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Taxpayer Group Pushing to Gut California’s Prop. 13 is Union Front Group

One lingering success of the Right in California is the public’s continued association of taxpayers’ organizations with fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and limited government. Statewide groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and regional groups such as the San Diego County Taxpayers Association maintain credibility as leaders in resisting foolhardy tax increases and wasteful spending.

This reputation translates into political power. In 2000, various interest groups wanted California voters to approve what became Proposition 39, a ballot measure that reduced the threshold from 2/3 to 55% for voter approval of K-12 school districts and community college districts to borrow money for construction by selling bonds. To create the impression of responsible oversight for spending, Prop 39 required the establishment of a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, with the requirement that “One member shall be active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization.”

Not surprisingly, labor unions are cleverly trying to hide behind alleged taxpayers’ organizations as a way to advance their own political agenda, which typically entails higher taxes and more government spending. One example is the San Diego-based “Middle Class Taxpayers Association,” which succeeded in 2011 in getting the Southwest Community College District board to boot a representative of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association from the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee and replace her with their own representative.

The new “bona fide taxpayers’ organization” representative was the political director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 36 and Local 831. As you have probably guessed by now, construction unions wanted to neutralize any internal resistance to their lobbying campaign for the college board of trustees to require their contractors to sign a union Project Labor Agreement. (That requirement is now in effect.)

Then there’s the Richmond-based “Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group.” It issued a letter in 2012 critical of a study produced by the head of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, who was scheduled to speak at a meeting of the legitimate Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. Little information is available on the web about this group, but considering that it seems to pop up only when construction unions are lobbying for Project Labor Agreements, it’s obvious that this group serves union interests.

Another example is revealed in the January 29, 2014 column “Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop 13” by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times. It asks “Are California voters ready yet to change Proposition 13 so that all corporations pay their fair share of property taxes?”

Corporations are not paying their “fair share” in taxes, according to the perspective of this column. A reader might wonder what “fair share” means, and think there’s a balanced, objective, data-based argument when reading this:

Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Assn., has been pushing for years to modify Prop. 13 and close the corporate loopholes.

“We’re trying to organize, educate and expose what’s really happening,” he says. “We’re developing data and looking at some of the largest landowners in the state. If it turns out people don’t care, they don’t care.”

“My modest goal is to get it out front and center so people can have a discussion and not avert their eyes.”

According to the columnist, this taxpayers’ organization has a “modest” goal for a public “discussion” about an injustice it has identified in the tax code. Sounds reasonable. Perhaps the group wants corporations to pay their “fair share,” so that ordinary taxpayers can get a tax cut.

Or perhaps not.

Mr. Skelton has written for the Los Angeles Times since 1974, and new challenges face newspaper columnists in 2014 that were not around 40 years ago. One of them is busybody readers and their access to a newfangled “series of tubes” called the Internet that can be filled with information, such as the real identity of taxpayer groups. Any gadfly who wonders why a taxpayer organization wants to increase taxes can research it and expose it through social media.

Done! The California Tax Reform Association – of course – is yet another union front group. In 2012, 60 percent of its revenue came from these unions:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Contributions

Still not sure? Here is the 2012 board of directors for the California Tax Reform Association:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Board of Directors

The group hasn’t posted on its web site since May 23, 2012. That’s one highly-credible source! But it’s a convenient one, and deceiving too.

A lesson for citizens: just because an organization calls itself a taxpayers’ group does not necessarily mean it doesn’t want to raise your taxes or control government spending. Plenty of union money and personnel are being used to undermine one of the last defenses of fiscal responsibility in California. Check every group carefully and expose the union control to the public when you find it.

Sources

Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop. 13 – column by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times – January 29, 2014

Proposition 39 (2000)

Real Taxpayers’ Associations

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

San Diego County Taxpayers Association

Contra Costa Taxpayers Association

Union-Backed Taxpayers’ Associations

Middle Class Taxpayers Association

Builder Decries Loss of Oversight Members: SWC Board Replaced Two on Prop. R Committee over the Summer – Southwestern College Sun newspaper – October 7, 2011

Breaking: Labor Corruption…SD Labor Council Seeks to Oust Taxpayer Advocate from Oversight Committee – posted on San Diego Rostra by Ryan Purdy – July 12, 2011

California Tax Reform Association


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subject: San Diego Central Courthouse Project

Members of the Judicial Council:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steve


Who’s Responsible? The Judicial Council

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

Chair

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

Supreme Court

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

Courts of Appeal

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

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

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

Trial Courts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Bar

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

Mr. James P. Fox
Attorney at Law

Ms. Edith R. Matthai
Attorney at Law

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

Advisory Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secretary

Judge Steven Jahr
Administrative Director of the Courts


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

Unions Threaten Environmental Litigation to Block San Diego Convention Center

Whatever your views concerning the wisdom of the proposed $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center and the related expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, you should be outraged at the shameless stunt of top San Diego labor union officials and their lawyers at the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Board of Port Commissioners for the United Port of San Diego.

The spectacle at the Port of San Diego was a powerful illustration of how labor unions abuse the California Environmental Quality Act, commonly known as CEQA (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.), to delay projects while demanding labor agreements and other economic or labor concessions from public and private developers. It also showed how community leaders and developers are too helpless or intimidated to try to stop or evade this practice, known as “greenmail.”


A Summary of the Spectacle at the Port Commissioners’ Meeting: You Won’t Read This Story in the Mainstream News Media!

Before a crowded meeting room packed with the San Diego region’s top civic leaders – including the Mayor of San Diego, Jerry Sanders – union officials declared to the Port Commissioners that the 1400-page final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that the Port Commissioners were about to approve for the proposed project was inadequate and incomplete under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). They made this claim despite the Port’s efforts to address the original 62-page CEQA objection letter submitted by those same unions on June 29, 2012 to the Port concerning the proposed San Diego Convention Center expansion. To see the union letter AND the 374 pages of exhibits, go to the full set of Convention Center CEQA comments here. (The union submission starts at page 101 of the PDF document and ends at page 536.)

At the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Port Commissioners, top union officials made sure that all the important community leaders in the room recognized who had the power and the commitment to derail the project. An official of the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 led off the attack by declaring that the Port’s plan to comply with CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. Then a lawyer from the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo explained more specifically all of the newly discovered alleged problems with the Environmental Impact Report. She was given extra time to speak because Tom Lemmon – head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – submitted a speaker card and then transferred his speaking time to her.

Along with her comments, the lawyer for the unions brought to the podium a NEW 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) and 250 pages of referenced exhibits on behalf of “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center.” This phony, unincorporated group is actually a front for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30. Such last-minute CEQA “document dumps” at government meetings are routinely used by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of unions.

Union CEQA Documents Submitted to Port of San Diego - San Diego Convention Center Expansion

On behalf of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted a huge last-minute objection under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. The San Diego Port Commissioners approved the Environmental Impact Report anyway at its September 19, 2012 meeting.

Finally, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed into the meeting late to announce there were problems with the Environmental Impact Report for the convention center. Perhaps voters rejected her when she ran for San Diego City Council in 2005-06, but at this meeting she exercised the aggressive and coercive power of unionism as she spoke in front of the civic leaders seeking to help Mayor Jerry Sanders achieve this final economic development goal before he leaves office. Gonzalez proposed that the Port Commissioners approve a “tolling agreement” that would extend the statute of limitations for the unions to file a lawsuit. This would give unions more time to squeeze their demands out of the developers and the convention center’s public and private partners.

After these antics, the Port Commissioners recessed the meeting for about 20 minutes so Port staff could scan the document dump by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and make a preliminary determination of whether or not the unions introduced new and valid CEQA objections to the proposed convention center and hotel expansion. If the comments were serious threats, the Port Commissioners would need to table the item to approve the Environmental Impact Report.

Staff ultimately identified four potential areas vulnerable to lawsuits or appeals, but also indicated how the issues would be addressed. In the end, the Port Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Environmental Impact Report, while noting that they expected litigation and appeals unless relevant parties were able to make a deal with the unions.


Using CEQA to Attain Objectives Unrelated to Environmental Protection

What is the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council seeking with its CEQA objections? As I documented in my March 11, 2011 www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com article entitled It’s Out in the Open: Project Labor Agreement a Costly Possibility for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, union officials want a requirement for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions as a condition of working on the projects.

Since the mid-1990s, Project Labor Agreements have become the primary political scheme that California construction trade unions use to gain monopoly control over public and private construction projects. While politicians are often lured by potential union campaign support into supporting government-mandated Project Labor Agreements, ordinary citizens don’t want their local government officials forcing contractors to sign costly union agreements to work on construction projects funded by tax dollars. Most people seem to understand instinctively what has been shown through a comprehensive study of California school construction released in 2011 by the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego: Project Labor Agreements increase the cost of construction 13% to 15%. See the institute’s study at www.thecostofPLAs.com.

Since June 2010, voters in San Diego County, the City of San Diego, the City of Chula Vista, the City of Oceanside, and the City of El Cajon have all approved “Fair and Open Competition” charter provisions or ordinances that prohibit these local government entities from requiring their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of winning a contract. Voters in the City of Escondido will consider a charter provision in the November 6, 2012 election that achieves the same purpose of fair and open bid competition. People in the San Diego region clearly REJECT government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.


Unions Routinely Block Private Projects in the San Diego Region with Environmental Objections Until Developers Surrender and Agree to Sign Project Labor Agreements with Unions and Require Their Contractors to Do the Same

It’s hard to track and document the numerous threats and legal actions in the San Diego area by construction unions and other unions such as UNITE-HERE to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other environmental laws to block and delay approval of development projects until a labor agreement is signed. The negotiations and applied pressure goes on behind closed doors, and often the victimized developer is compelled to succumb in secret. To add insult to injury, the developer is often dragged to a humiliating press conference to claim publicly that signing a Project Labor Agreement with unions is a wonderful business practice.

Two companies that exposed the union greenmail to the public were SeaWorld and Gaylord Entertainment.

1. SeaWorld San Diego Theme Park expansion – threatened in 2002, but resisted, and a Project Labor Agreement was not implemented. See background information here: Unions Fail to Force SeaWorld to Sign Project Labor Agreement.

2. Gaylord Entertainment hotel and convention center at the Chula Vista Bayfront – threatened in 2007 and 2008, but resisted. Gaylord ultimately abandoned the project and commenced construction instead of a resort complex in Arizona. See Gaylord Entertainment’s 2007 withdrawal letter: Out of Chula Vista; Unions Threaten CEQA Abuse.

Other companies have dealt with CEQA greenmail against proposed San Diego projects in various ways:

1. San Diego Padres Petco Park – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 1999. The developer agreed to a Project Labor Agreement in 2000. The project magically became environmentally sound.

2. Ballpark Village – there was a Ballpark Village draft Project Labor Agreement circulating in 2005, after Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – representing the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 – identified environmental problems with the project. Four years later, the same law firm identified environmental problems with the project on behalf of UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30.

3. Poseidon Desalination Plant in Carlsbad – developer avoided union interference by agreeing to a Project Labor Agreement in 2005.

4. Downtown San Diego hotel projects, including Lane Field (Intercontinental Hotel and Aviana Suites), Sunroad Harbor Island Hotel, and San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina facilities expansion projects – the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has identified alleged environmental problems with these proposed projects on behalf of UNITE-HERE Local No. 30.

5. Palomar Power Plant in Escondido – Sempra Energy signed a Project Labor Agreement and avoided licensing delays at the California Energy Commission instigated by intervenor California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). There is also a 30-year Maintenance Labor Agreement for this power plant.

6. Otay Mesa Generating Station – see here how CURE extracted this Project Labor Agreement from Calpine.

7. Sunrise Powerlink transmission line – Project Labor Agreement implemented in 2010.

8. Pio Pico Energy Center in East Otay Mesa – The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California proudly announced on November 3, 2011 that it had extracted a Project Labor Agreement for the construction of this power plant. California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) did NOT intervene in the licensing process at the California Energy Commission on this 300 MW project. It’s odd how unions see devastating environmental problems with projects related to solar energy generation, but didn’t see the need to comment on this one…

Other projects of uncertain status:

1. 655 Broadway – no Project Labor Agreement; union-only though.

2. Sapphire Tower at 1262 Kettner Boulevard (Santa Fe Parcel 6) – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 2004. (I spoke at the August 12, 2004 meeting of the Centre City Development Corporation about the union’s CEQA objections to this project.)

3. Chula Vista Bayfront project – Pacifica Companies – news media indicated that a Project Labor Agreement seemed likely.

4. Carlsbad Energy Center – threat or already agreed to Project Labor Agreement.


How Can San Diego Civic Leaders Derail the Union CEQA Attack on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion? Specific Recommendations to Four Parties.

1. San Diego’s News Media: The local news media needs to stop dancing around this issue so ordinary citizens can learn what’s happening and respond to it.  Most people think this racket is outrageous, and they will lash out against it. Even some dedicated union members are uncomfortable with the decision of their leaders to hold up projects using the California Environmental Quality Act. It just sort of feels wrong.

The union CEQA threats against Gaylord Entertainment’s proposed Chula Vista Bayfront hotel and convention center were widely reported in 2007 and 2008, and ordinary citizens were aghast. But in the case of the convention center expansion, local news media is being very cautious in their reporting, perhaps because they sense that negative publicity might jeopardize an ambitious project wanted badly by the region’s civic leaders. (For the latest examples of news media downplaying the union maneuvers, see Convention Center Project Takes a Major Step Forward – San Diego Union-Tribune – September 20, 2012 and Port Approves Environmental Report For Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – September 19, 2012.)

After the Port’s deadline on June 29, 2012 for interested parties to submit comments concerning the draft Environmental Impact Report, local news media reported on the various submissions, but neglected to mention the comments submitted by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 through Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo. This was a bizarre oversight, considering that the unions submitted 436 of the 536 total pages of comments! (See Convention Center EIR Cites Numerous Impacts – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 3, 2012, Concerns Expressed on Center Expansion: Report Brings Up Aesthetics, Noise, Air Quality, Traffic – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 6, 2012, and Port Preparing Final Convention Center Environmental Impact Report – San Diego Daily Transcript – July 3, 2012.) Those comments were the true story.

2. San Diego’s Business and Political Leaders: Someone in town has to be a courageous leader and organize a broad coalition to fight back publicly against this relentless exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by local labor union officials and their lawyers. Few people were willing to even mention the subject at the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Port Commissioners – there were no heroes in a room full of congratulatory adulation. Civic leaders need to collectively speak out against this racket. In addition, they need to stop recognizing as “community leaders” those union officials who threaten to abuse CEQA to hold up projects in order to extract labor agreements. People who pull such antics don’t belong on boards of directors and executive committees of reputable community organizations.

3. California’s Leading Environmentalists: Legitimate environmental groups such as the Sierra Club of California and the Natural Resources Defense Council don’t like how state legislators and Governor Jerry Brown are pushing for changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). But if this sort of behavior keeps up, one day they’ll see the state legislature amending CEQA in a way much more radical than the relatively mild “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” that they were shrieking about in August 2012. Perhaps it’s time for environmental leaders to ask their union ideological allies to stop using CEQA to extract labor agreements from developers and governments.

4. Reasonable State Legislators and Governor Jerry Brown: California elected officials – especially those representing San Diego County – have a great anecdote here as a basis for arguing the need for CEQA reform. Imagine all the pharmaceutical conventions that will go to Orlando and Phoenix when this proposed San Diego convention center expansion is blocked by the unions’ CEQA objections. I bet comic book enthusiasts will have a blast getting together in Las Vegas! By the way, the proposed CEQA reform known as the “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” probably won’t make a difference in stopping the practice of union greenmail. More vigorous measures similar to Senate Bill 1631 (2008), Senate Bill 628 (2005), or Assembly Bill 598 (2012) will be needed to stop this racket.

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.