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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.

Another Year Brings New Project Labor Agreements for Education Construction

Another year brings another rush of costly union construction monopolies to K-12 school districts and community college districts in California.

Consider that voters in 2012 authorized 115 California educational districts to borrow a grand total of $15,266,651,190 ($15.3 billion) by selling bonds to investors, and you can see why schools are such an alluring target for special interest groups with special friends in elected office. (This amount does not include state matching grants to be funded from the $35.8 billion in bond sales authorized by voters in the mid-2000s.)

As readers of www.UnionWatch.org generally recognize, elected board members of K-12 and community college districts in the state’s major metropolitan areas often have political goals and ideological visions far more ambitious than simply overseeing a district that efficiently builds schools at the best price for taxpayers and students.

Educational districts are therefore typically easy pickings for union officials to lobby for Project Labor Agreements and get control of work without having to earn it.

Here are the latest setbacks for fair and open bid competition on taxpayer-funded educational construction in California:

The school board of the El Monte Union High School District is expected to vote at its March 6, 2013 meeting to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council in order to work on projects funded by borrowed money from Measure D, a $148 million bond measure approved by district voters in November 2008. This union deal was originally pushed in 2011 by a school board member seeking election to the California State Assembly; he ultimately dropped out of the race and resigned his board seat. For more information, see After 20 Months of Antics, Board of El Monte Union High School District Poised to Require Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement.

At its February 12, 2013 meeting, the school board of the Lynwood Unified School District voted to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council in order to work on projects funded by borrowed money from Measure K, a $93 million bond measure barely approved by 57% of district voters in November 2012. For more information, see Lynwood Unified School District’s Bond-Funded Construction Falls to a Project Labor Agreement.

The board of the Ohlone Community College District(within the cities of Fremont, Newark, and Union City) voted on February 13, 2013 to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County in order to work on 16 projects or categories of projects, totaling $265 million, funded by borrowed money obtained from bond sales authorized by the $349 million Measure G, approved by district voters in November 2010. In the 2000s, the district had managed to build projects under the $150 million Measure A (approved by voters in March 2002) without a union monopoly, but the board is more enlightened now. See Another California Community College District to Give Unions a Monopoly on Bond-Funded Construction: Project Labor Agreement at Ohlone Community College District.

Some people in Solano County expected the Solano College Governing Board to waste money on union schemes and other nonsense.

On February 6, 2013, the Governing Board of the Solano Community College District heard a staff report about requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council as a condition of working on projects funded by proceeds from $348 million in bond sales authorized in November 2012 by 63.52% of Solano County voters as Measure Q. Representatives of construction trade associations and the local Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group spoke against the proposal. A vote is expected at a meeting in March. See Governing Board for Solano Community College District in California Hears Debate Over Project Labor Agreement on $348 Million Bond Measure Q.

Why are K-12 school districts and community college districts so bold about imposing these government-mandated union agreements for construction? The problem seemed to begin with the enactment of Proposition 39, a statewide ballot measure approved by 53.4% of voters in November 2000.

That statewide ballot measure reduced the vote percentage needed to pass bond measures authorizing bond sales from 66.67% (two-thirds) to 55 percent under certain conditions. It virtually guaranteed voter authorization of bond sales in the state’s major metropolitan areas and began California’s massive accumulation of debt for educational construction at the state and local levels of government.

The success rate for approval of individual bond measures in November 2012 was 86%, and the success rate for approval of the total dollar amount of proposed bond sales in November 2012 was 92%. It’s evident that voters in a general election will almost always authorize educational districts to borrow money through bond sales. Educational districts don’t need to worry about how they spend the money.

One could argue that the same lack of accountability that leads to government-mandated Project Labor Agreements is also the basis for foolish sales of Capital Appreciation Bonds, the shameless awarding of financial and service contracts to donors to bond campaigns, and the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money on iPads (another practice authorized by Proposition 39).

Despite valiant investigative research and reporting from new media electronic publications such as www.CalWatchdog.com, www.VoiceofSanDiego.org, www.CaliforniaWatch.org, and www.UnionWatch.org, few people know about these issues, few people understand these issues, and few people care about these issues. The taxing and spending goes on, and unions and their leadership remain primary beneficiaries.

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.

Advancing the Union Agenda: A More Mundane Silicon Valley Ambition

As reported over the past few months in www.UnionWatch.org, almost all of the sixteen community college districts within 50 miles of San Francisco have succumbed to the union political agenda and now require their construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions as a condition of working on taxpayer-funded projects. And unions are busy picking off the holdouts. Since the November 6, 2012 election, I’ve amended the chart (see below) to indicate the imminent end of fair and open bidding competition at the Ohlone Community College District based in Fremont and the West Valley-Mission Community College District, which includes the cities of Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno.

I regret to report that the celebrated (but somewhat exaggerated) free choice, free mind, free market culture of Silicon Valley is about to experience another costly intrusion of government into commerce, this time for the benefit of construction unions. Through the 2000s, politically-moderate elected board members at the West Valley-Mission Community College District resisted political pressure to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement for the unions. Leading the charge to ram this union deal through the board of trustees was Chris Stampolis, a Democrat Party activist intent on advancing his own political career with the help of powerful San José union officials.

Trouble arrived soon after 60.1% of voters in the West Valley-Mission Community College District voted for Measure H in November 2004, thereby authorizing the college board to borrow $235 million for construction projects by selling bonds. In May 2005, the West Valley-Mission Community College District issued a request for proposals for construction management services that included notice of a possible Project Labor Agreement, prematurely revealing the union plan to get monopoly control of the work.

Opponents of Project Labor Agreements were ready to respond when Neil Struthers, the head of the Santa Clara-San Benito Building and Construction Trades Council, made a formal presentation during the May 17, 2007 West Valley-Mission Community College District board meeting about a Project Labor Agreement, at that time disguised as a “Construction Career Agreement.”

A majority of the board was either lukewarm or opposed to the plot of union officials and board member Chris Stampolis to give unions control of the work. Risking retaliation from powerful union interests, the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce issued a letter in 2008 opposing the proposed Project Labor Agreement for West Valley-Mission Community College District Project Labor Agreement. The threat faded – for a time.

In the June 2012 elections, 59.9% of voters approved Measure C, which authorized the college board of trustees to borrow another $350 million for construction by selling bonds. This time the unions and their allies had a more clever plan to get their government-mandated Project Labor Agreement for taxpayer-funded construction.

The same head construction union official made another presentation about Project Labor Agreements, this time disguised as “Promoting Local Hiring for Future Major Building Projects and Partnering to Develop Construction Industry Educational Pathways.” But this time the Project Labor Agreement presentation was scheduled as a “study session” at a May 8, 2012 “special” board meeting of the West Valley-Mission Community College District.

Notice that the board meeting notice that West Valley-Mission Community College District posted on its web site for the May 8, 2012 special meeting does not include any background information about this special agenda item, perhaps because only ONE side was studied during the so-called study session. Also notice that the West Valley-Mission Community College District failed to post the minutes of this May 8, 2012 special meeting on its web site.

Lessons:

(1) Just because a government entity is based in Silicon Valley doesn’t mean it is diligent or committed to transparency by opening its most controversial business to public scrutiny on the web. Union deals are best done when the taxpayers don’t know about it.

(2) Regarding community colleges, is there any other class of local government in California that manages so much money but has so little accountability to the People? Three times I’ve seen a one-sided, Project Labor Agreement presentation from union officials and their attorneys scheduled for a “special” community college board meeting, with the minutes of this “special” meeting somehow slipping through the cracks and not getting posted on the web for public scrutiny, as is done with the minutes of the regular meetings.

There’s a lot of strange antics still going on at West Valley-Mission Community College District board meetings. At the October 2, 2012 meeting, board member Chris Stampolis again called for discussion of a Project Labor Agreement at a future meeting. Then, at the October 14, 2012 meeting, Stampolis demanded that the minutes be changed regarding his comments on the Project Labor Agreement. He wanted the minutes to state his call for discussion at an October meeting, not a future meeting.

Finally, Chris Stampolis is getting his way. At tomorrow night’s meeting (November 13, 2012), the board of the West Valley-Mission Community College District is scheduled to give direction to the college administration about preparations to impose a Project Labor Agreement on the district’s construction contractors. Mr. Stampolis is obviously emboldened by the November 6 exercise of union political might in California and his own victory in the race for board of trustees of the Santa Clara Unified School District (where he’ll likely push for another Project Labor Agreement in that district to cover construction funded by three bond measures.) He wants to get this Project Labor Agreement in place at the West Valley-Mission Community College District before he leaves for new ambitions, and his proposed directive calls for the college administration to provide a final report on Project Labor Agreements at the December 11, 2012 board meeting.


Here’s the current status of Project Labor Agreements for community college districts in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Community College District (CCD) Year as PLA Target Year of PLA Enacted
Peralta CCD (Alameda County) 2004 2004, 2009
Chabot-Las Positas CCD (Alameda County) 2003 2006, 2010
Ohlone CCD (Alameda County) 2002, 2011 Looks like 2012
Contra Costa CCD (Costa Costa County) 2000 2012
College of Marin (Marin County) 2005 2008
Hartnell CCD (Monterey County) 2004 2004; rescinded 2004
Monterey Peninsula College Not Yet Not Yet
Napa Valley College (Napa County) 2004 Not Yet
City College of San Francisco (San Francisco) 2002 2005
San Mateo CCD (San Mateo County) 2002 2002, 2007
Cabrillo College (Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey Counties) 2004 Not Yet
Foothill-DeAnza CCD (Santa Clara County) 2007 2008, 2011
San Jose-Evergreen CCD (Santa Clara County) 2006 2011
West Valley-Mission CCD (Santa Clara County) 2005, 2008, 2012 Looks like 2012
Solano CCD (Solano County) 2003 2004
Santa Rosa Junior College (Sonoma County) 2002, 2005 Not Yet

See my www.UnionWatch.org analysis of why California’s community college districts are inclined to require construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions:  Unions Increase Control of California’s Community College Boards.

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.