12 Board of Rancho Santiago Community College District votes unanimously to continue a practice adopted in August 2013 not to discuss its Measure Q Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session until the college chancellor gets legal clarification from the California Attorney General.  
November 13   Board of Antioch Unified School District votes 4-1 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions for new high school funded by Measure B.
November 14 Board of San Bernardino Community College District approves a plan for local hiring, local business participation, and training opportunities, without union favoritism or a government mandate for contractors to sign a union contract. Unions had actively lobbied for a Project Labor Agreement.  
November 19 In a primary special election for Mayor of the City of San Diego, former Republican Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher comes in third and fails to advance to the general special election. Fletcher changed parties and positions on issues such as Project Labor Agreements and government-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”). Political and business groups informed voters about Fletcher’s “evolution” on construction labor issues.  
November 20 Board of West Contra Costa Unified School District approves a deceptively-named report that reveals costs for construction far exceeded anticipated amounts. Contractors are required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions to work at this district.  
November 25 Ruling in two cases that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with state law, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge imposes significant obstacles to continuation of the union-only construction project.  
December 3   Alameda City Council votes 5-0 to direct Catellus Development Corporation to implement a Project Labor Agreement for the Alameda Point development at former Navy base.
December 3 Staff report to Berkeley City Council shows Project Labor Agreement failed to achieve any meaningful increase in local hiring and perhaps increased costs on some city projects. Despite a lackluster staff report about the existing Project Labor Agreement for city projects, Berkeley City Council votes by consent (unanimously) to extend it to 2015 and consider lowering project cost threshold.
December 4   Board of Solano Community College District votes 5-2 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions for certain projects funded by Measure Q, approved by voters in November 2012.
December 10   Legislative/Human Resources Committee of East Bay Municipal Utility District votes 2-0 to recommend that contractors sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for the Chabot Dam seismic upgrade project.
December 10   With their terms expiring, Gov. Brown replaces the last of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s fair-minded appointments to the California Apprenticeship Council with union officials.
December 11   Board of Southwestern Community College District (in Chula Vista) votes 7-0 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions for certain projects funded by Proposition R, approved by voters in November 2008.
December 12 Construction companies and trade associations opposed to the backroom Project Labor Agreement deal on the new Kings basketball arena provide essential campaign funding for the collection of signatures on petitions to allow citizens of the City of Sacramento to vote on a charter amendment requiring voters to approve public subsidies for sports facilities. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and supporters of a new Sacramento Kings arena (including union officials) announce the establishment of a political committee called The4000 to discourage voters from approving a charter amendment requiring voters to approve public subsidies for sports and entertainment facilities. “The 4000” refers largely to the construction jobs that unions will control.
December 12   Board of Hacienda La Puente Unified School District votes to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions to work on energy efficiency projects.
December 18   Board of Oxnard Union High School District votes 3-2 to require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreement with unions to build a new high school funded by Measure H. The board had convened a special meeting on November 25 to push for negotiations.
December 19   Board of Sacramento City Unified School District unanimously votes for amendments to contractor prequalification questionnaire to favor unionized contractors.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sources

Article XI of the California Constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Building & Construction Trades Council of California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wage Law Costs Cities More Than Money – op-ed by El Cajon Acting Mayor Bill Wells – UT San Diego – October 25, 2013


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

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

Security Industry Specialists – Union Facts (Corporate Site)

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

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

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

SEIU Protests at GoogleMountain View Voice – June 6, 2013

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

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

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

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

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


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

Union Backroom Deal on Convention Center Pays Off in San Diego

Only a few advocates of fiscal responsibility and limited government have comprehensively and widely engaged in the business of state and local governments in California over many years. They recognize with dismay that union leaders and their cronies have become adept at evading the constraints of republican constitutional government. Unions have learned how to circumvent the parts of the legislative process where objections can be registered in an official decision-making public forum.

State agencies and local governments are borrowing huge amounts of money from Wall Street through bond sales to fund construction projects tangled up in “Progressive” dreams to remake society through the coercive power of Government. The public can’t find out what is happening and lacks an effective legislative vehicle to stop it once they know. And the business establishment, union leaders, and politicians are fine with that. They don’t want “Tea Party” people spoiling the lucrative vision that future generations of California (and American) taxpayers will pay back, with interest.

The latest proof is in San Diego, where on October 10 the California Coastal Commission approved a request of the United Port of San Diego to amend its Master Plan to allow a $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and a new 500-room second hotel tower for the adjacent Hilton Bayfront Hotel. This ends legislative obstacles to the project. (There are still a couple of stray lawsuits for expansion supporters to fend off.)

As noted by local news media after the vote, in 2012 union leaders were the strongest opponents of the convention center expansion. UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 filed a lawsuit contending that the financing mechanism for the project was illegal. The San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and affiliated unions – through the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – submitted lengthy comments and exhibits claiming that the Port’s environmental reviews violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

No one was fooled into believing that unions wanted to protect taxpayers and save the planet. In June 2012, 58% of voters in the City of San Diego approved Proposition A, a “Fair and Open Competition” ordinance that prohibited the city from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

In response, the winning design-build entity for the project (selected somewhat subjectively through “best value” criteria) indicated in its proposal that it would be willing to work around the law if necessary. And of course it was necessary.

When the Board of Port Commissioners approved the convention center expansion and environmental review at its September 19, 2012 meeting, lawyers for unions submitted more environmental complaints. Lorena Gonzalez spoke out against it as the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. (She would be elected to the California State Assembly in a special election several months later.) During a break in the meeting for staff to analyze the new union objections, she was in the hallway talking with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.

On September 21, a scheduled meeting was on the mayor’s calendar to discuss a proposed deal emailed that morning from a private email account of his chief of staff to Lorena Gonzalez. Here are the terms of the deal:

San Diego Convention Center Union Deal

The-Moment-of-LIE-San-Diego-Convention-Center-Project-Labor-Agreement1-e1353109801912On November 8, Mayor Sanders, Lorena Gonzalez, and other key officials held a press conference to announce settlement agreements. Unions were withdrawing their lawsuits and committed to stop objecting to the project on environmental grounds. In response to reporters’ questions, it was admitted that construction companies would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to build the convention center expansion. (The San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council finally had to issue a press release on November 16 acknowledging and defending it.) Also on that same day, Mayor Sanders appointed Rabbi Laurie Coskey, the Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, to the San Diego Convention Center board of directors.

Protest Against San Diego Convention Center Project Labor AgreementOpponents of the Project Labor Agreement then held a press conference outside the convention center with hundreds of workers to condemn the deal. A web site was established called www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com to inform the public about the unsavory aspects of the planned convention center expansion.  And after months of fruitless requests for relevant public records, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction filed a lawsuit against the city and managed to obtain the actual Project Labor Agreement and a limited amount of evidence proving that a deal occurred between the mayor and the head of the unions.

It didn’t matter: for the pragmatists seeking to make money as a result of this expansion, deals with extortionists were simply a cost of doing business. Featured at the October 10 Coastal Commission meeting were hours of public comment from downtown business and union leaders supporting the convention center expansion, without one word mentioned about the union deals. (One unelected and unaccountable declared representative of the mayor’s office even made a strange financial commitment during the meeting of $500,000 of public money to something.)

At the end of the meeting, the very last speaker spoiled the carefully-constructed community consensus.

Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, used his brief speaking time to reveal the union abuse of environmental laws (aka “greenmail”), the backroom deal that gave unions monopoly control of construction and other privileges (including a specific political appointment), and the brazen circumvention of state and local laws. He submitted more than 700 pages of documents showing exactly what happened.

Establishment leaders in the room were livid. Union representatives booed and screamed insults after he finished his comments. One commissioner said he was new and inquired if the Coastal Commission had mandated the Project Labor Agreement. The commission then ignored the negative recommendation of its staff and unanimously approved the convention center expansion in front of the jubilant crowd.

Throughout this entire process, elected and appointed officials never held a hearing or voted on the settlement agreements, the union deal, or the Project Labor Agreement. It was all done behind the scenes through backroom deals without the knowledge of the public.

That’s the way business is now done throughout the state, whether it’s California High-Speed Rail, the new arena for the Sacramento Kings basketball team, a new courthouse built by the state judiciary branch, or dozens of solar, wind, and geothermal power generation projects. And the people in power are quite smug that their Progressive vision is finally becoming reality.


Sources

  1. Proposition A  – City of San Diego Fair and Open Competition Ordinance
  2. Clark-Hunt RFP to Manage Labor Relations for the Benefit of the City and Project
  3. Union Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Letter – June 29, 2012
  4. Union Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Exhibits – June 29, 2012
  5. Union Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report – Letter – September 19, 2012
  6. Scheduled Meeting for Union Deal – September 21, 2012
  7. Union Deal with Mayor’s Office – September 21, 2012
  8. Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – November 8, 2012
  9. Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – November 8, 2012
  10. Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – November 8, 2012
  11. Mayor’s Appointment to San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors – November 8, 2012
  12. Press Release of San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – November 15, 2012
  13. Lawsuit to Obtain Copy of Union Project Labor Agreement on San Diego Convention Center Expansion
  14. Project Labor Agreement for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion
  15. Letter of Support from San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – September 12, 2013
  16. Key Support Letters for Convention Center Expansion to California Coastal Commission

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 Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements

A common and enduring complaint of the political Left is that constitutional structures established in the country’s republican form of government hinder progress and subvert the democratic will of the people.

According to such thinking, those constitutional structures need to be reformed and modernized so that government can be more “democratic.” A few astute political observers in California have noticed that unions and their political allies are advancing strategies at the state and local government levels that effectively chip away at checks and balances inherent in the structure of American constitutional government.

One example is the end of public deliberation and votes for Project Labor Agreements in the legislative branch of state and local governments. Instead, backroom deals are made in the executive branch to give unions control of the work.

In the past year, Project Labor Agreements have been imposed on four large publicly-funded construction projects without any public deliberation or votes. In some cases, the public has been denied access to the Project Labor Agreement.

1. San Diego County New Central Courthouse
Judicial Council of California – Administrative Office of the Courts
May 2013
$560 million in public funds

San Diego County New Central Courthouse Project Labor Agreement

No formal public discussion or vote on it. Repeated requests at Judicial Council meetings and to Administrative Office of the Courts staff for a public vote have been futile.

How Project Labor Agreement was implemented:

Background:

  • Judicial Council of California Imposes Project Labor Agreement on San Diego Courthouse – www.UnionWatch.org – June 8, 2013
  • Courthouse to be Built Under Labor Pact – San Diego Union-Tribune – June 7, 2013
  • I’ve Failed So Far in Seeking the Project Labor Agreement from the California Administrative Office of the Courts for the New San Diego Central Courthouse – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – July 10, 2013
  • Not Accountable for Project Labor Agreement – Until Now: Mailers Inform Judges About Union Deal of Administrative Office of the Courts – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – June 24, 2013
  • Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Hold Press Conference – June 20, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. – Condemning San Diego Courthouse Project Labor Agreement – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – June 20, 2013
  • Union Quest for Project Labor Agreements from Judicial Council of California and Administrative Office of the Courts Succeeds with San Diego County Central Courthouse  – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – June 8, 2013
2. San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion
City of San Diego
November 2012
$520 million in public funds

San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion Project Labor Agreement

No formal public discussion or vote on it. Appears to be a violation of a voter-approved city ordinance prohibiting the city from entering into contracts that require companies to sign Project Labor Agreements.

How Project Labor Agreement was implemented: Secret Deal between Mayor and Union Official to End Union Lawsuit and CEQA Objections to San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion

Lawsuit filed by Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to get Project Labor Agreement after repeated rejections of public records requests: Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction v. City of San Diego

Background:

3. California High-Speed Passenger Train – First Construction Segment (Madera to Fresno)
California High-Speed Rail Authority
December 2012
$985 million in public funds

California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement (Community Benefits Agreement) 2012

No formal public discussion or vote on it. Repeated requests at California High-Speed Rail Authority meetings for a public vote have been futile.

Bid specifications require prime contractor to sign Project Labor Agreement, so there is a government mandate to sign it.

California High-Speed Train Project – Request for Proposal for Design-Build Services

Background:

4. New Sacramento Kings Arena (Entertainment and Sports Center)
City of Sacramento (Public-Private Partnership)
September 2013
$448 million (includes $258 million in public funds

No formal public discussion or vote on it. Public does not have access to Project Labor Agreement. A proposal circulates to release the Project Labor Agreement to the public and have the Sacramento City Council vote on it.

Eight Steps to Possibly Alleviate Taxpayer and Contractor Outrage about the Backroom Deal for a Project Labor Agreement on Construction of the Sacramento Kings Arena

Background:


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.

Tough Commute? Scrap Davis-Bacon Act

Liz and I traveled this past Labor Day weekend. We drove from Crystal Lake, Illinois to a golf resort in Manistee, Michigan. Traffic was bad in the Chicago area as expected, but exceptionally slow traffic continued all the way through Indiana, and even into Michigan, all along I-94 until we reached Michigan 31. M-31 breaks off from I-94 roughly at St. Joseph. It was several hours of driving hell starting out, and continued late into the evening, near midnight.

I bring this up because I stumbled on a MarketWatch article Hate your commute now? Just wait 5 years

Indianapolis to Chicago, I-65

Labor Day traffic on Interstate 65 from Indianapolis to Chicago is 49% higher than average at its peak. Unless a major transportation project is undertaken in the next five years, commuters will experience this level of congestion on the average day by the year 2033.

I-65 intersects I-94 near Gary Indiana. I-80 and I-90 merge in close by. It is one hell of a congestion. My experience previously was things start getting better near the Indiana-Illinois border.

That didn’t happen this Labor Day trip.

Obviously states are strapped for cash, but there were three or four sections of highway under repair in Indiana and a couple more in Michigan.

One of the problems is prevailing wage laws such as Davis-Bacon drive up .cost of repairs. Unions and prevailing wage laws massively drive up construction costs.

Even FDR was against the notion of public unions.

Davis-Bacon Background

I have discussed Davis-Bacon on many occasions. Inquiring minds interested in a background on the original purpose of the act should read My Thoughts on the Davis-Bacon Act.

… while the sponsors and supporters of the Act also intended it to disadvantage immigrant workers of other races, these thinly veiled references make it clear that the Act was primarily intended to discriminate against blacks.

The Davis-Bacon Act as amended, requires that each contract over $2,000 to which the United States or the District of Columbia is a party for the construction, alteration, or repair of public buildings or public works shall contain a clause setting forth the minimum wages to be paid to various classes of laborers and mechanics employed under the contract. Under the provisions of the Act, contractors or their subcontractors are to pay workers employed directly upon the site of the work no less than the locally prevailing wages and fringe benefits paid on projects of a similar character. The Davis-Bacon Act directs the Secretary of Labor to determine such local prevailing wage rates.

There are 117 classifications of jobs for which some set of bureaucrats must determine “prevailing wages”.  Here is a partial list:

ASBE = International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers
BOIL = International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers
BRXX = International Union of Bricklayers, and Allied Craftsmen
(bricklayers, cement masons, stone masons, tile, marble and terrazzo workers)
CARP = United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
ELEC = International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
(electricians, communication systems installers, and other low voltage specialty workers)
ELEV = International Union of Elevator Constructors
ENGI = International Union of Operating Engineers
(operators of various types of power equipment)
IRON = International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers
LABO = Laborers’ International Union of North America
PAIN = International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades
(painters, drywall finishers, glaziers, soft floor layers)
PLUM = Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association of the United States and Canada
PLAS = United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada
ROOF = United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers
SHEE = Sheet Metal Workers International Association
TEAM = International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Even FDR Understood the Problem

Public unions get into bed with management and politicians and work out sweet deals for themselves at taxpayer expense. No one looks out for the taxpayer. Even FDR understood the problem.

Message From FDR

Inquiring minds are reading snips from a Letter from FDR Regarding Collective Bargaining of Public Unions written August 16, 1937.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.

The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees.

A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.

Time to Scrap Davis-Bacon, End Public Union Collective Bargaining 

Before any project can be economically viable, labor costs must be addressed, and that is exactly why we need to scrap Davis-Bacon and all prevailing wage laws. We also need to eliminate collective bargaining of public unions.

Unless and until we do that, we will dramatically overpay for infrastructure projects and taxpayers will pay through the nose for them.

Government should strive to provide the most services at the least cost. Public unions strive to provide the fewest services at the most cost. Is it any wonder cities and states are broke?

About the Author:  Mike Shedlock is the editor of the top-rated global economics blog Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis, offering insightful commentary every day of the week. He is also a contributing “professor” on Minyanville, a community site focused on economic and financial education. Every Thursday he does a podcast on HoweStreet and on an ad hoc basis he contributes to many other websites, including UnionWatch.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the revised list of union CEQA actions in 2013:

1. Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project, City of Pasadena

March 13, 2013 – Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE)

Here’s a chronology of how the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, representing California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), objected on environmental grounds to a municipal power plant project on one hand while negotiating a Project Labor Agreement for the same project on the other hand:

2012-2013 – Interaction Between California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and City of Pasadena – Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project

2. Napa Pipe Project, County of Napa

May 20, 2013 – Request for a Subsequent Environmental Impact Report – Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 343, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 180, pretending to be the “Napa Coalition for Responsible Development.”

I wrote about the union environmental objections to this project in my May 28, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley.

3. Agincourt Solar Project and Marathon Solar Project, County of San Bernardino

February 1, 2013 – Comments on the Initial Studies/Mitigated Negative Declarations – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “San Bernardino County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”

This one had a happy ending!

April 23, 2013 – Announcement from California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “San Bernardino County Citizens for Responsible Solar” – the Western Burrowing Owl, the Desert Tortoise, the LeConte Thrasher, and the Joshua Tree are saved – let’s build!

4. VWR International Supply and Distribution Facility, City of Visalia

February 14, 2013 – Visalia VWR Employees Vote to Join Teamsters Union

After the Teamsters Joint Council 7 and fellow plaintiffs flipped a lower court decision by winning CEQA arguments (among other arguments) on appeal in Coalition For Clean Air v. City of Visalia, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 948 won an NLRB-supervised representation election for employees of the new VWR International facility in Visalia.

Footnote 4 in the September 14, 2012 appeals court decision states that “Respondent VWR International’s brief alleges that the CEQA action was originally commenced by the Teamsters union and one of its local officers, in an effort to halt construction of the Visalia facility, fearing that its completion as a non-union facility would lead to the closure of a unionized facility in Brisbane.”

5. Pioneer Green Energy Solar Project, County of Kern

January 7, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”

Unions don’t seem to regard this project as particularly “green,” but maybe the green of money from a Project Labor Agreement will change their minds.

6. Imperial Valley Solar Company 2, County of Imperial

February 15, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Imperial Citizens for Responsible Industry” and also February 18, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184.

Two union groups going after this one. Do you ever wonder if the Sonoran desert toads know they’re being abandoned to be squashed by heavy equipment when unions get their Project Labor Agreements?

7. Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Plant, County of Mono

January 29, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and also January 30, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report – Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local Union No. 783.

This project is getting a double whammy, including from a union whose members travel to Mono County to “enjoy its peaceful repose and diversity and rarity of species of plants and animals.”

8. Three Rocks Solar, County of Fresno

May 31, 2013 – Request to Fresno County Board of Supervisors to deny appeal of Planning Commission’s decision to deny Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration and conditional use permit – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), pretending to be “Fresno County Citizens for Responsible Solar.”

As if the Fresno County Planning Department didn’t already have enough paper from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. Imagine the trees unions are cutting down to protect the environment.

9. Dignity Health Elk Grove Medical Campus Project, City of Elk Grove

January 18, 2013 – Request for all documents referenced in the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report – Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 340, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 162.

Even if the developer pays for it, is there any dignity for city employees when law firms force them to spend a huge amount of time collecting a huge pile of paper? Is this how government employees should be serving the people?

10.  World Logistics Center Project – City of Moreno Valley

April 5, 2013 – Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report – Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local Union No. 1184

This would be the largest master-planned warehouse complex in the United States, and unions want their share of the estimated $3.5 billion in construction and 20,000 permanent jobs.

11. Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Project, Imperial County

February 27, 2013 – U.S. District Court rejects lawsuit filed by plaintiffs that include Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local Union No. 1184

Unions decided to file a lawsuit (Desert Protective Council et al v. United States Department of the Interior et al) challenging the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Final Environmental Impact Report to overturn a May 2012 decision made by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, California Desert District, El Centro Field Office to allow 112 wind turbine generators.

12. Acheson Commons (2133 University Avenue), City of Berkeley

May 8, 2013 and June 13, 2013 – Requests for Zoning Adjustments Board not to approve Use Permits for the project – Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, pretending to be “Berkeley Residents for Sustainable Development.”

Allegedly the “largest apartment complex ever planned for Berkeley’s downtown,” this project moved forward after some sort of deal with the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council, as reported in this July 11, 2013 article City’s Largest Apartment Building Ever Gets Go-Ahead.

13. Campo Verde Solar Project, Imperial County

Laborers’ International Union of North America Local Union No. 1184, et al. vs. County of Imperial, ECU7294

Laborers Local Union No. 1184 filed a lawsuit against Imperial County to stop First Solar, Inc. from building the 139-megawatt Campo Verde photovoltaic solar project. 

14. Citation Residential Project, City of Milpitas

A California appellate court rejected an appeal from the Carpenters Local Union No. 405 related to the union’s efforts to challenge approval of a 732-unit condominium project. See the July 16, 2013 decision in May v. City of Milpitas.

15. Cordes Ranch Specific Plan, City of Tracy

July 24, 2013 – Objections to Final Environmental Impact Report for Cordes Ranch Specific Plan – Carpenters Union Local No. 152.

A construction union has CEQA objections to a commercial and industrial development proposed in Tracy.

16. Palen Solar Electric Generating System in Riverside County, at California Energy Commission

March 26, 2013 order granting petition to intervene from Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184May 8, 2013 status report.

While California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) reached an agreement to end its interference with permitting for this solar thermal power plant, the Laborers union in Riverside County is just getting started.

17. Desert Harvest Solar Project, Riverside County

March 11, 2013 – U.S. Bureau of Land Management denies protest of Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184 against Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Another solar project under assault. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) has not objected to the project, perhaps because the IBEW Union Local No. 440 has the electrical work.

18. Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”) Specific Plan Amendment Study, City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports

April 29, 2013 – Objections to the Final Environmental Impact Report – SEIU United Service Workers West; May 29, 2013 – Lawsuit Against City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports – SEIU United Service Workers West.

Another one of the those CEQA lawsuits that allegedly rarely happen. This one comes courtesy of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Service Workers West, which claims to represent 2,000 Los Angeles International Airport workers, including passenger service workers, security officers, sky caps, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors, and cargo handlers.

19. Sun Valley Energy Project in Riverside County, at California Energy Commission

August 5, 2013 – Request to California Energy Commission for Notices – Laborers (LIUNA) Local Union No. 1184.

Better late than never. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) submitted a petition on February 8, 2006 to the California Energy Commission to intervene on this project.

20. One South Market, City of San Jose

Staff Report on Appeal of Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council to One South Market Street Project (includes June 25, July 9, and July 12 letters from law firm ofAdams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo)

I wrote about this union CEQA appeal in the August 13, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article Union Environmental Appeal of San Jose Infill High-Rise Fools No One.

21. Avalon Bay Communities – Dublin Station – Transit Center, City of Dublin

Carpenters Local Union No. 713 objected to this project in order to control the work. The union filed a lawsuit after the Dublin City Council rejected their appeal. On March 7, 2013, a California Appeals Court sided with the City of Dublin in Concerned Dublin Citizens v. City of Dublin.

22. Basin Street Properties – Riverfront Mixed Use Project, City of Petaluma

Pretending to be “Petaluma Residents for Responsible Development,” the Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake Counties Building and Construction Trades Council managed to delay an August 13, 2013 Petaluma Planning Commission meeting with its CEQA objections to the Riverfront Mixed Use Project.

23.  Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage Water Project in Riverside County, State Water Resources Control Board

April 10, 2013 – Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report – Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local Union No. 1184

Water would move back and forth between two old mining pits at different elevations to generate electricity during peak hours of usage. The Laborers Union is concerned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Something is Bothering California Union Leaders and Lobbyists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Some Republican State Legislators in California Push the Union Agenda

It seems that some Republicans in competitive California state legislative districts have devised a strategy for political survival: join the Democrat leadership in supporting the union legislative agenda. And siding with the unions seems to reap campaign contributions, so why not?

Ordinary Californians aren’t yet recognizing any clearly-defined Republican alternative plan for constructively governing California under principles of fiscal responsibility, limited government, and local control. Republicans barely control one-third of the California State Senate and less than one-third of the California State Assembly. The California Republican Party continues to struggle as an organization, although leaders are trying to overhaul fundraising, grassroots activism, and candidate recruitment and training.

Perhaps this uncertain identity and operational weakness has encouraged Republican Senator Anthony Cannella to join Democrat Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as the coauthor of union-backed Senate Bill 7, one of the most controversial bills of 2013. Representatives of cities in Cannella’s Senate district are aggressively opposing this bill, but union power at the state capitol is apparently overriding constituent objections.

Punishing Cities That Won’t Submit to Union-Controlled State Government

As reported by www.UnionWatch.org in With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City ChartersSenate Bill 7 would withhold state funding for any of California’s 121 charter cities that exercise their right under Article XI of the state constitution to set their own government-mandated wage rate policies for purely municipal construction. This practice is extensively and comprehensively outlined in Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, SB 7 undermines the principle of local control over local funds and the fundamental structure of constitutional federalism. It also punishes fiscally responsible cities that recognize how state-mandated “prevailing wages” fail to reflect actual market conditions in their communities.

Unions and construction companies bound to union agreements want all local governments in the state to submit to state-mandated prevailing wage rates, which the California Department of Industrial Relations determines under state law by adding up the employer payments indicated in the applicable collective bargaining agreements for each construction trade in each geographical region. For an unvarnished union explanation, see SB 7 Will End Loophole to Avoid Paying Prevailing Wage.

During the past six years, numerous California cities governed under home-rule charters have taken advantage of their constitutional right to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for purely municipal construction projects or for private developments that receive municipal financial assistance of any sort. The trend for self-governance accelerated after July 2012, when the California Supreme Court rejected a union legal challenge to a prevailing wage policy in the City of Vista: see its decision in State Building and Construction Trades Council of California v. City of Vista.

Construction trade unions (and public employee unions) were compelled in 2011 and 2012 to spend a disproportionate amount of money in campaigns to defeat proposed charters in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Costa Mesa, and Grover Beach. A proposed charter in El Cajon passed in June 2012, but a similar proposed charter in Escondido was narrowly defeated by the flood of infrequent left-leaning voters motivated to vote in the November 2012 elections.

Home rule through charters is one of the few remaining ways in California in which advocates of fiscal responsibility and limited government can buck the intrusive and costly policies of union-dominated state government. For a Republican to be a coauthor of Senate Bill 7 and declare that an article of the state constitution is a “loophole” that needs to be closed is a discouraging development for supporters of economic freedom.

But it’s apparently fruitful for Senator Cannella, who has received 43% of his campaign contributions in the first six months of 2013 from unions and construction trade associations that negotiate and administer collective bargaining agreements. (All of the other 57% comes from big corporate interests – this is not a “Tea Party candidate.”)

Joining Cannella as a mere vote in support of Senate Bill 7 is Assemblyman Jeff Gorell, who represents a somewhat competitive district in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. His support for unions is also consistent – in 2012, Gorell sent a letter to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors urging them to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the new Ventura County Medical Center. (The county didn’t mandate the union agreement in the end.)

Of course, a Republican is a wonderful gift for unions and their political allies. As reported by www.UnionWatch.org in After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law, the San Diego City Council voted 5-4 on a party-line vote on July 30 for Mayor Bob Filner’s costly, burdensome proposal to repeal its own government-mandated wage rate policy on city construction contracts. Union officials and other advocates of government-mandated wage rates claimed that Cannella’s coauthorship of Senate Bill 7 made the issue  “bipartisan,” and therefore the four Republicans who wanted to save money for taxpayers were extremists.

Giving Unions Control of Labor Compliance Investigations for Public Works Contracts

If Senate Bill 7 wasn’t enough, Assemblyman Gorell and Senator Cannella also voted for Senate Bill 776, another bill sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. This bill prohibits contractors from taking credit against the state “prevailing wage” rate for payments to labor compliance programs that are not affiliated with a labor union.

Union leaders and lobbyists are pushing SB 776 because they want to shut down a specific independent labor compliance program called California Construction Compliance Group, which is an exception to the virtual monopoly of union-affiliated organizations performing California labor compliance investigations. This program reports completion of 231 audits on public works projects and recovery of over $400,000 for 134 workers.

It angered unions when it reported violations to the California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement committed by contractors that signed Project Labor Agreements with unions at the Los Angeles Unified School District, the City of Milpitas, and Contra Costa County. On both the state and local level, unions promote Project Labor Agreements by claiming they eliminate the need to monitor contractor labor law compliance.

The union response to this embarrassing revelation: enact a law to shut it down! Read the perspective of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California here: How’s This for a Racket?

Obviously, at the end of 2013 someone needs to create a voting record (with percentages and ranking) of how Republicans voted on labor issues in the California State Legislature. Then there will be some accountability to the voters.


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

Union Environmental Appeal of San Jose Infill High-Rise Fools No One

Today (Tuesday, August 13, 2013) construction trade unions either showed exceptional arrogance or exceptional foolishness when they chose to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against a high-profile “infill” project in downtown San Jose.

For the past few years, some California state legislators have wanted to discourage CEQA actions meant to advance objectives unrelated to environmental protection. Even Democratic legislative leaders such as California State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) are seeking minor CEQA amendments to reduce obstacles to infill development, which is regarded by some as a wise planning strategy for the environment.

Under these circumstances, it was astonishing to see the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council appeal the San Jose Planning Director’s approval of a downtown 23-story residential “infill” project called One South Market Street. The appeal was filed by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and based on alleged CEQA violations and planning and zoning code violations.

No one was fooled. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed declared “It’s not really about the environment … it’s abuse of the environmental process.” And Councilman Johnny Khamis complained that the city council had two abusive back-to-back CEQA objections on its agenda, one with an anti-competitive motive and one with a union motive.

In the end, the city council rejected the union appeal, although two council members voted to support the unions. One of them was San Jose City Councilman Xavier Campos, who is the brother of Assemblywoman Nora Campos, who is married to Neil Struthers, who spoke at the meeting in support of the CEQA appeal as the head of the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

Groundbreaking for the project had already occurred in a ceremony on June 25, 2013. No one up to that point had indicated any concerns about permitting or environmental review. But on that same day, the law firm for construction unions submitted an objection letter. The unions formally appealed various aspects of the project on July 9 and July 12.

In an August 13, 2013 article about the appeal (Union Challenging Downtown San Jose High-Rise), the Silicon Valley Business Journal indicated that the union objections to the project were not necessarily related to environmental concerns.

So what’s going on? Sources told me the union appears to be trying to send a message after several key subcontracts on the job were delivered to non-union contractors out of Sacramento.

“The Building Trades are not opposed to more high-rises downtown. What we are opposed to is this developer generating more profits at the expense of local workers and the environment,” Neil Struthers, CEO of the Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building & Construction Trades Council, told me in an email.

He added: “No project should be given the ability to avoid the requirements every other developer must meet as it relates to water quality, affordable housing and traffic mitigation. Someone needs to stand up to those that have the power to gain preferential treatment from local government.”

Reportedly the contractor most objectionable to the unions is a large electrical company that works on major commercial projects throughout Northern California. Its headquarters is in Sacramento, but it has a Bay Area office in Hayward, 25 miles away from downtown San Jose via Interstate 880. Construction companies in Northern California capable of working on a 23-story high rise building tend to have a regional market – these are not hometown plumbers.

Because the City of San Jose has provided tax and fee waivers with financial value to the developer, One South Market Street is regarded under California law as a public works project. All construction companies – both union and non-union – must pay state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”) to their trade workers on this project. In California, state prevailing wage rates always duplicate the wage rates in the applicable union collective bargaining agreements for that trade in that geographical region.

In other words, local hiring or wage rates are not legitimate issues. Control of the workforce is the issue.

Presumably, the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council will continue to interfere with the project (perhaps with a lawsuit) until the developer (Market Street Tower Venture, LLC, on behalf of Essex OSM REIT, LLC) agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement or some other contract giving unions a monopoly on construction of the building.

The One South Market Street CEQA appeal shows that unions have a strong economic interest in stopping any proposals that compromise the obstructive power of CEQA. It should not be a surprise that construction trade unions are reportedly the primary obstacle to Senator Steinberg’s very modest CEQA reform bill, Senate Bill 731, but apparently Senator Steinberg was surprised, according to the August 5, 2013 article from California Forward: CEQA Roundup: Have Negotiations Really Stalled?

Steinberg himself seems to have been surprised by the opposition on the part of some labor leaders, in particular, who have pushed back against his most basic goal: Updating the CEQA process for infill projects. While the Senate leader has tried from the start to write a bill that would drive more of this type of development across the state, sources say some labor leaders view the coming infill wave as the source of a steady stream of jobs – and they are wary of losing CEQA as a tool they can use to reach project labor agreements with developers.

Reform of the California Environmental Quality Act is not an environmental issue. It’s a labor issue.

News Media Coverage

San Jose Denies ‘Greenmail’ Environmental Appeals on High-Rise ProjectSan Jose Mercury-News – August 13, 2013

San Jose Council Says ‘No’ to Union’s CEQA Challenge of One South MarketSilicon Valley Business Journal – August 13, 2013

Sources

Staff Report on Appeal of Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council to One South Market Street Project (includes June 25, July 9, and July 12 letters from law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo)

Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for One South Market Street and Mitigation Monitoring or Reporting Program for One South Market Street

Union Challenging Downtown San Jose High-RiseSilicon Valley Business Journal – August 13, 2013

California Senate Bill 731 – CEQA reform for infill development projects

CEQA Roundup: Have Negotiations Really Stalled? – California Forward – August 5, 2013

KT Properties One South Market Street

Background on One South Market Street from Silicon Valley Business Journal

CEQA Works – the coalition of environmental groups and labor unions opposed to CEQA reform

www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com


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

After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law

This afternoon (Tuesday, July 30, 2013), the San Diego City Council voted 5-4 to cease taking advantage of its constitutional right to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for construction contracts. It adopted a proposal from Mayor Bob Filner to submit to state law and require its construction contractors to pay “prevailing wage” rates set by the state on the basis of union collective bargaining agreements.

Since 1980, the City of San Diego had used its authority as a charter city to exempt almost all of its purely municipal construction contracts from costly and burdensome “prevailing wage” laws. That right was upheld in a July 2012 California Supreme Court decision, State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista.

For those looking for motivations behind Mayor Filner’s determination to remain in office despite scandals and criticism, this vote today was a triumph in his long political career to advance the causes of unions and the “Progressive” movement. He issued a press release titled “BOB FILNER’S PROPOSAL FOR PREVAILING WAGE WINS COUNCIL APPROVAL!!!”

MAYOR BOB FILNER’S PROPOSAL FOR PREVAILING WAGE WINS COUNCIL APPROVAL!!!

MAYOR BOB FILNER’S PROPOSAL FOR PREVAILING WAGE WINS COUNCIL APPROVAL!!!

The five-member Democrat majority on the nine-member city council was pleased to take the eighth most populous city in the country a step forward toward the government setting employee wages.

As proclaimed by some union representatives and community organizers who spoke during the July 30 city council meeting, state prevailing wage mandates will also apply to private development projects that get any sort of financial assistance from the City of San Diego. Under state law, these private projects are “public works,” equivalent to a courthouse or post office.

Democrats justified their support for Filner’s proposal based on the usual rhetoric about strengthening the middle class. They claimed the ordinance would ensure quality work, as if everything built in San Diego for the past 33 years has fallen down. Union officials claimed that state prevailing wage mandates would not actually increase costs because higher wages would attract better workers, thus saving money. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez – the former head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council – insinuated (contrary to city findings on local employment for city construction contracts) that workers from Arizona and Mexico would stop building city projects.

The actual process of ending this 33 year-old policy happened quickly. On May 8, 2013, Mayor Filner sent a memo to the San Diego City Council proposing an ordinance to impose full city submission to state prevailing wage laws. Jennifer Badgley, Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs for Mayor Filner, subsequently wrote a staff report in support of the ordinance that didn’t include one acknowledgement of opposing views. (She was formerly an Organizer/Political Director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 569.)

Former IBEW Union Political Director Presents Mayor Filner's Prevailing Wage Ordinance

Former IBEW Union Political Director Presents Mayor Filner’s Prevailing Wage Ordinance

Badgley also made a presentation at the July 30 city council meeting and falsely informed the city council that the state determines prevailing wage rates by conducting surveys. (The state never conducts surveys to determine prevailing wages; it simply adds up the employer payments in the collective bargaining agreements for each trade in each union geographical jurisdiction.)

The City of San Diego has an Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, which produced two reports suggesting and then reiterating that the prevailing wage mandate would increase costs of city construction contracts by 5 to 10 percent. Former union operatives now working for Mayor Filner as policy staffers strongly disputed the analyst’s findings. At the July 30 city council meeting, a union representative in the audience heckled the presentation of the Independent Budget Analyst.

Local government budget analysts are not appreciated by unions and their political allies when they exercise independent thinking, and the people of San Diego will need to watch carefully for an attempted political purge of this office.

In the meantime, the San Diego City Council follows the lead of the board of education for the San Diego Unified School District, which has “progressed” even further to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on projects funded by $4.9 billion borrowed through the sale of bonds authorized by voters in November 2008 and November 2012.

Will the people of San Diego hold Mayor Bob Filner and the Democrat majority on the city council accountable for increasing costs for taxpayers at the demand of union officials? Or will people forget by the next election, as a result giving unions confidence to take the next step toward a union monopoly on city construction projects?

Sources:

Look Up State-Mandated Wage Rates (“Prevailing Wages”) for Construction Trades in the City of San Diego: General Prevailing Wage Journeyman Determinations

July 26, 2013 – Report No. 13-33 from City of San Diego Office of the Independent Legislative Analyst: Key Issues for Proposal to Require Compliance with State Prevailing Wage Laws on all City Public Works Projects with Report No. 13-33 – Attachment 1 and Report No. 13-33 – Attachment 2

June 18, 2013 – Report No. 13-26 from City of San Diego Office of the Independent Legislative Analyst: Review of Proposal to Require Compliance with the State’s Prevailing Wage Laws on all City Public Works Projects

June 17, 2013 – Memorandum of Law from San Diego City Attorney: Proposal to Apply State Prevailing Wage Laws to City Public Works Projects

July 16, 2013 – Report to the San Diego City Council No. 13-051 from Office of Mayor Bob Filner (Jennifer Badgley): Prevailing Wage Requirements for Municipal Public Works Projects

July 22, 2013 – Memorandum to the San Diego City Council President from Mayor Bob Filner: Supplemental Docket Request for Prevailing Wage Ordinance

May 8, 2013 – Memorandum to the San Diego City Council from Mayor Bob Filner: Prevailing Wage

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 92-page guidebook to status of prevailing wage policies in California’s 121 charter cities.

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


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

Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

Richmond Solar PV Project (Marin Clean Energy)

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

FRESNO COUNTY

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

Adame 1 – Gestamp Asetym Solar

Giffen 1 – Gestamp Asetym Solar

Inspiration Solar Generation Farm

Placer Solar

Three Rocks Solar

IMPERIAL COUNTY

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

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

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

Campo Verde

Imperial Valley Solar Company 2

KERN COUNTY

Beacon Photovoltaic Project

Catalina Renewable Energy Project

Kingbird Solar

Pioneer Green Solar Project

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

Recurrent Energy Old River One

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

Willow Springs Solar Array

KINGS COUNTY

Aurora

Corcoran West

GWF Henrietta

Recurrent Energy Solar Projects

Finally, ordinary citizens in the San Joaquin Valley learn how construction trade unions block solar power plant projects by exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

According to union front groups such as California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), the construction and operation of a solar-powered electrical generating facility has the potential to devastate the environment; that is, until the developer agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

Stratford Photovoltaic Solar Facility

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Alpine Solar

Antelope Valley Solar

Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1)

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

California Flats

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

Desert Harvest Solar Farm

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

McCoy Solar Energy Project

SAN BENITO COUNTY

Panoche Valley Solar Farm

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

Agincourt and Marathon

Alamo Oro Grade Solar Project

Aries Solar

Kramer Junction – Boulevard Associates

Kramer Junction – Lightsource Renewables

Lucerne Valley

Sunray Energy – Daggett

Stateline Solar Farm Project

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Sol Orchard Ramona

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

California Valley Solar Ranch

Topaz

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Cuyama Solar Facility

STANISLAUS COUNTY

Fink Road Solar Farm

McHenry Solar Farm

TULARE COUNTY

Great Valley Solar


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

 

Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants?

Below is the first organized compilation of documents showing what appears to be an aggressive, deliberate union campaign to impede government approval of solar thermal power projects in California. (Organized documentation of extensive union interference with government approval of more traditional solar photovoltaic power projects in California will be released soon.)

These innovative proposed solar thermal projects were once celebrated as the future of electricity generation. In August 2007, BrightSource Energy submitted the first application for a solar thermal power plant – the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. At that time, the California Energy Commission was expecting dozens of applications for such power plants that could produce a total of as much as 24,000 megawatts of electricity. Visionaries saw California as the future “Saudi Arabia of solar.” (See Green Energy: Solar’s Big Boom – San Jose Mercury-News – September 26, 2007.) The Energy Commission subsequently received applications for 16 thermal solar power plants, listed below.

As of July 16, 2013, only one solar thermal project (Ivanpah) is nearing completion in its basic original form. Some projects have been cancelled; other projects have been postponed repeatedly, downgraded in size, or changed in concept from thermal to photovoltaic. Some companies proposing these projects have gone bankrupt and ownership has changed on some projects. An April 24, 2013 article in National Journal declared that California’s Dream to Be the Saudi Arabia of Solar Is Dead. It’s noteworthy that the California Energy Commission listing of “Large Solar Energy Projects” hasn’t been updated since September 14, 2012.

What role did unions have in this? Here’s a bit of background to put the compilation below in context.

Local Governments Approve Photovoltaic Solar Projects; The California Energy Commission Approves Thermal Solar Projects

Most of the solar projects proposed or under construction or now operating in California are “photovoltaic” or PV. A current is generated when sunlight hits panels. Many of these solar farms will generate less than 50 megawatts of electricity, although a 66 megawatt facility just opened near Lancaster and much larger ones are under construction.

Companies that want to build PV solar farms seek permits from local governments with jurisdiction over the land. Many of these projects are considered by planning commissions of counties with land in the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern, San Luis Obispo) and in desert regions (Kern, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial). Appeals go to the county board of supervisors.

In contrast, the “siting” of solar thermal power plants must be approved by the five-member California Energy Commission, because this state agency has jurisdiction over power plants that generate 50 megawatts or more of electricity and also use heat to produce electricity. With solar thermal power plants, mirrors concentrate sunlight on a vessel to heat a liquid inside, which creates steam, which turns a turbine to produce electricity.

A Tactic to Delay Approval and Escalate Costs for Energy Companies Seeking Permits

Before the California Energy Commission approves a project, it subjects the proposal to a rigorous environmental review process. This includes three phases: (1) data collection, (2) discovery and analysis that results in a preliminary staff assessment and final staff assessment, and (3) an evidentiary hearing and decision that results in a Presiding Member’s Proposed Decision and then final approval of a license for the project.

Any member of the public can submit written comments to the California Energy Commission during the permitting or licensing process for large power plants. But California law also allows a member of the public to apply to the California Energy Commission to become an “intervenor” and play an active, integral role in the permitting process for an individual power plant. An intervenor not only participates as an interested party, but can also provide testimony and witnesses and cross-examine other parties’ witnesses, most importantly during the pivotal “evidentiary hearing.” Information provided or obtained by the intervenor becomes part of the basis for the California Energy Commission’s final decision.

Typically lasting a year or longer, the review process is supposed to be open and transparent to the public. In order to preserve the integrity and the impartiality of the Energy Commission’s licensing process, California law prohibits any private “ex parte” communication between the power plant applicant, the Energy Commission staff, and outside intervenors. No party can communicate with decision-makers except in a public hearing or public record. No behind-doors deals or discussions are allowed.

Nevertheless, some informed observers believe the process is being abused. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an organization called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) was using the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to intervene in the licensing process for natural gas-fired power plants. CURE seemed to be hindering approval of these projects until unions obtained a commitment for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the project. This practice of “greenmail” was summarized in a September 6, 2004 Los Angeles Times article Struggle Over Power Plants and a September 19, 2004 Sacramento Bee article Pressure by Labor Group Alleged. The Wall Street Journal published a February 15, 2001 editorial condemning it: Power Grab.

Outside Parties Impede Approval of Thermal Solar Plants – Unions Are Prominent

As energy companies began the process of winning state approval for their proposed projects, California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) intervened in almost every case through the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. As seen below, CURE routinely filed requests for applicants to collect large amounts of data. It objected to analysis, review, and procedures. It even filed two lawsuits to stop construction of two proposed solar thermal power plants.

It was noteworthy that CURE seemed to resolve its aggressive environmental concerns about a project when unions obtained a commitment from the energy company for contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the project. This practice was reported in a June 18, 2009 New York Times article A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants and in a February 5, 2011 Los Angeles Times article Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized.

Below is a chart showing the involvement of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) in the California Energy Commission licensing process for proposed large solar thermal power plant projects. In some cases, there is an uncanny relationship between the end of CURE involvement and a Project Labor Agreement or some sort of union deal. Notice that a Project Labor Agreement was announced in 2009 for the Ivanpah power plant.

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Involvement in the Sixteen Applications to the California Energy Commission for Approval of a Solar Thermal Power Plant

1. Ivanpah Solar – Solar Partners/Brightsource, in San Bernardino County (370 MW)

2. Blythe Solar Power Project – NextEra Blythe Energy Center LLC, in Riverside County (1,000 MW)

3. Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project – City of Victorville, in City of Victorville in San Bernardino County (513 MW natural gas, 50 MW solar)

4. Beacon Solar Energy Project – Beacon Solar LLC, in Kern County (250 MW)

5. Abengoa Mojave Solar Project – Abengoa Solar Inc., in San Bernardino County (250 MW)

6. Imperial Valley Solar Project (Formerly SES Solar Two Project) – Imperial Valley Solar LLC, in Imperial County (709 MW)

7. Genesis Solar – Genesis Solar LLC / NextEra™ Energy Resources LLC, in Riverside County (250 MW)

8. Rice Solar Energy Project – Rice Solar LLC / SolarReserve LLC, in Riverside County (150 MW)

9. City of Palmdale Hybrid Gas-Solar – City of Palmdale, in City of Palmdale in Los Angeles County (520 MW natural gas, 50 MW solar)

10. Palen Solar Power Project – BrightSource Energy / Abengoa SA (former applicant Nalep Solar Project I, LLC), in Riverside County (500 MW)

11. Carrizo Energy Solar Farm – Carrizo Energy LLC, in San Luis Obispo County

12. San Joaquin Solar 1 & 2 – San Joaquin Solar LLC, in Fresno County

13. Ridgecrest Solar Power Project – Solar Millennium, in Kern County (250 MW)

14. Hidden Hills Solar Electric Generating System – BrightSource Energy Inc., in Inyo County (500 MW)

15. Rio Mesa Solar Electric Generating Facility – BrightSource Energy Inc., in Riverside County (750 MW)

  • California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) did not intervene. Representatives of Laborers Local Union No. 1184 expressed support for the project and looked forward to jobs.

16. Calico Solar Project (Formerly SES Solar One Project) – Calico Solar LLC/Tessera Solar (formerly Stirling Energy Systems), in San Bernardino County (663.5 MW)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This particular case suggests the following list of outrages:

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

Lorena Gonzalez SignLessons for the Next Generation

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


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

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

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

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

San Diego Convention Center Union Deal

Primary Source Documents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion Project Labor Agreement

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

Comprehensive Background:

www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement – www.UnionWatch.org – April 23, 2013


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