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Unions Fail to Retain San Diego Mayor's Office Despite Advantages

Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer handily defeated Democrat City Councilman David Alvarez with 54.4% of the vote in a February 11, 2014 special election runoff for Mayor of San Diego. The result went against usual expectations.

Contrary to the common perception that campaign spending by “big business” often overwhelms humble community-based union-backed campaigns, more money was spent in support of the Alvarez campaign than on the Faulconer campaign.

Preliminary campaign finance reports show that at least $5.2 million was spent for Alvarez and at least $4.2 million for Faulconer. As is typical with Democrat candidates running for significant local government offices in California, the majority of money to Alvarez came from unions.

The biggest spender on the Alvarez campaign was the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. Cross-referencing the reports on the City of San Diego Office of the City Clerk Electronic Filing of Disclosure Statements web database and the information on the www.inewsource.org web database shows that unions spent more than $3.1 million on direct contributions and independent expenditures that could be tracked as of February 11. That’s 60% of the total amount spent on the Alvarez campaign.

Labor unions were also prominent local backers of Alvarez with precinct walkers, phone bank workers, and endorsements. As commentator Joel Pollack noted, “The unions helped Alvarez outspend Faulconer, and it was presumed by many that the cash would go into building an unstoppable ground game for the Democrat.”

Alvarez also had the benefit of a sizable party registration advantage (40% Democrat, 26% Republican) and touted endorsements from Governor Brown and President Obama, who rarely stoop to picking favorites in a race for mayor.

Ordinarily, advantages in money, party registration, and endorsements would create a campaign juggernaut, especially in a case like this in which the election stood alone and neither candidate had any personal issues or scandals. Instead, voters handed Alvarez a defeat, in part because union interests generously (and excessively) supported him.

Because of union money, voters were barraged with a traditional union message to reject Faulconer because he was a Republican only interested in taking care of developers and other “downtown” business interests. This increased voter awareness that Alvarez would perpetuate the union demands adopted his predecessor Bob Filner, such as retreating on pension reforms for city employees, supporting Project Labor Agreements, and imposing state-mandated prevailing wage rates for city contracts.

Former California Republican Party and former Republican Party of San Diego County chairman Ron Nehring wrote the following:

The vast majority of spending on the Democrat side didn’t come from the Alvarez campaign itself, but rather from massive independent expenditures funded by the big labor unions in Washington and Sacramento.  While the funding was formidable, the source of that funding proved especially controversial in a city that just a few years ago was driven to the brink of bankruptcy in a pension scandal blamed in large part on union pressure for benefits the city could not afford. The massive reliance on union funding tainted the Alvarez campaign and provided an opening to the Faulconer team to argue that electing the union-backed Alvarez could take the city backward.  The Alvarez argument, that Faulconer was the tool of “downtown interests,” proved weaker than the Faulconer argument that Alvarez would be a tool of labor officials.

Other observers agree that the overwhelming crush of union campaign backing from November 19, 2013 (the date of the primary election) to February 11, 2014 defined Alvarez in terms that actually provoked citizens in San Diego not to vote for him.

While election observers credit Republican “ground game” and voter turnout efforts, these technical advantages were built on the basic impression of voters that Alvarez was accountable to unions before the people. Voters in the eighth-largest city in the country handed a major defeat to organized labor and their candidate.

Faulconer will complete the remaining three years of the term of Democrat Bob Filner, who narrowly defeated Republican Carl DeMaio in November 2012 but ended up resigning in disgrace in August 2013.

Preliminary List of Union Contributions in Support of David Alvarez for San Diego Mayor – Special General Election – February 11, 2014 

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO Washington, DC $596,405.00
United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council Issues PAC Sacramento $400,000.00
American Federation of Teachers Guild, Local 1931 San Diego and Grossmont – Cuyamaca Colleges Committee on Political Education (aka AFT Guild, Local 1931 – COPE) San Diego $307,824.69
United Domestic Workers of America Action Fund San Diego $210,537.62
California State Council of Service Employees Political Committee Sacramento $210,000.00
Service Employees International Union Local 1000 Candidate PAC Sacramento $200,000.00
San Diego Works! Sponsored by San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council AFL-CIO San Diego $153,935.79
United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 135 PAC San Diego $150,000.00
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees – CA People Independent Expenditure Cmte Sacramento $100,000.00
D.R.I.V.E.- Dem., Rep., Ind. Voter Education (The PAC of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters) Washington, DC $75,000.00
SEIU United Service Workers West (SEIU USWW) Candidate PAC Sacramento $55,943.26
American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees California District Council 36 PAC Los Angeles $50,000.00
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Pipe Fitting Industry Annapolis $50,000.00
Protect Neighborhood Services Now, Sponsored by San Diego Municipal Employees Association San Diego $47,500.00
Local 770 United Food and Commerical Workers Union PAC Los Angeles $40,665.92
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West PAC Oakland $40,000.00
Service Employees International Union Local 1021 Candidate PAC Oakland $40,000.00
Service Employees International Union Local 1000, Keeping California Healthy, Safe and Strong Sacramento $33,888.45
Dignity CA SEIU-United Long Term Care Workers Local 6434 Los Angeles $25,000.00
San Diego Education Association PAC San Diego $25,000.00
State Building and Construction Trades Council of California PAC Sacramento $25,000.00
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, CLC Washington, DC $25,000.00
United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council Independent Expenditure PAC Buena Park $25,000.00
Orange County Dignity PAC, sponsored by Orange County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO Orange $24,730.20
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 Candidate PAC Sacramento $20,000.00
Service Employees International Union Local 221 PAC San Diego $19,128.00
American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education Washington, DC $19,005.78
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC Washington, DC $15,000.00
Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union No. 230 PAC San Diego $15,000.00
Southern California Pipe Trades District Council #16 PAC Los Angeles $15,000.00
California Nurses Association SCC Sacramento $10,000.00
Committee for Working Families, Sponsored by the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO Oakland $10,000.00
Rising Majority Supporting Alvarez for Mayor 2013 – AFT Local 1931-COPE San Diego $10,000.00
San Diego Area Municipal Employees Local 127, AFSCME San Diego $10,000.00
Service Employees International Union Local 521 Independent Expenditure Committee San Jose $10,000.00
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1167 PAC Bloomington $10,000.00
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Political Committee Hanover, MD $5,000.00
Operating Engineers Local Union No. 12 Political Fund Pasadena $5,000.00
PowerPAC.org Voter Fund San Francisco $5,000.00
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local No. 1442 PAC El Segundo $5,000.00
Communications Workers of America Committee on Political Education PCC Washington, DC $4,000.00
I.B.E.W Local Union No. 302 Martinez $2,500.00
Southern CA District Council of the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Assn. PAC Pomona $2,500.00
AFSCME 2626 – Librarians Guild PAC Fund Los Angeles $2,000.00
Sheet Metal Workers Local 206 PAC San Diego $2,000.00
Management and Professional Employees Association – MAPA PAC – AFSCME Local 1001 PAC Los Angeles $1,500.00
CRA AFSCME Union Local 585 Los Angeles $1,000.00
Local Union 440 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Riverside $1,000.00
UAW Region 5 Western States PAC Pico Rivera $1,000.00
New Majority Matters San Diego $950.00
IBEW 332 Education Fund San Jose $500.00
United Food and Commercial Workers Western State Council Buena Park $444.19
TOTAL $3,113,958.90

Other Analyses

Republicans Take San Diego Mayor’s Office With Kevin Faulconer In Stunning Special Election Victory – commentary by Ron Nehring – www.FlashReport.org – February 11, 2014

San Diego’s Mayoral Election: Three Lessons – commentary by Vince Vasquez – www.FlashReport.org – February 13, 2014

5 Lessons for the GOP from Faulconer’s Win in San Diego – commentary by Joel Pollak – Breitbart News – February 11, 2014

Will GOP Learn from Faulconer’s Win in San Diego? – commentary by Chris Reed – www.CalWatchdog.com – February 12, 2014

Alvarez’s Curious Campaign to the Left Might Have Been Lost In January – Voice of San Diego – February 12, 2014

The Untold Story in San Diego – commentary by Jason Cabel Roe – www.FlashReport.org – February 27, 2014


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

 

Take the Filner Challenge: Advance the Union Political Agenda

An article in the August 3, 2013 UT San Diego newspaper (Labor Continues to Back Filner) reported on what political insiders in San Diego already recognized: Mayor Bob Filner’s “list of supporters has shrunk to just one major group – organized labor and its allies…labor is steadfastly refusing to call for him to leave.”

It quoted Tom Lemmon, the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, as saying “It’s an awkward situation, but we have a lot invested in him. We believe in due process, so let it take its course.” A construction association based in San Diego anointed this statement with “the Worst Quote of the Decade Award.”

Other union leaders, including the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, used better judgment and apparently declined to speak to the UT San Diego reporter about their loyalty to Mayor Filner. “Richard Barrera, who replaced Lorena Gonzalez as head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council earlier this year, has remained silent on Filner’s status since issuing a statement on July 18.”

Mayor Filner has begun two weeks of therapy with his self-esteem enhanced by a major political victory for his union backers. As reported in the July 30, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law, the 5-4 Democrat majority on the San Diego City Council approved his proposal to impose state prevailing wage mandates on city construction contracts.

He’ll return from his therapy rested and ready to work on implementing his new (reversed) position in support of the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion, which construction unions expect to monopolize with a Project Labor Agreement. That project is estimated to cost $520 million, or more than $1 billion including interest on the money that will be borrowed through bond sales.

Mayor Filner will also have the opportunity to abandon the traditional calculations of a politician and pursue a leftist policy agenda that The Nation magazine has only been able to dream about for cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. (See the April 13, 2013 article Wanted: A Progressive Mayor.) What more does Filner have to lose in the next 18 months if he unabashedly promotes and pushes a robust union-backed agenda through the 5-4 Democrat majority on the city council?

Surely his Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs isn’t going to advise him to proceed with a moderate, middle-of-the-road approach to policy. She’s a former organizer and political director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569.

For 15 years, San Diego has been a battleground region between traditional Republican free market principles and traditional Democrat government intervention in commerce. While the Republican Party has disappeared as a relevant political force in the San Francisco Bay Area and in most of Los Angeles County, the Republican Party of San Diego County has managed to maintain a close balance between the two ideologies.

In this contentious political environment, Bob Filner can now try to prove that using government to strengthen the power of labor unions will make the City of San Diego a place that brims with social justice, enlightenment, and happiness. Union leaders obviously see him as the right man at the right time for this endeavor.

Meanwhile, supporters of free markets and fiscal responsibility should welcome Bob Filner’s leadership in pursuing this vision. Unlike Detroit, the City of San Diego has a strong political infrastructure in opposition that can make Filner and the Democrats on the city council accountable to the voters when their union-backed leftist policies are a tainted disaster.


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.

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.

Election Gains for California Unions in 2012 Drive Push for Project Labor Agreements

The explosion of Project Labor Agreements on government projects in California since the November 6 elections is not surprising to long-time observers of labor union initiatives at local governments.

In the six months after the November 2008 Presidential Election, emboldened and confident construction trade unions won Project Labor Agreements at eleven local governments in California. It was a dramatic upsurge from the usual handful of Project Labor Agreements that California local governments had considered each year.

Four years later, the November 2012 Presidential Election once again expanded and solidified gains for union-backed candidates at local governments in California. And again, the result is a flurry of new government requirements that construction companies sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of contract work. Here’s a timeline of Project Labor Agreement activity in California since November 6.

November 6: voter approval of Proposition Z means that the San Diego Unified School District extends an existing Project Labor Agreement with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council to construction funded by an additional $2.8 billion in bond sales, as directed by a resolution passed by the board of directors on July 24, 2012.

November 8: union officials and representatives of the outgoing Mayor of San Diego triumphantly announce a “deal” that ends union environmental objections to the planned San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. A November 15 press release from the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council confirms that contractors will now be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the expansion. The City of San Diego refuses to provide the Project Labor Agreement to the public.

December 11: the board of trustees for Milpitas Unified School District approves a Project Labor Agreement with the Santa Clara and San Benito Building and Construction Trades Council.

December 26: a Project Labor Agreement is finalized and then added as Addendum 8 to the bid specifications for the first construction segment of California High-Speed Rail, without discussion or a vote by the High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors.

January 24: the board of trustees of Coast Community College District in Orange County discusses a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council.

February 6: the board of trustees of the Solano Community College District hears a scheduled staff presentation about a Project Labor Agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council.

February 6: the board of trustees of Coast Community College District hears a scheduled staff presentation about a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council. The board appoints a task force to study the issue and return with a report.

February 12: the board of trustees for Lynwood Unified School District approves a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council.

February 13: the board of trustees for Ohlone Community College District in Fremont approves a Project Labor Agreement with the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council.

March 6: the board of trustees of Solano Community College District hears formal scheduled presentations from groups supporting and opposing a Project Labor Agreement.

March 6: the board of trustees for El Monte Union High School District votes 3-2 to table consideration of a Project Labor Agreement negotiated with the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trade Council.

March 6: multiple speakers tell the board of trustees of Coast Community College District during general public comment that they oppose a proposed Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trade Council.

March 12: the board of trustees for San Francisco Unified School District directs staff to develop a local contracting and hiring policy to include in a planned Project Labor Agreement with the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council.

March 19: the board of trustees for Hartnell Community College District in Salinas discusses a Project Labor Agreement with the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council.

March 19: the El Monte City Council approves a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles and Orange County Building Trades Council.

April 1: the board of trustees for Rancho Santiago Community College District votes 5-2 to begin negotiations for a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council.

April 3: the board of trustees of Coast Community College District again discusses a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council. On a 3-2 vote, the board rejects a proposal to begin negotiating a Project Labor Agreement with union representatives and again instructs the task force to study the issue and return with a report.

April 8: the Pasadena City Council approves negotiations for a Project Labor Agreement on the Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project with the State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council.

April 9: the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors establishes a Project Labor Agreement Ad-hoc Committee based on a priority set by the board at its February 8 strategic planning session to consider a Project Labor Agreement policy with the Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

April 10: the board of trustees for El Monte Union High School District pulls from their meeting agenda a scheduled vote on a Project Labor Agreement negotiated with the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Building and Construction Trade Council.

April 16: the American Canyon City Council holds a “study session” on a Project Labor Agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council.

April 16: the board of trustees for the College of Marin approves the expansion of its existing Project Labor Agreement with the Marin Building and Construction Trades Council to include the New Academic Center. The board also holds a “study session” on Project Labor Agreements.

April 23: in response to a lawsuit, the City of San Diego provides the public with a copy of the Project Labor Agreement announced in November 2012 for the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion.

April 23: the board of trustees for the San Francisco Unified School District approves a local contracting and hiring policy to include in a planned Project Labor Agreement with the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council.

April 29: the public obtains records indicating that the Mayor of the City of Fresno asked the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to approve a targeted hiring policy for California High-Speed Rail included in the context of a Project Labor Agreement.

April 30: a task force at Coast Community College District votes to recommend to the full board of trustees that it not require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council.

May 7: the board of trustees for Hartnell Community College District in Salinas votes 4-3 to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council.

Union officials supporting a Project Labor Agreement get ready for the May 7, 2013 meeting of the Hartnell Community College District board of trustees. "P.L.A. Yes!"

Union officials supporting a Project Labor Agreement get ready for the May 7, 2013 meeting of the Hartnell Community College District board of trustees. “P.L.A. Yes!”


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.

Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement

For five months, the City of San Diego refused to give the public a Project Labor Agreement negotiated for its planned $520 million convention center expansion. This union agreement was reportedly the result of a backroom deal involving top union leaders, but multiple requests for it under the authority of the California Public Records Act failed to dislodge it.

But today (April 23, 2013), the city provided the labor agreement to the public, less than 24 hours after a construction organization filed a lawsuit to get it. 

Here are some of the twists and turns of this saga, which serves as an excellent case study in how unions manipulate public policy at the state and local level in California.

In May 2012, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council submitted a massive objection under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Four months later, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council submitted another massive CEQA objection against the revised and final Environmental Impact Report, this time choosing the drama of presenting it during a packed meeting at which San Diego port commissioners were scheduled to approve the project. (Attorneys for unions routinely engage in last-minute CEQA “document dumps” at California public meetings in order to intimidate public officials and developers into surrendering to union economic demands.)

In November 2012, a few days after union-backed Congressman Bob Filner was elected as the next mayor, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and Lorena Gonzalez – head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Central Labor Council – held a press conference to announce a settlement concerning the union CEQA complaints and also a settlement concerning a union-backed lawsuit challenging the financing method for the project. The settlements resolved very few of the environmental concerns indicated in the union CEQA complaints – not even the subsequently high-profile concern of protecting the project from sea level rise caused by global warming.

However, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council now had a Project Labor Agreement for construction of the Convention Center expansion, as proclaimed in a press release. And UNITE-HERE Local No. 30 “extended their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ensuring a unionized operation of the Convention Center once expanded,” according to Lorena Gonzalez.

If the apparent union “greenmail” of the project using CEQA as leverage to get labor agreements wasn’t controversial enough, the Project Labor Agreement also appeared to violate a ballot measure (Proposition A) approved by 58% of San Diego voters in June 2012. That ballot measure established a “Fair and Open Competition” ordinance prohibiting the city from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of work. It was put on the ballot in part to protect the convention center from ongoing union lobbying efforts at the city council to win monopoly control of  its construction.

Up to that time, voters and elected boards of local governments throughout the state had been defying union officials and approving Fair and Open Competition policies, starting in October 2009 with Orange County. In response, the California State Legislature passed and Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills (Senate Bill 922 and Senate Bill 829) pushed by then-State Senator Michael Rubio to nullify all Fair and Open Competition policies in counties and general law cities and cut off state funding for charter cities (such as San Diego) that enacted or failed to repeal such policies.

Union leaders in San Diego, particularly Lorena Gonzalez, repeatedly warned that the state would cut off money to the City of San Diego if voters didn’t repeal the Fair and Open Competition ordinance they had approved in June 2012. But for now this dramatic threat has proven to be empty, and Proposition A remains in the City of San Diego Municipal Code.

An unexpected political development occurred a few weeks after the mayor and top county union leader announced the settlement agreements for the convention center: Lorena Gonzalez announced her candidacy for the 80th Assembly District seat that would soon become vacant. Like the Eye of Sauron, union political focus in San Diego County shifted from government-mandated unionization to the task of getting her elected.

Meanwhile, a group called the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction sought to obtain the Project Labor Agreement as the preliminary step to a planned lawsuit contending that the union deal violated the Proposition A ordinance. None of the many parties involved – including the City of San Diego – would provide the document, and finally the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction filed a lawsuit against the city to get it.

A press release dated April 18, 2013 stated the following:

“We’re going to get that union Project Labor Agreement, expose it to the public, and make every schemer involved with this union sweetheart deal accountable for breaking the law,” said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

Perhaps a schemer somewhere was getting nervous. The city promptly handed over the Project Labor Agreement today, April 23, 2013.

Note that the aggressive actions of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction repulse many civic leaders in San Diego. It disrupts the cozy relationship of politicians, unions, and business interests giving each other special favors to get the convention center expanded. It creates additional controversy for a project already under scrutiny for the bizarre tax scheme involving hotel room fee assessments that will be used to pay back the borrowed money (and interest) obtained through bond sales to pay for construction. At a more basic level, many impartial observers believe the expansion is unnecessary and foolish.

Exposing the shenanigans of unions and their cohorts in California wins few friends among the powerful, but it does disgust the ordinary voter who ends up paying for it, one way or another.

Sources:

Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion

Lawsuit to Obtain Copy of Union Project Labor Agreement on San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion

Letter claiming the Project Labor Agreement for this public project is a “Trade Secret”

Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012

Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012

May 2012 Union CEQA Objections to the Draft Environmental Impact Report on the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion

September 2012 Union CEQA Objections to the Final Environmental Impact Report on the San Diego convention center Phase 3 Expansion

Background on Proposition A, the Fair and Open Competition ordinance approved by 58% of San Diego voters in June 2012

For more detailed information, see these web sites:

www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com

“San Diego Convention Center” articles in www.LaborIssuesSolutions.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.

“Unite Here” Union Becomes San Diego’s Leading Environmental Organization

According to its national web site, UNITE HERE represents workers in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, and airport industries.

But one might conclude, after looking at the public activities of UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 in San Diego, that UNITE HERE is actually an environmental organization, marketing itself as a much more aggressive alternative to the Sierra Club. It sees dire environmental calamity with every proposed hotel in downtown San Diego.

For the past five years, this union has been prominent in using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block or delay proposed hotels. Examples have included two proposed hotels for Lane Field, the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina Renovation Project, Ballpark Village, and the Phase III expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and the expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel. UNITE-HERE also lobbied in 2009 and 2010 for an ordinance in the City of San Diego that would allow outside parties to appeal the hotel approval decisions of the Centre City Development Corporation to the San Diego City Council.

Based on settlement agreements and other deals referenced in conjunction with hotel projects where UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 choses not to object or withdraws its objections, its CEQA concerns appear to be related to union demands for labor neutrality agreements with hotel developers. In addition, its CEQA concerns appear to be related to union demands for construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the hotel construction.

The union’s latest action is against the proposed Fat City Hotel Project.

On behalf of UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30, the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on December 5, 2012 alleging that the City of San Diego, the San Diego Planning Commission, and the Centre City Development Corporation improperly approved the proposed Fat City Hotel Project.

First proposed publicly in March 2012, this project would be a two-tower, 364-room hotel in San Diego’s “Little Italy” district. Parties initially involved in this development were Frank Fat Properties LP and Jonathan Segal (an architect), but the parties now developing the project are FC Acquisition Company LLC, which includes T2 Development and GLJ Partners. (See Fat City Hotels Property Sold, New Developer Takes Over: T2 Development Reportedly Planning a Hilton Hotel – San Diego Union-Tribune – August 28, 2012.)

As reported in the May 30, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotel Approved Over Labor Objections and in the July 26, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotels Project Wins Final OK: Planning Commission Denies Appeal from Hotel Workers, the hotel workers’ union has been pestering the hotel developers for a while:

The final opposition came from Unite Here Local 30, the local hotel workers union. There is no appeal from the commission vote.

Pamela N. Epstein, representing the union, said the project conflicted with city land-use plans, citing a maximum of hotel rooms that would be allowed in Little Italy where the site is located.

“Evidence does not support its designation as a resort hotel,” Epstein added.

But staff said the project complied with city rules and Commissioner Mary Lydon wondered why the union was involved, especially since new hotels mean new jobs.

“Why you brought this forward, to me, it’s a total miss,” Lydon said.

UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 claims that the project needs a project-specific Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Local agencies approved the project under the conclusion that the potential environmental impacts of this project were addressed in a 2006 “Program Environmental Impact Report” for future downtown redevelopment. See the San Diego Planning Commission staff report for the July 26, 2012 meeting concerning UNITE-HERE’s appeal of the Centre City Development Corporation’s approval of the project.

At some point, someone with influence in San Diego needs to shame the leadership of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 for its relentless exploitation of the state’s environmental protection laws.

The appropriate questions that reporters and public officials need to ask UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30: will the union drop its lawsuit if the developers agree to a neutrality agreement or collective bargaining agreement with UNITE-HERE for hotel employees, along with some minor “environmental mitigation” to provide camouflage for the true purpose of the CEQA lawsuit? In addition, is UNITE-HERE also asking the developers to require their contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council?

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