Unlike San Francisco, where 78.4% of voters approved Proposition 1A in November 2008 to authorize borrowing $9.95 billion through bond sales to fund the project, Madera County is farm country in the San Joaquin Valley, where the reception to the bullet train is generally hostile. Signs at the entrance to the Madera Community College Center, where the hearing was held, criticized the project and its Congressional supporters.
I had predicted in a couple of tweets that unions would have a strong, supportive presence at the committee hearing. That was indeed the case.
And when Congressman Jim Costa began his introductory remarks, he entered into the record a thick collection of letters in support of the project.
Nevertheless, the letters indicate why construction trade unions were among the biggest financial supporters of Proposition 1A in 2008 and remain among the strongest supporters today: “let’s create those jobs and get to work now.” And we are told “we simply can’t afford not to start building High-Speed Rail now.”
A union official told KSEE Channel 24 news in Fresno that the project was an opportunity to create jobs. But Nicole Goehring of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors also told KSEE Channel 24 news that those jobs were going to be union-only because of the Project Labor Agreement, which was imposed without public discussion or a vote of the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. See Proposed High Speed Rail Plans Face Challenges.
For the boring but accurate details about the California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement (aka Community Benefits Agreement), see my Analysis of the Phony Community Benefits and Other Provisions in the Union Project Labor Agreement for the First Segment of California’s High-Speed Rail.
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.
https://californiapolicycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/LOGO_v2_white_269x70.png00Kevin Daytonhttps://californiapolicycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/LOGO_v2_white_269x70.pngKevin Dayton2013-06-04 15:00:492013-06-04 15:00:49Unions Defend California High-Speed Rail Project at Congressional Hearing
On January 11, 2013, a video camera recorded a stunning public tirade by Fresno’s top construction union official at a conference about supposed local contracting opportunities for the first segment of California’s High Speed Rail. Below is video footage of the beginning of a panel discussion about Project Labor Agreements, and below that is the ignominious ending of the panel discussion a few minutes later.
An effective public relations campaign depends on major news media focusing on idealistic concepts, rather than the coarse ground game related to which people from which places get the jobs to perform the actual construction. But while idealistic concepts for environmental sustainability are promoted by professional activists who work for non-profit environmental and public transit advocacy organizations, building the high-speed rail requires construction trade workers. This injects union officials from the San Joaquin Valley into the coalition to build the rail line. And one of those union officials tarnished the progressive image on January 11.
Background: Why Will Unions Get a Monopoly on Building California’s High-Speed Rail?
That plan – backed by Governor Gray Davis – was undermined in 2001 and 2002 by San Joaquin Valley business, political, and community leaders, who worked with some aggressive construction business associations to expose and criticize the scheme. In the end, bidding was done under fair and open competition, and non-union contractors and their non-union employees were prominent in building the new campus.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Section 7.11.3 of the Request for Proposal for Design-Build Services for the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail project states that “Proposers are advised that, subject to FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] approval, the Authority intends to develop a Community Benefits Agreement consistent with the Community Benefits Policy adopted by the CHSRA [California High-Speed Rail Authority] Board at its December 6, 2012 meeting with which the Contractor will be required to comply.” (Note: “Community Benefits Agreement” is a euphemism for “Project Labor Agreement” meant to give the public a nice warm feeling about a union sweetheart deal.)
And Section 10.1 of the Request for Proposal states that “The Authority [that is, the California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales] will not make a recommendation for award of the Contract [to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors] unless the successful selected Proposer has submitted the following: Escrowed Proposal Documents and corrected any deficiencies identified by the examination of the EPDs, and A letter of assent executed by the Proposer agreeing to be bound by the Community Benefits Agreement.” This indicates a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement.
California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate – Section 10.1
For technical details about the provisions of this Project Labor Agreement, see my comprehensive, 4000-word Analysis of the Phony Community Benefits and Other Provisions in the Union Project Labor Agreement for the First Segment of California’s High-Speed Rail.
Unexpectedly Defiant Resistance to the Project Labor Agreement Provokes Union Anger
Three invited panelists showed up: John Hutson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare Counties Building and Construction Trades Council (this organization lacks a web site), Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (a Project Labor Agreement opponent), and Nicole Goehring of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (another Project Labor Agreement opponent). As you hear in Video #1, organizers of the panel discussion had asked other union officials to participate (some apparently chose instead to sit in the audience).
As shown in Video #1, Hutson was flummoxed to find out he would be defending the unions’ Project Labor Agreement instead of explaining to the construction companies of the Central Valley how they would soon enjoy the benefits of unionization under the Project Labor Agreement if they hoped to work on the High-Speed Rail. He expresses his astonishment that “some little kid” was handing out information from Associated Builders and Contractors about Project Labor Agreements. He then proceeds to tell a colorful story from “when he was a small boy” about farm life.
None of this has anything to do with the terms and conditions of Project Labor Agreements in bid specifications for construction contracts, and Video #2 shows what happened when an effort was made by the moderator to get the panel discussion on track.
Hutson complains that Eric Christen is “edging it on” and “smiling it up.” (Did he mean “egging it on?”) He then says to Christen, in defiance of social norms of respect for other people as promoted by the White House and the U.S. Department of Labor, “I think I recognize you from before your sex change operation.”
The moderator tries to take the microphone away and restore order, but Hutson resists: “get your hands off.” Then he walks away from the table, only to return to spit out some profanity (specific words heard by witnesses but not quite audible on Video #2). He then storms out of the room (and the hotel) with his fellow union officials, leaving the contractors sitting in the room stunned at the personal attacks and derogatory statements launched during the five-minute panel discussion.
A press release jointly issued on January 11, 2013 by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction and Associated Builders and Contractors quoted a Fresno-based construction company owner who attended the panel discussion:
I took time away from my workday to be here to discuss this important issue on behalf of my employees that prefer to work in a merit shop environment. The antics displayed today represent the reason why I left the Union many years ago. The taxpayers and voters of California should be deeply concerned about the union favoritism displayed in this agreement.
In November 2008, 52.7% of California voters supported Proposition 1A, called the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century.” How many of them assumed that the 21st Century would involve these kinds of union antics?
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.
https://californiapolicycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/LOGO_v2_white_269x70.png00Kevin Daytonhttps://californiapolicycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/LOGO_v2_white_269x70.pngKevin Dayton2013-01-15 15:00:412013-01-15 15:00:41Watch Union Official's Rude Antics at California High-Speed Rail Conference
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