Posts

Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed Rail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fresno Business Journal reported this about the press conference:

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

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

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

Bullet train path through Kings County farmland.

Bullet train path through Kings County farmland.

Sources

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

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

Election Results by County: Proposition 1A (2008)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California High-Speed Rail Scam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date

Accomplishment for Advocates of Economic and Personal Freedom

Accomplishment for Construction Trade Unions

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Union Backroom Deal on Convention Center Pays Off in San Diego

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Diego Convention Center Union Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sources

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

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

California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements

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

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

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

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

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

San Diego County New Central Courthouse Project Labor Agreement

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

How Project Labor Agreement was implemented:

Background:

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

San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion Project Labor Agreement

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

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

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

Background:

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

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

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

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

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

Background:

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

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

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

Background:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Glenarm Power Plant Repowering Project, City of Pasadena

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

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

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

2. Napa Pipe Project, County of Napa

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

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

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

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

This one had a happy ending!

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

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

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

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

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

5. Pioneer Green Energy Solar Project, County of Kern

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

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

6. Imperial Valley Solar Company 2, County of Imperial

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

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

7. Casa Diablo IV Geothermal Plant, County of Mono

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

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

8. Three Rocks Solar, County of Fresno

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

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

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

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

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

10.  World Logistics Center Project – City of Moreno Valley

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

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

11. Ocotillo Wind Energy Facility Project, Imperial County

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

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

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

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

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

13. Campo Verde Solar Project, Imperial County

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

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

14. Citation Residential Project, City of Milpitas

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

15. Cordes Ranch Specific Plan, City of Tracy

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

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

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

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

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

17. Desert Harvest Solar Project, Riverside County

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20. One South Market, City of San Jose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

Richmond Solar PV Project (Marin Clean Energy)

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

FRESNO COUNTY

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

Adame 1 – Gestamp Asetym Solar

Giffen 1 – Gestamp Asetym Solar

Inspiration Solar Generation Farm

Placer Solar

Three Rocks Solar

IMPERIAL COUNTY

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

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

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

Campo Verde

Imperial Valley Solar Company 2

KERN COUNTY

Beacon Photovoltaic Project

Catalina Renewable Energy Project

Kingbird Solar

Pioneer Green Solar Project

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

Recurrent Energy Old River One

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

Willow Springs Solar Array

KINGS COUNTY

Aurora

Corcoran West

GWF Henrietta

Recurrent Energy Solar Projects

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

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

Stratford Photovoltaic Solar Facility

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Alpine Solar

Antelope Valley Solar

Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One (AVSR1)

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

California Flats

RIVERSIDE COUNTY

Desert Harvest Solar Farm

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

McCoy Solar Energy Project

SAN BENITO COUNTY

Panoche Valley Solar Farm

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY

Agincourt and Marathon

Alamo Oro Grade Solar Project

Aries Solar

Kramer Junction – Boulevard Associates

Kramer Junction – Lightsource Renewables

Lucerne Valley

Sunray Energy – Daggett

Stateline Solar Farm Project

SAN DIEGO COUNTY

Sol Orchard Ramona

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

California Valley Solar Ranch

Topaz

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Cuyama Solar Facility

STANISLAUS COUNTY

Fink Road Solar Farm

McHenry Solar Farm

TULARE COUNTY

Great Valley Solar


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

 

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 Defend California High-Speed Rail Project at Congressional Hearing

On May 28, 2013, the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for the U.S. House of Representatives held a field hearing in Madera, California on oversight of the California High-Speed Rail project.

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.

You can read the 120 pages of letters here: Support Letters – California High-Speed Rail – May 28, 2013 Congressional Field Hearing in Madera. The package isn’t as impressive when you discover that most of the letters are from union officials, and most of the letters are the same boilerplate language.

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.”

The main argument against California High-Speed Rail is that we simply can’t afford to build it. And the Project Labor Agreement that construction companies large and small will have to sign with unions as a condition of working on this project will increase the cost, if studies and anecdotes about Project Labor Agreements in California are an accurate indication of what happens when unions get a government-mandated monopoly on construction.

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.

Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley

Throughout California, unions routinely use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a tool to block and delay proposed projects until the public or private developer accepts some sort of labor agreement.

This is the big-time, highly-professional “greenmail.” At stake is the control of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars. Such CEQA abuse is extensive but rarely reported by the state’s news media.

Interest groups calling for CEQA reform prefer to focus on the little outrages, such as the case in 2011 in which Andy’s BP gas station appealed to the San Jose City Council on environmental grounds after the San Jose Planning Commission approved the expansion of Moe’s gas station, located across the street.

This kind of CEQA abuse is silly, and everyone can band together and say this is ridiculous.

Union CEQA abuse is sinister. It’s a manifestation of the clash of economic ideologies. It involves implicit and sometimes explicit threats before and during negotiations leading to secret deals behind closed doors. It is the flexing of power between corporate and collectivist interests. And the unwitting and unaware individual citizen ultimately pays the price.

The latest example of union CEQA abuse about which you haven’t heard is the environmental objections of three construction trade unions to the conversion of the long-abandoned Napa Pipe manufacturing facility into a commercial and residential riverfront development. This proposed project is in the southern end of Napa Valley.

The May 21, 2013 Napa Valley Register local newspaper hinted that unions plan to use CEQA to interfere with this project if the Napa County Board of Supervisors approves it:

A coalition of union workers raised some environmental concerns with the project moving forward as planned, though.

Ellen Trescott, a lawyer with Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo in Sacramento, requested the county delay its approval so another environmental impact report could be prepared.

Trescott argued that’s warranted because Napa Pipe’s EIR analyzed a much larger version of the project, when it was proposed to be 2,500 homes. The developers shrunk it to up to 945 homes last June.

“You can only stretch an EIR so far,” Trescott said. “Don’t hastily approve this project without covering your legal bases under CEQA,” she said, referring to the state’s environmental law.

Trescott said she represents the Napa Coalition for Responsible Development, which is identified as consisting of Napa County residents Brett Risley, David Dias and Dan Huss, as well as the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 343, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 180, and other residents.

After the meeting, Trescott said the group has not yet considered the possibility of filing a legal challenge to Napa Pipe under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Gitelman dismissed the group’s contentions, citing a response letter written by Whit Manley, a lawyer working with the developers behind Napa Pipe. Manley argued that the project’s shrinkage after rounds of public input and comment in the EIR process is “an inevitable – indeed, desirable – aspect of the CEQA process.”

“CEQA is intended to inform public decisionmaking,” Manley wrote. “It is not designed to condemn projects to endless rounds of review.”

As it turns out, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo had submitted a massive set of CEQA objections to the proposed Napa Pipe development in May 2011, on behalf of “The Napa Coalition for Responsible Development,” which is “comprised of Napa County residents, including, Brett Risley, David Dias and Daniel Huss, and Sheet Metal Workers, Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 343, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 180, and their members and their families and other individuals that live and/or work in Napa County.”

One could still accept the claim of the unions that they simply have “a strong interest in enforcing environmental laws such as the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) to protect its members” and – as reported in the March 28, 2012 Napa Valley Register – “Union locals for electrical workers, plumbers and sheet-metal workers lament the prospective loss of a key site from the county’s industrial past, and advocate leaving it untouched in the hopes that industry will once again take root there.”

But a May 23, 2013 letter to the editor of the Napa Valley Register from a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local No. 180 suggests an ulterior motive, and it’s not love for the environment or lamentation for the (union-instigated?) decline of California industry:

…Texas is not the only state with builders or developers who don’t intend to pay their workers a living wage. The developer of Napa Pipe built Carneros Inn and Boon Fly Café, prior to trying to develop the Napa Pipe project.

In the first phase of the Carneros Inn project, he used Napa Electric Co. and other local contractors. The business manager of Electrical Workers Local 180, Plumbers Local 343 and Sheet Metal Workers Local 104 asked the developer if he would sign a PLA (Project Labor Agreement). This means he agrees to pay the living wage for Napa County, and also agrees to use local contractors for the Carneros Inn project.

He immediately said he would not sign any such agreement. In phase two of the Carneros Inn project, he hired Rex Moore from Sacramento to do his electrical work and other out-of town contractors who will work for less than our living wage in Napa County.

I appeal to our county Board of Supervisors to not let this project go forward until this developer agrees to sign a PLA, and also agrees to only use local Napa contractors.

Regular readers of www.UnionWatch.org will laugh at the usual California union attack on Texas and recognize that the misnomer “living wage” in this letter is referring to the wages, benefits, and employer payments to other union-affiliated trust funds designated in the applicable collective bargaining agreements for each construction trade in Napa County, and not to any sort of independently determined “living wage” for the region.

Of course, the idea that a company that happens to be based in Napa Valley wine country (not a center of the construction industry) should have exclusive rights to building a major development because the project is located in Napa is absurd. The real purpose of the Project Labor Agreement is to eliminate competition and give unions a monopoly on construction.

The Napa Valley Register published a subsequent May 24, 2013 letter to the editor – “Union Pressure Leads to Labor Agreements” – submitted by me that exposed the truth to the public:

California union leaders regard the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as an essential tool to “greenmail” public and private project owners into signing union Project Labor Agreements (PLA). That’s why unions oppose any reasonable changes to CEQA at the state legislature.

The Napa Pipe mixed-use riverfront neighborhood is now a target of union CEQA actions. The law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is representing construction trade unions as it submits environmental objections to the Napa Pipe project.

If unions suddenly stop objecting to the Napa Pipe neighborhood on environmental grounds, look for the Project Labor Agreement. A May 23 letter to the editor of the Napa Valley Register from a union official (“Napa Pipe project workers deserve Napa living wages”) asks the Napa County Board of Supervisors to “not let this project go forward until this developer agrees to sign a PLA.”

One day, unions and their allies will no longer control the state Legislature, and the Napa Pipe project will be another piece of evidence to prove CEQA has become a farce.

Sources:

The notorious Andy’s BP CEQA action against Moe’s Stop Gas and Service Station in San Jose

Napa Pipe Project (developer’s site)

Napa Pipe Project (County of Napa site)

Napa County Board of Supervisors

The law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo

May 2, 2011 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo Comments on Supplemental Draft EIR for Napa Pipe Project – Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 343, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 180

The Battle Over Napa PipeNapa Valley Register – March 18, 2012

County Delays Action on Napa Pipe, but a Deal is Close – Napa Valley Register – May 21, 2013

Napa Pipe Project Workers Deserve Napa Living WagesNapa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Union Pressure Leads to Labor AgreementsNapa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 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.

Citizen Awareness Stops Project Labor Agreement in Orange County, California

Stopping the union political agenda on the state and local level in California entails the grinding, boring mundanity of ordinary grassroots organizing. It’s unglamorous. It’s not financially rewarding. And it certainly doesn’t enhance the professional or community reputation of anyone doing it.

But it often works, as shown on May 15, 2013, when the elected board of trustees of the Coast Community College District in Orange County voted 3-2 to reject a proposed union Project Labor Agreement.

In November 2012, 57.2% of voters in the Coast Community College District approved Measure M, which authorized the college district to borrow $698 million for construction by selling bonds to investors. (Under the conditions of Proposition 39 approved by California voters in 2000, these bond sales won approval with 55% – not 66.67% – of the vote.)

In total, the construction program at the Coast Community College District will be $1.5 billion when state matching grants (also funded through bond sales) and other sources of funding are added. That’s a lot of responsibility for an elected community college board whose members are generally unknown to the public and get virtually no press coverage of their meetings and decisions.

Residents of this college district are relatively educated, affluent, and engaged in their communities: the district includes Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Westminster, and part of Garden Grove. Nevertheless, few people – including the local news media – were paying much attention to this bond measure and the activities of the elected college board of trustees who would oversee it.

Jim Moreno wants to give away $100 million to unions – YouTube

With one of the Democrat board members (Jim Moreno) considering a campaign to run for the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2014, and only one Republican among the five board members, perhaps this district should have been regarded as a target for union infiltration. As it turned out, the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council was very interested in this college and its $1.5 billion in upcoming construction work.

After voters approved Measure M, construction union lobbyists began quietly working behind the scenes to get the college to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on college construction projects. Two successive board agendas included discussion of the proposal, which was cleverly disguised as a innocuous-sounding “Continuity of Work Agreement.”

It’s possible the Coast Community College District would have ended up adopting a Project Labor Agreement if someone hadn’t snickered at the phony “Continuity of Work Agreement” now in place at the Pasadena Unified School District and decided to initiate a web search to see if unions were using this deceptive euphemism for Project Labor Agreements anywhere else in California. The web search pulled up meeting agendas for the board of trustees of the Coast Community College District. Meeting minutes revealed that union officials and their two political sycophants on the board of trustees (Jim Moreno and Jerry Patterson) were aggressively pushing for the college district to impose this costly union monopoly on its construction program. At the same time, no one was providing any opposing viewpoints during public comments or in written material.

How could this union plot be stopped with such late notice? Local opponents of Project Labor Agreements realized that a solid majority of voters in this college district support fair and open bid competition and oppose costly union monopolies on taxpayer-funded construction projects. In addition, opponents recognized that voters would have handily rejected Measure M if the college had admitted before the election that it planned to mandate a Project Labor Agreement. After all, it barely won.

For opponents, stopping the advancing union proposal focused on alerting the public that union lobbyists were trying to get control of the work through special favors from their friends in government. The obscure Coast Community College District board of trustees needed to become accountable to the public instead of union officials. This strategy was quickly implemented:

  1. Door-to-Door Education of Voters: Young Republican activists distributed flyers to voters exposing the two elected board members pushing the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of unions and at the expense of taxpayers. These flyers greatly agitated the two board members, who apparently never expected the public to hold them responsible for pushing a costly union sweetheart deal.
  2. Phone Calls to Educate Voters: Voters received phone calls informing them about the two elected board members pushing the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of unions and at the expense of taxpayers.
  3. Traditional News Media: Through articles, editorials, letters to the editor, and op-ed commentaries, local newspapers informed readers about what their elected college officials were planning to do with their tax money.
  4. Web-Based News Media: Local and state political news blogs and other web sites with an orientation toward principles of economic freedom highlighted what was happening.
  5. Social Media: Emails and other more traditional forms of communication circulated among political activists supportive of fiscal responsibility and economic freedom. A YouTube video was posted. A few political activists used Twitter to notify the public about the board’s consideration of a Project Labor Agreement.
  6. Civic Leadership: A few courageous local elected officials (such as Huntington Beach City Councilmember Matt Harper) risked stirring up union ire by speaking out publicly against the Project Labor Agreement. The Orange County Business Council also opposed the Project Labor Agreement.
  7. Taxpayer Groups: The Orange County Taxpayers Association was particularly outraged about the proposed Project Labor Agreement, because this group had endorsed Measure M based in part on a commitment from the college that it would not require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of work. The credibility of the Orange County Taxpayers Association as a watchdog group for taxpayers was in jeopardy, and the group made sure the college and its elected board of trustees were made accountable for their plan to renege on their election season pledge. The Costa Mesa Taxpayers Association also opposed the Project Labor Agreement.
  8. Business Groups: the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) organized local construction companies to oppose the proposed Project Labor Agreement and ensured that opposing viewpoints were presented at board meetings. Other construction associations also opposed the Project Labor Agreement with written material and public statements.
  9. Political Groups: the Newport Mesa Tea Party recognized the proposed Project Labor Agreement as an attack on fiscal responsibility. It issued a press release against the proposal, and members spoke out against it at the May 15 board meeting in defiance of a room full of union officials.
  10. Student Groups: student governmental groups and the student representative to the college board of trustees opposed the Project Labor Agreement. They didn’t like how professional union operatives were interfering with a construction program meant to provide students with better facilities.

As voters in the district learned about the plot for a union Project Labor Agreement, this quiet community college became mired in a well-publicized political controversy that distracted from its mission to provide a quality education to its students. Three of the five board members decided to resist the unnecessary, costly, union-driven contracting mandate. Surely public awareness and rejection of the Project Labor Agreement provided extra confidence for board members to take a position against an aggressive special interest group.

The Coast Community College District victory should inspire Californians concerned about inappropriate union political power in their community. You can make a difference:

  1. Monitor the meeting agendas and meeting minutes of some of your obscure local governments.
  2. Become familiar with the business of these local governments and identify and track the organizations and individuals that influence it.
  3. Become familiar with the elected and appointed officials who run these local governments, including their styles and their motivations.
  4. Encourage capable and qualified individuals to run for elected office in these local governments.

Where there is a political vacuum, unions will fill it. Prudent, responsible citizens need to consider becoming future candidates to serve the people on the elected boards of community colleges and other local governments.

News Coverage of Vote

College Board Refuses to Draft Labor Agreement: Trustees say Measure M bond would not have passed if so-called PLAs were part of the deal – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – May 16, 2013

Coast College District Rejects Union-Hiring Agreement for $689M Upcoming Work – via Engineering News-Record California – May 17, 2013, originally published in Orange County Register as Coast College District Rejects Union-Hiring Agreement – May 16, 2013

Coast Community College District Project Labor Agreement Defeated! – OC Politics Blog – May 15, 2013

Associated Builders and Contractors Defeat Union Discrimination On Largest California Community College Bond Passed in 2012 – www.OCPolitical.com – May 16, 2013

News Coverage Leading Up to Vote

Coast Trustees to Consider Union Construction Deal – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – May 13, 2013

Tea Party Objects to Proposed College-Union Pact – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – May 14, 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.

Exposing the Plot Behind Project Labor Agreement for California Bullet Train

Documents obtained on April 29, 2013 through a request under the authority of the California Public Records Act reveal behind-the-scenes maneuvering for a government mandate that construction companies sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California as a condition of building California’s High-Speed Rail.

Getting these records was not a simple task. The appointed board of directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority never discussed or voted on this union monopoly. The Project Labor Agreement materialized out of nowhere in late December 2012 as Addendum 8 in the bid specifications for the first construction segment from Madera to Fresno.

For reasons still to be publicly revealed, obscure Fresno-based appointed boards and quasi-public groups interacted with federal and state officials to develop the Project Labor Agreement for what will be the most expensive public works project in human history. It was the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board that possessed many of the key documents. So far only one elected official has been identified as a direct player in the scheme: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

Here’s what is available and known to the public as of April 30, 2013.

In November 2009, the California High-Speed Rail Authority requested “expressions of interest” from local governments for a $40 million heavy maintenance facility somewhere from Merced to Bakersfield that would employ up to 1500 workers during peak shifts. The County of Fresno, the City of Fresno, the Economic Development Corporation in Fresno County, and the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board organized a consortium called “Fresno Works” to compete for the facility against cities such as Merced, Chowchilla, and Bakersfield.

At some point this Fresno Works consortium appeared to expand its interests to include getting a requirement for high-speed rail contractors to hire people from areas of the Central Valley where unemployment is high. In September 2011, the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board recommended to the Fresno Works consortium that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) implement a “Targeted Unemployed Worker” Program and “First Source” transparency requirement for contractors working on the California High-Speed Rail project.

The board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority discussed the proposal at its January 12, 2012 meeting. (Board member Tom Richards was also serving as chairman of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board and removed himself from the board discussion.) It was already moot because a letter dated January 6, 2012 from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Federal Railroad Administration to the California High Speed Rail Authority indicated that the proposed workforce requirements violated rules concerning the use of federal grants for construction projects.

Nothing was mentioned about labor unions or Project Labor Agreements in this proposal. California High-Speed Rail Authority board member Bob Balgenorth, who was also head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, inquired during discussion on whether or not construction trade union officials had been consulted and noted that the proposal did not seem to recognize that union hiring halls typically dispatch workers directly to the job site and not to an employer’s office.

Work apparently resumed in Fresno to develop a targeted hiring program that would meet federal contracting standards. In a memorandum to the California High Speed Rail Authority dated March 21, 2012,  the co-chairman of the Education Committee of the Fresno Works Consortium (who was also the executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board) proposed a set of revised “Targeted Unemployed Worker” Hire Criteria and “First Source” Transparency Requirements.

Here for the first time were references to unions. It stated that hiring criteria “be reflective of union apprenticeship requirements” and that “if a project labor agreement is negotiated to cover this project, such an agreement shall include a provision requiring the parties to adhere to this Targeted Unemployed Worker Program.” Obviously, someone had proposed (or demanded) a union Project Labor Agreement.

An opportunity soon came to propose combining a targeted hiring policy (albeit without local hiring requirements) with a union Project Labor Agreement. Sometime during the following three months, word reached Fresno that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Federal Transit Administration had given approval in February 2012 to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to require contractors to sign the new Project Labor Agreement for its massive construction program. Using this approval as the basis for her argument, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin sent a letter dated June 19, 2012 to Ray LaHood, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, seeking approval for a revised hiring program for the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

…it has come to my attention that Mr. Dorvel R. Carter, Chief Counsel of the Federal Transit Administration, approved language put forward by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Administration (sic) (LACMTA) and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council which is very similar to the Fresno Works targeted hiring program. This language focuses on establishing targeted hiring criteria in project labor agreements…we have modified our initial proposal to more closely comport with the LACMTA language that has been approved by USDOT-FTA and respectfully request that USDOT work with us to institute this revised proposed, the “National Targeted Hiring Program,” for the Initial Construction Section of the California High Speed Rail program…I look forward to discussing it with you and your team at your earliest convenience.

While mentioning some conditions and caveats, a letter from the head of the Federal Railroad Administration at “Secretary LaHood’s request” dated June 29, 2012 assured Mayor Swearengin that “we would respect the choices of CHSRA in adopting a variation of a targeted hiring program so long as the program is consistent with the California state procurement policies and procedures that CHSRA uses in the expenditure of its non-Federal funds.”

The general counsel for the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board then produced a legal analysis of a revised Fresno Works consortium proposal for a ”National Targeted Hiring Program” that would win federal approval. He noted that a similar hiring program was approved by the Federal Transit Administration as included in a Project Labor Agreement that contractors must sign to work on projects of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Representatives of the Fresno Works consortium and the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board – including Chuck Riojas, the head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100 in Fresno – then made a presentation about the new proposal at the November 14 board meeting of the California High Speed Rail Authority. No references were made to a Project Labor Agreement, and Mr. Riojas of the IBEW official even asserted that “This isn’t I’d like to stress a union or non-union document” and that apprentices from non-union programs could get on-the-job training opportunities under the proposal. (These claims turned out to be false when the final version of the proposal was adopted in the context of a Project Labor Agreement.)

At their following meeting on December 8, the California High Speed Rail Authority board approved a “Community Benefits Policy” meant to adopt guidelines for a targeted hiring program. Again, there were no references in the policy to unions or a Project Labor Agreement.

Then, in late December, the California High Speed Rail Authority issued Addendum 8 for the bid specifications for the first construction segment from Madera to Fresno. Contractors would now be required to sign a “Community Benefits Agreement.” The so-called Community Benefits Agreement turned out to be a typical Project Labor Agreement negotiated with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, with the goals of the targeted hiring program inserted in it.

Unless you were part of the inner circle working behind-the-scenes on this scheme, you would have no way of knowing that union officials were using a benevolent-sounding, locally-motivated targeted hiring program as their vehicle to gain monopoly control of construction for California High Speed Rail. References to a Project Labor Agreement only appeared in passing in internal letters and documents for obscure local appointed boards and quasi-public organizations in Fresno. The board of the California High Speed Rail Authority never discussed a Project Labor Agreement or voted on it. The public was kept uninformed, for obvious reasons.

So far the only elected official implicated in the scheme is Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who was prodded by someone to send the pivotal letter to a top Obama Administration official asking for federal approval to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for California High Speed Rail. That’s where the plot can be exposed in greater detail. Here are questions for Mayor Swearengin that need to come from Fresno citizens and all parties interested in California High Speed Rail:

1. How did you find out about the Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority requires contractors to sign as a condition of work?

2. Who asked you to send the letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking for approval for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to use a targeted hiring program in the context of a Project Labor Agreement? Who wrote the letter?

3. Which union officials contacted your office related to the targeted hiring program and the Project Labor Agreement?

4. Why did you send the letter from your office instead of more appropriately referring the subject to the California High-Speed Rail Authority?

5. Was your letter part of some sort of deal related to union lobbying for selecting Fresno as the location for the California High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility?

6. The City of Fresno municipal code prohibits the city from requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of work. Did you keep this letter from exposure to the public because you knew it asked for something contrary to the principles established in your city’s own laws?

The California High-Speed Rail Authority and its appointed board members have earned a reputation for a lack of transparency and accountability, and as long as it gets taxpayer money, it can continue this practice with impunity. But with relentless public pressure on elected officials who are supposed to be accountable to the people, the complete story of the Project Labor Agreement on the California High-Speed Rail will eventually come out, to the shame and detriment of everyone involved in the sneaky scheme.

Background and Sources:

Project Labor Agreement for California High-Speed Rail

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 -www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 11, 2013

Community Benefits Policy for California High-Speed Rail

Project Labor Agreement for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Construction Careers Policy for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board (FRWIB) Board of Directors

Fresno Works Consortium

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

Origin of Fresno Works Consortium, established to win selection of Fresno to be site of California High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility

California High-Speed Rail Authority January 12, 2012 Board Meeting Agenda Item #3 – Presentation of Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board

Transcript of January 12, 2012 Board Meeting for California High-Speed Rail Authority

January 6, 2012 Federal Railroad Administration Letter – California High-Speed Rail – Targeted Hiring

March 21, 2012 Fresno Works Consortium Revised Targeted Hiring Program for California High-Speed Rail

June 19, 2012 Letter from Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to Federal Railroad Administration – Inquiry on Applying Project Labor Agreement to California High-Speed Rail

June 29, 2012 Letter from Federal Railroad Administration to Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Targeted Hiring Program for California High-Speed Rail

August 8, 2012 Legal Analysis for Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board of California High-Speed Rail Targeted Hiring Program

Transcript of November 14, 2012 Board Meeting for California High-Speed Rail Authority – Hints of Project Labor Agreement

January 17, 2013 Letter from Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) National Office to Federal Railroad Administration on California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement

March 26, 2012 Letter from Federal Railroad Administration to Associated Builders and Contractors on California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement

April 11, 2013 Letter from Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board – Public Documents – Process Leading to Project Labor Agreement on California High-Speed Rail

California High-Speed Rail Authority Keeps Union Deal Out of Public Forums – my article in www.FlashReport.org – February 10, 2013

www.CaliforniaHighSpeedRailScam.com – your centralized source for key information about the debacle that is the California High-Speed Passenger Train for the 21st Century.


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.

Union Influence in the California Democratic Party’s 2013 Convention Resolutions

Can you guess which special interest group influenced many of the resolutions approved at the California Democratic Party convention on April 14, 2013?

That’s right, unions.

Here’s my annotated collection of the 2013 resolutions and the clean version of the resolutions on the California Democratic Party web site. (As the party web site says, “Click here to view the full repot.”)

Avid readers of www.UnionWatch.org articles will recognize the union objectives behind many of these resolutions, even though the resolutions often don’t explicitly state the ultimate legislative, executive, or judicial goal.

California Democratic Party Resolutions for 2013 with Obvious Union Influence

1. Resolution 13-04.3C opposes proposals to restrict “public participation” in environmental review for projects and activities under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A co-sponsor of this resolution is the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, an organization active in identifying environmental problems with potential construction projects until the owner agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

Mailers Expose Union CEQA “Greenmail” Against Solar Developers – September 26, 2012

Unions Defy CEQA Reformers with Taunting Resolution – February 12, 2013

The resolution refers to a “quantative analysis” of CEQA that allegedly shows how this law encourages economic prosperity in California. Readers of www.UnionWatch.org will recognize this study because of its connections to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. See this article:

Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections – March 12, 2013

2. Resolution 13-04.11 complains about the capitalists (“Captains of Industry” and others) who allegedly control the University of California and California State University systems. It calls for “representation of the public” on the boards of regents. Public means officials of unions representing faculty and staff.

3. Resolution 13-04.16 demands “all actions” to ensure that California’s 121 charter cities lose state funding if they exercise their right under the state constitution to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on purely municipal government projects or private projects that only receive government assistance from that municipality. Several articles in www.UnionWatch.org have reported on charter cities freeing themselves from costly so-called “prevailing wage” mandates, as well as the union effort in 2013 through Senate Bill 7 to suppress local government authority through financial disincentives.

California Supreme Court Supports Rights of Charter Cities Over State Legislature – July 3, 2012

With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City Charters – February 28, 2013

4. Resolution 13-04.35 calls for Congress to help unions that represent U.S. Postal Service workers.

5. Resolution 13-04.37 complains about a U.S. Supreme Court decision that fouls up some plans for class action lawsuits against employers for labor law violations. It decries how corporations are “increasing forcing their employees to unwittingly sign mandatory arbitration agreements.” (How can force be involved if the employee is unwitting?) Nothing is mentioned about union organizers “increasing forcing employees to unwittingly sign union representation cards” for card check purposes.

California Democratic Party Resolution Against StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform

California Democratic Party Resolution against StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform.

6. Resolution 13-04.47 attacks education reform organizations such as StudentsFirst (a group led by Michelle Rhee) and Democrats for Education Reform (a group led by Gloria Romero). Ironically, the resolution is poorly written and includes several grammatical errors and even a spelling error. It tries to encompass too many ideas and overreaches in its bombast. A grade of “D” for writing (but an “A” for promoting social justice) goes to the sponsors: the California Teachers Association (CTA), the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), and the California Faculty Association (CFA).

California Democrats Blast Efforts to Overhaul SchoolsLos Angeles Times – April 14, 2013

State Democrats Decide Who’s a REAL DemocratLos Angeles Times (op-ed by Karin Klein) – April 16, 2013

Breaking News! California Democratic Party Blasts Corporate Education Reform: UPDATE – Diane Ravitch’s Blog – April 15, 2013

LA Times Defends Wall Street Hedge Fund Reformers – Diane Ravitch’s Blog – April 16, 2013

7. Resolution 13-04.77 rejects the Keystone XL pipeline. It cites two unions opposed to the project and a study critical of the project prepared by the union-oriented Global Labor Institute at the Institute for Labor Relations at Cornell University. This issue divides unions: many construction unions support the Keystone XL pipeline because all contractors will be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on it.

If you are a “Captain of Industry,” one of those dastardly “Republican operatives,” a citizen of “the old Confederacy,” or tend to “blame educators and their unions for the ills of society,” these hostile resolutions are directed at you. But everyone will find them entertaining, and avid readers of www.UnionWatch.org might even agree with a few of them.

In the meantime, to avoid being the target of future resolutions, pay your “fair share,” avoid “the race to the bottom,” “stabilize the planet’s climate,” protect the “culturally binding fabric,” and – of course – be a socially responsible, Democrat-supporting billionaire.

More News Coverage of California Democratic Party Resolutions for 2013

CA Democrats Take Aim at Efforts to Overhaul Education, CEQA – Sacramento Bee – April 14, 2013

Calif. Dems Back Gun Control, Prop 13 Reforms – San Francisco Chronicle (Associated Press) – April 14, 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.

Orange County Project Labor Agreements: One Advances, One Gets Jammed

Within three days last week, elected boards of two of the four community college districts in Orange County, California voted on proposals to require their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with construction trade unions as a condition of work.

1. Rancho Santiago Community College District: Anaheim Hills, Garden Grove, Irvine, Orange, Santa Ana, Tustin and Villa Park

On April 1, 2013, the elected board of the Rancho Santiago Community College District voted 5-2 for the district to begin negotiations with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council for a Project Labor Agreement. Construction companies and their trade associations will not be invited to participate in the negotiations, but companies will be required to sign the final union agreement in order to perform contract work.

The Project Labor Agreement will apply to contracts funded by $198 million borrowed through bond sales authorized by Measure Q, approved by 72.6% of district voters in November 2012. This $198 million figure does not include state matching grants and interest paid to bond investors. Neither the official voter ballot information nor campaign material indicated any plans to require contractors to sign a union agreement as a condition of work.

Voting for the union negotiations was board member José Solorio, who reportedly plans to run in 2014 for an open seat in the 34th State Senate District, possibly against Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who voted in 2009 to ban Project Labor Agreements as a condition of winning Orange County contracts.

Opposing the Project Labor Agreement were board members Phil Yarbrough, who is a Republican, and Arianna Barrios, who is not registered with a party. The five Democrats on the board (José Solorio, Larry Labrado, Claudia Alvarez, John Hanna, and Nelida Mendoza) voted for it.

2. Coast Community College District: Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Midway City, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Stanton, Sunset Beach, and Westminster

On April 3, 2013, the elected board of the Coast Community College District voted 3-2 for a task force to continue evaluating positive and negative implications of requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council. A directive to begin negotiations with the unions was made and seconded, but was then withdrawn when it was clear that a majority vote was lacking.

Union lobbyists want construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement in order to perform contract work funded by $698 million borrowed through bond sales authorized by Measure M, approved by 57.2% of voters in November 2012. Neither the official voter ballot information nor campaign material indicated any plans to require contractors to sign a union agreement as a condition of work. In fact, school district administrators informed the Orange County Taxpayers Association via an email during the campaign that the college district would not require its contractors to sign a union Project Labor Agreement.

The total construction program, including state matching grants and other funding sources, is $957 million. This figure does not include interest paid to bond investors.

Board members Jim Moreno and Jerry Patterson aggressively pushed for the Project Labor Agreement. They are both Democrats. Jim Moreno is considering a campaign in 2014 for a seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Board members Lorraine Prinsky and David Grant (Democrats) and Mary Hornbuckle (the one Republican on the board) rejected the motion for negotiations and voted for a task force to evaluate the proposal and return with a report.

A Bit of Hope for California’s Future: At both community college districts, the student trustees on the board voted AGAINST the faction pushing for a union Project Labor Agreement. Ryan Ahari was a NO vote at the Rancho Santiago Community College District and Kolby Keo was a YES vote at the Coast Community College District. Student trustees generally aren’t beholden to unions to advance their political careers, so they can make the correct decision to seek the best quality construction at the best price for the benefit of students.

News Coverage

Will the RSCCD Trustees vote for a union-only PLA on Measure Q projects?www.NewSantaAna.com – December 3, 2012

College district caught in labor agreement fightNewport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – March 7, 2013

Pugnacious Defense of Economic Freedom in Orange County Can Inspire California’s Free-Market Activistswww.FlashReport.org – March 11, 2012

College district changes its tuneOrange County Register (op-ed by Orange County Taxpayers Association President & CEO Carolyn Cavecche) – March 28, 2013  (note: paywall in effect)

Bond betrayal: Did college district dupe OC Tax on PLA?www.CalWatchdog.com – March 29, 2013

The RSCCD Trustees are for a Measure Q union-only PLA tonightwww.NewSantaAna.com – April 1, 2013

Jose Solorio gives Janet Nguyen an early Christmas present  – www.NewSantaAna.com – April 2, 2013

Union-only O.C. hiring pacts raise alarmsOrange County Register – April 3, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)

Playing fair means no PLAOrange County Register (editorial) – April 3, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)

PLAs bad for taxpayers, competitionOrange County Register (op-ed by Rancho Santiago Community College board member Phillip Yarbrough) – April 3, 2013  (note: paywall in effect)

Jim Moreno wants to give away $100 million to unions – example of recorded call to Coast Community College District voters – April 3, 2013

Coast district delays decision on union-only labor pactOrange County Register – April 4, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)

No pro-union pact at CCCD: Bond measure floated on promise not to seek PLAOrange County Register (editorial) – April 4, 2013 (note: paywall in effect)

How union only project labor agreements rip off the taxpayerswww.NewSantaAna.com – April 3, 2013

Coast Community stymied on labor agreementNewport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – April 5, 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.

Unions Will Control Mid-Sized Cities with California Voting Rights Act

Unions firmly control the political agenda in California’s largest cities, but civic leaders and citizens in some of the state’s smaller cities are still resisting the union political machine.

Some of these cities, with populations from 100,000 to 250,000, include Escondido, Oceanside, Murrieta, Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Anaheim, Santa Clarita, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Clovis, Elk Grove, and Roseville. These are cities where a dominant faction of elected and appointed officials generally puts a priority on efficiently providing basic services at a reasonable cost to their citizens.

Not surprisingly, city councils in some of these cities have attempted to enact home-rule charters or have exercised rights under their home-rule charters to free themselves from costly state mandates. This greatly agitates unions, which have long worked to attain their unchecked control of the agenda at the capitol.

Union officials want California’s cities to submit fully to state laws regarding collective bargaining for public employees and government-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”) for construction contractors. As reported in www.UnionWatch.org throughout 2012, public employee unions and construction trade unions spent huge amounts of money to convince voters in some of these cities to reject proposed charters.

Obviously unions don’t want to spend $1 million in dozens of cities every two years to defeat proposed charters, as they did in Costa Mesa before the November 2012 election. And soon they won’t have to spend any more money.

Unions are now implementing a tactic to alter political control of these smaller cities. It is likely to succeed in turning almost every California city with a population of 100,000 or more from fiscal responsibility to “progressive” governance based on theories of social justice.

Unions and their attorneys are masters at exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to attain unrelated economic objectives that benefit unions. And now unions are using the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (Election Code Section 14025 et seq.) as a tool to ensure the adoption of union-backed public policies at local governments.

Governor Davis signed Senate Bill 976 into law in 2001 as a way to address what the bill’s author called “racial block voting.” The law tries to end situations in which a class of relatively prosperous white community leaders has complete or nearly complete political control of a local government, even though the local government also represents a substantial number of relatively poor residents who are historically victims of racial discrimination in education, employment, and health.

According to this law, such a circumstance results from “the dilutive effects of at-large elections” in which candidates run together in a pool and the candidates who get the most votes take office. To give “protected classes” a better chance to have their own community representatives on an elected board, the Voting Rights Act of 2001 allows the implementation of “appropriate remedies, including the imposition of district-based elections” that end democratic practices that “hinder their ability to participate effectively in the political process.”

Californians have passionate views about the rationale for this law, the implications of enforcing this law, and the assumption that citizens vote and will vote based on appeals to class consciousness and race consciousness. But the completely party-line vote on Senate Bill 976 (all Democrats in support, all Republicans in opposition) showed that every state legislator recognized how political power at local governments would change.

What district-based elections mean in actual political practice is that union-backed candidates get a better chance of winning a majority or a substantial majority of a local government’s elected board. The elected board shifts politically to the Left.

Escondido City Hall

Escondido City Hall

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (a Sacramento-based umbrella group for construction unions) saw an opportunity to use this law to derail a plan that it opposed in the City of Escondido. It was among the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the City of Escondido in December 2011 alleging that the city violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by not having city council districts designed to elect more Latinos to the city council. (Demetrio Gomez v. City of Escondido, Case #37-2011-00060480-CU-CR-NC).

An article published by www.CaliforniaWatch.org on March 9, 2012 (White-Dominated Boards Face Legal Threats Over Racial Makeup) was surprisingly blunt about the true motivation for the union involvement in the lawsuit:

But labor unions and other groups also could use the law as a weapon in disputes with cities and school boards.

The first such case came in December, when the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California sued the city of Escondido, in San Diego County, alleging that at-large elections leave Latinos without fair representation. The union targeted Escondido because officials there have been trying to lower wages on public construction projects.

At that time, the Escondido City Council was developing a proposed charter for its citizens to consider enacting in 2012. That charter would have allowed the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates on municipal projects and on private projects receiving municipal financial assistance. It also would have prevented the city from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of work.

The brief submitted by the State Building Trades can be found here. Of course, it says nothing about the underlying objective of the lawsuit: dissuading Escondido and other cities from adopting home-rule charters that could erode the union political agenda.

A more honest union perspective about the lawsuit is revealed in excerpts below from the State Building Trades web site:

Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Fair Elections by Bob Balgenorth, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council – January 2012

It’s not surprising that a city council that treats its Latino citizens disdainfully also has plans to worsen the quality of life for all construction workers. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in its coverage of the lawsuit, the current council will try to convince voters to make Escondido a charter city, in hopes of lowering construction wages on public works projects – for all workers, Latino and non-Latino alike.

“They want to take away the prevailing wage,” Demetrio Gomez, the lead plaintiff, told the paper. “They want to take away the things that make the average worker’s life worthwhile. We believe that’s wrong. And we believe if we had the ability to elect Latinos we would have better representation.”

(Also, see Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Escondido Change to District-Based Elections on the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California web site.)

In response, the City of Escondido asked a San Diego County Superior Court judge to dismiss the State Building Trades as a plaintiff because it lacked standing to sue: see here. The judge ruled on March 16, 2012 (Superior Court Decision – Gomez v. City of Escondido) that the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California did NOT have standing to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit:

In addition, Plaintiff Council does not satisfy the requirements for associational standing because voting rights are not germane to its purpose. The purpose of the Council is to protect the members’ rights with relation to their work and trade in construction. Voting rights are separate and distinct. Registering members to vote and providing voter education does not make members’ voting rights germane to the Council’s purpose.

Nevertheless, the lawsuit continued with the remaining plaintiffs. On March 22, 2013, after spending about $200,000 in legal fees, the City of Escondido submitted a settlement agreement to San Diego County Superior Court.

As explained by the city, “Escondido will be divided into four districts with each district to be represented by a Council member living within that district. The Mayor will continue to represent the entire City.” District boundaries “will respect the geographic neighborhoods and communities of interest, including any racial, ethnic, or language minorities.”

Retired judges will select a seven-member commission to draw the district boundaries. Union officials and their allies in local groups such as the Escondido Democratic Club will surely apply for appointments.

As a topping, the city will reimburse the plaintiff for attorneys’ fees of $385,000. It would be reasonable to assume that construction unions paid some of those legal costs.

But this is not the only union victory. After all of this union-backed litigation provoked by the proposed charter, Escondido voters ended up rejecting it in the November 2012 election. They chose to let the state legislature supersede local control over municipal affairs.

The City’s explanation of the settlement agreement concludes with this sentence: “Getting this litigation out of the way will enable the City to continue focusing on economic development and job creation – the issues that matter to all Escondido residents.”

It’s more likely that the City of Escondido will soon be focusing on social justice programs, generous concessions in contract negotiations with public employees, and requirements for construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions.

In the meantime, surely California unions will again manipulate the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. At the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in California “Day at the Capitol” program on April 18, 2012, I asked a bipartisan panel of three California elections experts if they thought unions and other special interest groups would routinely use the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 as a weapon to achieve their political objectives at local governments. The unequivocal answer was YES.

“Absolutely,” said Paul Mitchell, a political consultant with Redistricting Partners, a firm based in Sacramento. He agreed with me that “that’s exactly what happened” at the City of Escondido and noted that the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 is “a card able to be played.” He expressed surprise that police, firefighters, and other public employee unions in cities such as Stockton had not already used this powerful weapon to win concessions from governments during negotiations for collective bargaining agreements.

Can Escondido avoid the fate of Stockton and San Bernardino? Only if Republicans can convince Latino voters in Escondido that limited government and fiscal responsibility are better for their communities than higher taxes, bigger government, and more regulatory restrictions on commerce. These are two conflicting philosophical views about the role of government and the relationship between government and commerce. Right now the latter is ascendant in California.

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.

Unions Await Fantastic Return on High-Speed Rail Political Investments

It’s a heady time to be a top construction union official in California, as the California High-Speed Rail Authority presumably now holds proposals from as many as five design-build consortiums to build the first segment of the $68 billion project.

If this project moves forward, it will become part of the pantheon of huge American infrastructure projects that unions cite when they brag about the lasting accomplishments of union labor. And unions can also claim an essential role in the politics behind its advancement.

Even before Californians had a chance to vote directly on funding for High-Speed Rail, union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committees made massive campaign contributions to stop statewide ballot initiatives in the mid-2000s that would have given property owners stronger rights against the government’s power of eminent domain, as a result complicating the High-Speed Rail Authority’s land acquisition plans.

For example, the State Building & Construction Trades Council Labor Management Cooperation Trust contributed $1 million in 2006 to the campaign to defeat Proposition 90, a statewide ballot measure to strengthen property rights. And in the spring of 2008, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $250,000 to this No on 98/Yes on 99 campaign committee to oppose another statewide ballot measure to protect property rights.

These two union-affiliated committees are authorized under the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a federal law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. Unions use these trust funds routinely now to fund campaigns for and against state and local ballot measures in California. 

When Proposition 1A was on the November 2008 ballot asking California voters to authorize borrowing $10 billion for the high-speed rail project by selling bonds, unions provided a substantial portion of the campaign funding. Leading the charge was the California Alliance for Jobs, another labor-management cooperation committee authorized under the Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978.

As shown in the Operating Engineers Local 3 Northern California Master Agreement (page 42) and the Northern California District Council of Laborers Master Agreement (pages 14, 26), construction companies belonging to various business trade associations must pay an amount to the California Alliance for Jobs trust based on the number of hours worked by each employee represented by the union. These amounts are incorporated into the state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) as part of the “Other” category of payments. This ambiguous category of employer payments was implemented as California Labor Code Section 1773.1(a)(7-9) when Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 868 in 2003.

Through contributions, a $100,000 loan, and in-kind/non-monetary gifts, the California Alliance for Jobs was able to assist the campaign to pass Proposition 1A with $616,500, comprising 23% of the total amount raised by Californians for High Speed Trains – Yes on Proposition 1A – A Coalition of Taxpayer, Business, Environmental and Labor Groups and People from Across California Tired of Being Stuck In Traffic.

The national headquarters and the Northern California and Southern California locals of the Operating Engineers union combined for another $575,000, the Laborers union chipped in $100,000, and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California gave $75,000. 

Top Ten Contributors to the Main Campaign Committee to Pass Proposition 1A (Includes Loans and Non-Monetary/In-Kind Contributions)

1

California Alliance For Jobs Rebuild California Committee

Union-Affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee

$616,500

2

International Union of Operating Engineers Construction Union

$250,000

3

Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 (Union & PAC) Construction Union

$250,000

4

Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) Public Employee Union

$183,493

5

California State Council of Laborers Construction Union

$100,000

6

Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas Inc. Construction Design & Engineering

$76,500

7

AECOM Tech Corporation Construction Design & Engineering

$75,000

8

International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 12 Construction Union

$75,000

9

Members Voice of the State Building Trades Construction Union

$75,000

10

HNTB Corporation Construction Design & Engineering

$63,000

Union involvement in pushing the high-speed rail wasn’t over with the 2008 election. In 2010 and 2011, when the California High-Speed Rail Authority was stumbling under a confused business plan and skyrocketing cost estimates, the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and regional building trade unions submitted commentaries to newspapers defending the planned rail program. And as appointees to the Board of Directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and a representative of the Operating Engineers union kept the votes coming to move the project forward.

Now the unions get the rewards. Section 7.11.3 of the Request for Proposal for Design-Build Services for the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail project stated 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.”

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…A letter of assent executed by the Proposer agreeing to be bound by the Community Benefits Agreement.”

This “Community Benefit Agreement” is commonly known as a “Project Labor Agreement.” In fact, a “draft” Project Labor Agreement is included as Addendum 8 in the High Speed Rail Authority’s bid documents for the Request for Proposal. (See my comprehensive analysis of the union “Community Benefits Agreement” for the California High-Speed Rail and the subsequent rebuttal from the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO national headquarters.)

For construction unions, California’s High-Speed Rail project will yield a fantastic long-term return for their political investment. It remains to be seen if taxpayers see any worthwhile returns on their “investment” in paying for it.

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.

Watch Union Official’s Rude Antics at California High-Speed Rail Conference

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.

The incident exposes the coercive power of special interest groups behind the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s quest to slice the first segments of this rail corridor through the San Joaquin Valley, located in the middle of the planned route between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It also compromises the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s relentless public relations program to portray the high-speed rail to coastal urbanites as a progressive, visionary plan to save the planet.

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?

Construction trade unions have long planned to use the government as its agent to monopolize the building of high-speed rail, now estimated by the California High-Speed Rail Authority to cost $68.4 billion. It seemed probable (but not guaranteed) that union workers that specialize in heavy industrial infrastructure construction would end up building the rail line itself. However, the stations and other building infrastructure would be prime bidding targets for Northern California’s productive and efficient non-union contractors. And unions do not want another failure similar to their failed plot ten years earlier to win a Project Labor Agreement to build the new University of California campus in Merced.

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.

This time, things are different. Unions provided campaign support to pass Proposition 1A (the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century”) in November 2008. The head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was appointed to the High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors, along with an official for the Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3, which represents operators of cranes, excavators, and other construction equipment.

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

California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate – Section 10.1

In addition, the California High-Speed Rail Authority arranged the bidding process on the first segment of the High-Speed Rail (from Madera through Fresno) so that the five prequalified design-build construction consortiums are obligated to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California in order to be competitive. This subtlety is possible because the High-Speed Rail Authority is authorized to select the winning bidder using a somewhat subjective scoring system based on “best value” procurement criteria.

On December 6, 2012, the California High-Speed Rail Authority voted for a policy resolution that established generalized “community benefits” that contractors would have to demonstrate as a result of building the high-speed rail through the Central Valley. Not surprisingly, these same benefits are cited in the union Project Labor Agreement that is now included as a “Community Benefits Agreement” in Addendum 8 of the bid documents for the first segment of the high-speed rail. In order to maximize the score for community benefits, the contractor simply agrees to the Project Labor Agreement, and then everyone will feel good that ‘Needy’ Workers Will Get Jobs on High-Speed Rail.

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

A panel discussion about the draft Project Labor Agreement for the construction of the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2012 during the 6th Annual San Joaquin Valley Region Public Contracting / Central Valley High Speed Rail Conference / Expo (Jobs & Contracts) at the Downtown Fresno Radisson Hotel & Convention Center. The panel moderator was Kathleen Ellis Faulkner, a Bakersfield attorney.

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.

Unions Creep Closer to Monopolizing California High-Speed Rail Construction

UPDATE (December 7, 2012): A article today in the Fresno Bee (‘Needy’ Workers Will Get Jobs on High-Speed Rail) about the “Community Benefits” policy approved on December 6, 2012 by the California High-Speed Rail Authority contains a stunning revelation:

Five teams of contractors have been invited to bid on the first major contract for a stretch of the rail route between Madera and Fresno. How the new policy will translate into the contract has yet to be determined, said Jeffrey Morales, the authority’s CEO. Potentially complicating the issue is that each of the five would-be prime contracting teams has already signed project labor agreements with labor unions. Morales said the existence of project labor agreements between the contractors and labor unions is independent of any action the agency takes.

So all five prequalified bidders have negotiated and signed Project Labor Agreements with construction unions. How did that happen? Why? Was there some kind of deal involving the High-Speed Rail Authority? Are the five agreements all the same? What do these union agreements contain? Will the public ever get the chance to see these agreements, which give unions a monopoly on the work?

California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate - Section 10.1

California High Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement Mandate – Section 10.1


At its December 6, 2012 meeting, the board of directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority unanimously approved a resolution to establish a “Community Benefits” policy for construction of California’s high-speed rail system. The High-Speed Rail Authority promptly issued a press release with quotes from local elected officials in the San Joaquin Valley who like the concept of community benefits but apparently aren’t aware of the big-city union scheme behind the plan.

While a typical reader of www.UnionWatch.org is instantly alerted by the phrase “community benefits” to the likelihood that government is executing a special deal at the expense of taxpayers, the policy sounds innocuous and benevolent to the ordinary person. Staff of the High-Speed Rail Authority claimed before the board vote that this policy will enhance employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged and low-income workers, veterans, youth, unemployed, homeless, single parents, and people with criminal records. It will “ensure that California benefits as much as possible.”

There are numerous signs that the High-Speed Rail Authority established this policy to provide a strong incentive for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for construction of the $68 billion-$100 billion rail system, including related structures such as stations. Staff for the High-Speed Rail Authority reported that “different stakeholders” will participate in the implementation of the policy, and no stakeholder has been more involved in perpetuating this massive, costly project than the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

As I reported in a January 11, 2011 article in www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com entitled California’s Top Construction Union Officials Love the State’s $100 Billion High-Speed Rail Project, construction unions have long sought a Project Labor Agreement in order to monopolize the construction workforce on this project. With the Community Benefits policy now in place, here’s what some of the most politically-astute California construction industry officials expect to happen:

  1. The High-Speed Rail Authority will award construction contracts using a “design-build” bidding procedure. Instead of awarding contracts to design a project and then awarding contracts to the lowest responsible bidder to build it, the High-Speed Rail Authority is authorized under state law to award contracts to qualified corporate entities that combine project design and construction work. It will select the design-build entities using a somewhat subjective list of “best value” criteria that could result in design-build entities winning contracts even if they do not submit bids with the lowest price. The California Department of Finance will approve the criteria to award the design-build contracts, and the State Public Works Board will oversee the contract awards.
  2. The High-Speed Rail Authority will indicate in its construction contract specifications that bidders will be evaluated in part based on their plan to conform with the Community Benefits policy. Potential bidders will either be explicitly informed or figure out that the chances of winning a design-build contract will be greatly improved if they commit in their bids to negotiate and sign a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions in order to comply with the Community Benefits policy.
  3. By using this strategy to implement a Project Labor Agreement, the board of directors of the High-Speed Rail Authority and their union cronies will avoid controversial and high-profile public votes to negotiate it and approve it. California taxpayers and the U.S. Congress will remain generally unaware that unions cleverly obtained a monopoly on the construction of the rail project, because reporters will have difficulty researching and explaining this complicated procedure and because the Project Labor Agreement will not be a matter of public record. And the High-Speed Rail Authority will avoid accountability for the Project Labor Agreement; it can portray the agreement as the contractor’s own internal private and voluntary business decision.

There are recent precedents for imposing Project Labor Agreements on large government projects in California while evading public deliberations and votes. Clark Construction negotiated and signed a Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III and negotiated and signed a Project Labor Agreement for the new Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach. Both the City of San Diego and the California Administrative Office of the Courts claim that these Project Labor Agreements are not a matter of public record, and Clark Construction declines to provide the union agreements to the public.

There is one weakness in the High-Speed Rail Authority’s plot to give construction unions a monopoly on the rail project with Project Labor Agreements: representatives of the beleaguered California construction organizations opposed to government-mandated Project Labor Agreements and other costly union schemes are tough, experienced, and smart. They are exposing the scheme.

Representatives of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California, the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California (PHCC), and the Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA) spoke at the meeting against Project Labor Agreements for the High-Speed Rail construction. In addition, a representative of the Bakersfield-based Kern Minority Contractors Association spoke during public comment and asked that both union and non-union contractors have the opportunity to work on the high-speed rail project. (The High-Speed Rail Authority is moving forward with building the first segment of the high-speed rail line in the San Joaquin Valley, basically from Fresno to Bakersfield.)

High-Speed Rail Authority chairman Dan Richard, a former member of the board of directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), concluded board discussion of the proposed Community Benefits policy by responding to public criticism of Project Labor Agreements. Chairman Richard declared that while no decision has been made about how the new “Community Benefits” policy will be implemented, he thinks Project Labor Agreements are effective in improving the efficiency of project delivery, reducing the number of conflicts, and providing a way for minority contractors to get work.

Chairman Richard also reported that he attended a December 5, 2012 meeting at which the minority community expressed very strongly that a Project Labor Agreement was the way to achieve the policy objectives. It appears that Chairman Richard was the keynote speaker at a “California High-Speed Rail Small Business Opportunity Conference” sponsored by the American Asian Architects and Engineers in San Francisco on December 5, 2012 and featuring Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland/Berkeley). Of course, it’s contractors that will employ trade workers in the San Joaquin Valley, not San Francisco architects and engineers.

Chairman Richard also took a moment during the meeting to recognize two important people watching in the audience: Bob Balgenorth, outgoing head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and former High-Speed Rail Authority board member, and Robbie Hunter – the head of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council – who is the incoming head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. Were these union leaders attending the meeting to express support for employment opportunities for the homeless, or were they in the audience to see another piece fall into place for a union Project Labor Agreement on what will be far-and-away the most expensive public works “mega-project” in American history?

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.

Tracking California’s November 2012 Elections Related to Labor Issues

California’s Proposition 32 is the country’s most high-profile election in November 2012 directly related to labor unions and labor policy issues. There are also several California local elections – particularly Measure V to enact a charter in the City of Costa Mesa – that will potentially strengthen or weaken union control of government. Here’s a summary of the elections to watch in California.

Proposition 32 – “Stop Special Interest Money” – Requires Union Leaders to Get Permission Before Taking Workers’ Money for Political Purposes

The statewide ballot measure Proposition 32 includes a requirement for union officials to get annual permission from a union member (or represented non-member) before extracting money from that worker’s paycheck for political purposes. Under current law, unions can simply take money from employee paychecks when desired in order to influence legislation or elections. For more information on how this coercive power is implemented in practice, see My Outline of the June 21, 2012 U.S. Supreme Court Decision on a California Union’s Mandatory Fee Assessment on Non-Members to Fight Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2005 Ballot Measures.

A common description of Proposition 32 is “game changer” and the $70 million spent against it by union leaders proves this moniker is not political exaggeration. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, asserts that Proposition 32 is “the most important political reform measure to be placed before California voters in decades. If passed, it would surpass Governor Scott Walker’s successful ballot measure in Wisconsin last year. Moreover, it would be the ‘shot heard ‘round the political world’ as it would fundamentally change the way special interests are required to operate in the realm of California politics.”

Proposed Charters Would Allow Three California Cities to Set Their Own Policies for Municipal Affairs and Circumvent Costly Union-Backed State Mandates

Union leaders are clearly concerned that many of the state’s medium-sized suburban cities and smaller towns are exercising their right under the California Constitution to use charters to escape the tight grip of the state legislature, where union lobbyists basically set the agenda.

A 4-1 majority of the city council of Costa Mesa (in Orange County) is asking city voters to approve Measure V, which would enact a charter so the city can control its own municipal affairs, such as contracting-out of government services and government-mandated construction wage rates. Measure V would give the city authority to free itself from costly and inflexible union-backed mandates from the state legislature.

A professor of public administration at Chapman University (in Orange County) describes Costa Mesa as the ideological “ground zero for virtually everything taking place in the country” and the proposed Measure V charter as “a political manifesto of how government should be organized in the 21st century.” The $500,000 spent against Measure V by union leaders proves this assessment is not political hyperbole.

For more information, see my www.UnionWatch.org article Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter and Gee , Do You Think a Charter Is a Meaningful Way for California Cities to Pursue Fiscal Responsibility? $500,000 of Union Opposition Confirms It.

A second city proposing a charter to voters is Escondido (in San Diego County), with Proposition P. This charter essentially provides the City of Escondido with the same power and authority as the proposed charter in Costa Mesa, but union opposition has been minimal. Perhaps San Diego County union leaders concluded it was a waste of limited campaign resources to try to undermine Proposition P: since 2007, voters in the San Diego County cities of Vista, Santee, Carlsbad, Oceanside, and El Cajon have all approved robust, aggressive charters.

Meanwhile, in the San Luis Obispo County coastal town of Grover Beach, construction trade unions spent a few thousand dollars to send slick, professional mailers from Sacramento to residents urging them to vote against Measure I-12, a proposed charter with similar powers to the ones proposed in Costa Mesa and Escondido. See my articles Campaign Mailer Opposing the Proposed Grover Beach Charter: Definitely NOT Photocopied at Dave’s Copies & Fax and Who Paid the Bills for the Mailers Opposing the Proposed Charter (Measure I-12) in Grover Beach? No One.

The union strategy in Grover Beach emulates successful union-funded mail campaigns to defeat proposed charters in Rancho Palos Verdes in March 2011 and Auburn in June 2012. Unions have learned they can successfully overrun local grassroots activism for charters in smaller towns by stuffing voters’ mailboxes with deceptive, paranoid propaganda. (For more information about how unions defeated the Rancho Palos Verdes and Auburn charters, see my article Who Defeated the City of Auburn’s Proposed Charter, and How Was It Done? (Answer: Three Union Entities, by Spending $56.40 Per NO Vote).

I expect more than a dozen California cities will ask voters to enact charters in the June 2014 election. Currently there are 121 California cities with charters. Many of these cities take advantage of their charters to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Unions Help K-12 School and Community College Districts to Borrow Money for Union-Only Construction by Selling Bonds

Voters throughout California are being asked to approve 106 ballot measures to authorize school districts and community college districts to borrow money for construction by selling bonds. But for the first time since California voters narrowly approved Proposition 39 in 2000 (lowering the voter approval threshold from 66.67% to 55% for educational bond measures), there is a semi-coordinated statewide effort (“Operation Close the Spigot”) to oppose some of the most egregious bond measures by moving beyond the message “it’s for the kids” and providing some real accountability for performance. There is even an aggressive, well-funded locally-based opposition campaign (led by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association) to defeat an exceptionally foolish bond measure in San Diego.

Sacramento City Unified School District wants voter approval through Measures Q and R to sell another $414 million in bonds to add to its existing $522 million bond debt. West Contra Costa Unified School District (based in Richmond) wants voter approval through Measure E to sell another $360 million in bonds to add to its existing $1.77 billion bond debt. Solano Community College District wants voter approval through Measure Q to sell another $348 million in bonds to add to its existing $180 million bond debt. And San Diego Unified School District wants voter approval through Proposition Z to sell another $2.8 billion in bonds to add to its existing $4.7 billion bond debt.

Why are construction unions and their unionized contractor allies providing significant funding to the campaigns in support of these four ballot measures? It’s not because they love the kids; it’s because the elected boards of these fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged educational districts require their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of working on projects funded by bond sales previously authorized by district voters.

In July 2011, the National University System’s Institute for Policy Research in San Diego published a comprehensive study showing that California school construction projects cost 13% to 15% higher when the district requires contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. (The study is titled Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California.)

I’ve written extensively about these four union-backed bond measures – here are the most recent articles about each one:

  • Who’s Paying to Convince Sacramento Voters to Take On $414 Million of Additional Debt – Plus Interest – with Measures Q and R?
  • $652,650 Contributed to Measure E Campaign: West Contra Costa Unified School District Seeks to Borrow Another $360 Million “For the Children of West County”
  • Updated Chart! Who’s Paying to Convince Solano County Voters to Take On $348 Million of Additional Debt – Plus Interest – with Measure Q?
  • ONE San Francisco Investment Banker Is Funding About 20% of the Yes on Proposition Z Campaign for San Diego Unified School District to Borrow $2.8 Billion Through Bond Sales

As I reported in my www.UnionWatch.org article Construction Unions Could Grab Billions Through Education Bonds, Oakland Unified School District and East Side Union High School District will surely require their contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions for projects funded by bond measures on the November 2012 ballot. Other districts such as the Rancho Santiago Community College District may also attempt to cut bid competition and increase costs for the benefit of union special interests.

Keep in mind that every California taxpayer pays for the union-controlled construction in these educational districts. The State Allocation Board regularly provides matching grants for construction projects with proceeds from bond sales authorized by three past statewide propositions (Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Acts) totaling $35.8 billion. Union officials believe in “trickle-down economics” when your taxes “trickle down” to their operational and political funds.

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.

When Union Officials Hold Office: An Infected Community College Board

In December 1997, the AFL-CIO implemented its “2000 in 2000” program to help elect union activists to public office. As the AFL-CIO reported in February 1999, “In 1998, we made progress toward our goal of putting 2,000 union members on the ballot in the year 2000. Over the next two years we will make a substantial effort to recruit, train, and assist union members running for office.”

Following that election, the AFL-CIO declared the 2000 in 2000 program as a success, with over 2500 union members holding elected office. It’s unclear if these union members were elected for the first time in 2000, or if the AFL-CIO simply managed to discover through surveys that more than 2500 union members were already in office.

It then launched the “Target 5000” program to get 5000 union members into elected office in 2002. The lack of triumphant AFL-CIO press releases about this program suggests it never achieved the goal of 5000 public office holders, but the dream of Target 5000 persisted at least through the 2004 elections. It is still referenced on web pages of the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

In California, union officials are routinely elected to the California State Legislature and local government boards in the state’s major metropolitan areas. Union officials in elected office are particularly prevalent in Los Angeles, where Miguel Contreras improved the effectiveness of local election involvement of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO during his leadership from the mid-1990s through 2005.

Sometimes the union presence on elected boards is outrageously brazen. For example, the chairman of the board of the John Swett Unified School District (in the San Francisco Bay Area) presided over a February 10, 2009 vote for a Project Labor Agreement on future John Swett district school construction while wearing a T-shirt representing his employer, the Ironworkers Local Union No. 378. The chairman threatened to have police remove a man and a woman from the board room when they complained from the audience that he was applying a strict three-minute time limit on speakers opposed to the labor agreement, but allowing speakers in favor of the labor agreement to speak without a time limit. (In response, they walked out voluntarily.)

Other times, public exposure can at least compel a union official not to vote with self-interest on union-related business, such as when a board member recused himself from a vote for a Project Labor Agreement at the Contra Costa Community College District after the public revealed he had failed to submit his legally-required statement of economic interests and then failed to report income from his union employer. (See the October 15, 2012 www.UnionWatch.org article Unions Increase Control of California’s Community College Boards).

The latest controversy at a California local government related to a union official on an elected board is at the Allan Hancock Joint Community College District in Santa Barbara County. In November 2004, the business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 413 in Santa Barbara County was elected to the Allan Hancock College board of trustees.

Electrical contractors with employees not in a union have experienced continual difficulties bidding on college construction projects since his election. This shouldn’t be a surprise, considering an explicit objective on the home page of the IBEW Local Union No. 413 is “to organize all workers in the entire electrical industry…including all those in public utilities and electrical manufacturing, into local unions.”

Because many California electricians choose not to belong to a union and have the requisite work experience and test scores to obtain their state electrician certification, the IBEW Local Union No. 413 needs to pursue this objective by using the coercive power of government to restrict competitive bidding. Here’s a compilation of antics concerning taxpayer-funded construction at Allan Hancock College since November 2004, complete with documentation when available: 

January 2006: Contractor associations learned through inside sources that someone was agitating for the Allan Hancock College board of trustees to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council. Contractors and organizations provided arguments to the college district against the proposal, and it did not come up for a vote.

December 2009: Shortly before a bid deadline, Allan Hancock College issued an addendum to bid specifications for the One-Stop Student Services Center. The addendum added “Enhanced Safety Requirements” that required 75 percent of the workforce of the general contractor and all subcontractors to be graduates of a California state-approved apprenticeship program. This was aimed at hindering bids from construction companies whose employees learned their trade and/or obtained state certification outside of the union training model.

Local contractors were incensed. Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California coordinated with the Santa Maria Valley Contractors Association and the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) to ask the college to extend the bid deadline and remove the “enhanced safety requirements” through a new addendum. College officials acknowledged the requirement was inappropriate and promptly issued an addendum removing the union-backed requirement and extending the bid deadline.

December 2010: At the direction of the IBEW board member at the November 16 meeting, the Allan Hancock College board of trustees held a “special meeting” on December 7 featuring a “Local Hire Preference Workshop” leading up to a vote at the December 14 meeting.  The workshop was intended to be “an exploration into a local preference hiring policy for capital construction projects,” but strangely the “exploration” did not include an invitation to contractors or contractor associations for participation. Nevertheless, contractors caught onto the plot, and representatives of the Santa Maria Valley Contractors Association and the San Luis Obispo County Builders Exchange spoke against the proposal in opposition to union officials supporting the proposal during public comment. One board member had warned the IBEW board member at the November 16 meeting that his occupation might create a conflict-of-interest, so people were aware that unions were behind the proposal. When the IBEW board member made a motion to approve the policy at the December 14 meeting, no one seconded the motion, and it failed.

See Labor Agreements Explored at Hancock Workshop – Santa Maria Times – December 8, 2012

The policy was similar to a policy previously proposed by the IBEW Union Local No. 413 to the California Space Authority (based in Santa Maria) and to the City of Lompoc. In addition, the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council was pushing at this time for an alleged local hiring policy (a “Local Jobs Construction Stabilization Agreement”) at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors that was in reality an ordinary Project Labor Agreement. As shown in its December 2010 newsletter, the IBEW was concerned that non-union electrical contractors were winning numerous public works contracts in the Central Coast counties of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

October 2012: Allan Hancock College advertised for bids on Building “D” Repairs and Upgrades. Bid specifications included a requirement that any electrical installation worker on the job “must have completed an indentured IBEW/NECA apprenticeship program” (that is, a training program operated by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union).

Contractor representatives from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), and the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) objected via email to the union-only requirement and pointed out that it was unfair and illegal, but the college did not rescind the requirement. Here is how a college official explained the situation:

The District takes considerable care to establish requirements for the District’s construction projects that reflect the needs of each project and which incorporate requirements consistent with applicable law. Underlying this approach by the District are principles of fair and equal bidding opportunities for all prospective bidders, regardless of a bidder’s union or non-union affiliation.

The District was not aware of the restrictive electrician apprenticeship requirement incorporated into the specifications for the Building D Repairs and Upgrades Project until the issue was brought to the attention of the District on October 10, 2012. The District could not take the action requested by ABC in its October 10, 2012, communications (amendment of the specifications provisions limiting acceptable electrical apprenticeship programs) because those communications were sent and received after the opening of Bid Proposals on October 9, 2012.

District staff forwarded the October 10, 2012 ABC letter to counsel for review and response, including discussions with the Project architect and the architect’s electrical engineering consultant. Through that evaluation process and communications with the project design professionals who prepared the specifications, District staff and counsel concluded Monday afternoon that the specifications provision was unduly restrictive and that the restriction on acceptable electrical apprenticeship programs was inconsistent with applicable law. With that conclusion, District staff and counsel determined that the appropriate and proper action is to amend the recommendation for award of the contract for the Project. Rather, an amended recommendation will be presented to the Board of Trustees at the meeting tonight to the effect that: (i) the original bidding process incorporated a flawed electrical apprenticeship provision; (ii) the Board should take action rejecting all Bid Proposals; and (iii) District staff be authorized to re-bid the Project after correcting the electrical apprenticeship provision.

At the October 16 board meeting, a representative of the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) asked the board to rebid the project without the union requirement that prevented electrical subcontractors from participating in the bidding. This request upset the board, as well as the contractor with the winning bid (the contractor incorporated a union electrical subcontractor). There was even a veiled threat that the board would impose a Project Labor Agreement on future construction if non-union contractors continued to hassle the college. Ultimately, the board gave college staff authorization to proceed with awarding the bid, unless one of the contractors’ associations refused to be understanding of the mistake and submitted an official objection.

First time fool me, shame on you – second time fool me, shame on me. Would an established business organization have the courage to refuse to play along and instead insist on what is right and fair? Yes! On October 24, 2012, WECA submitted its formal written objection against Allan Hancock College awarding the bid with the IBEW requirement in the specifications.

Obviously, the public will need to perpetually monitor the board agendas and the bid specifications for contracts at Allan Hancock College, as long as someone on the board holds a vocational goal “to organize all workers in the entire electrical industry… into local unions.” As the AFL-CIO intended through the “2000 in 2000” and “Target 5000” programs, that board member is merely doing his job for his union. Meanwhile, the people need to do their job of seeing their interests properly represented at their own community college district.

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.

Unions Increase Control of California’s Community College Boards

On October 10, 2012, leaders of the Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council finally succeeded in getting the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board to implement a Project Labor Agreement acceptable to union leaders for future district construction. The vote was 3-1.

This is perhaps the longest crusade ever in California for unions to win a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement on public works construction. Union officials began targeting the district a dozen years ago, before voters authorized the sale of $120 million in bonds through the first Measure A in the March 2002 election. In anticipation of winning control of future construction at this district, the head of the Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council got himself appointed to a vacant seat on the governing board in November 1999. Voters complicated his plan by soundly defeating him when he ran for election for a full term in November 2000, and unions then lacked a board majority to impose a Project Labor Agreement.

Voters narrowly authorized the sale of another $286.5 million in bonds by appoving a second Measure A in June 2006, and by September 2006, union lobbyists were demanding that the governing board require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work at the district. The board voted at its October 25, 2006 meeting to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the unions. Two years later, at its August 27, 2008 meeting, the governing board discussed its difficulties reaching an agreement suitable to both sides. At the July 27, 2011 meeting, the Contra Costa County Building and Construction Trades Council put on the pressure by presenting a draft Project Labor Agreement to the governing board, while the district staff presented a timeline of their efforts to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the unions. At their October 12, 2011 meeting, the governing board amended and approved a resolution directing the college chancellor to negotiate some modifications and place a Project Labor Agreement on the November 9, 2011 meeting agenda. At that meeting, the board received advice from its legal counsel and directed some more changes to be made. Finally, the community college district nailed down a Project Labor Agreement and approved it on a 3-1 vote on December 14, 2011, as governing board member Tomi Van de Brooke ramped up her campaign for Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. (She lost the race in June 2012 despite campaign support from construction trade unions.) But as bid dates for projects funded by Measure A approached during the summer of 2012, union officials wouldn’t sign the agreement; they still weren’t satisfied with the terms and conditions. Thus, the board had to approve a new, revised agreement on October 10, 2012.

Why were the votes 3-1 instead of 4-1? As an interesting side note, in March 2011, the governing board appointed the recording secretary of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union No. 159 to the governing board. He was also a paid part-time instructor in the local plumbers’ union apprenticeship program. As the vote approached for the Project Labor Agreement, a complaint was filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission – with ample documentation – noting that this board member had failed to file his statement of financial interests within 30 days of his appointment, and when the public requested it, he filed a statement that did not disclose income from the plumbers’ union as reported on the union’s LM-2 form. According to a January 10, 2012 press release from the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, “Only the intervention of the public in exposing Robert Calone’s failure to submit a Form 700 and his failure to report his employment income prevented him from voting on a contract for which his loyalties and allegiance were divided and influenced by his paid employment as an instructor for an organization that was signatory to the contract.” (See the following documents: Complaint to FPPC with Exhibits and Response from FPPC – A Warning Letter.)

So this is how one community college district’s governing board operates.

With the fall of this district to the unions, almost every community college district in the San Francisco Bay Area now requires construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in order to work on a taxpayer-funded project in those districts. Below is a status report:

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 Not Yet
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 Not Yet
Solano CCD (Solano County) 2003 2004
Santa Rosa Junior College (Sonoma County) 2002, 2005 Not Yet

Note that governing boards of a few community college districts in Southern California (the Los Angeles Community College District, the Riverside Community College District, and the Rancho Santiago Community College District in Orange County) have also required their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions. The elected board of the Southwestern Community College District in Chula Vista voted earlier this year to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

Why are community college districts such ripe targets for union control of taxpayer funded construction? Here are my theories:

  1. Most California voters aren’t even aware that community colleges have elected board members. There’s an obscure political vacuum to be filled by opportunistic unions and other special interests of the Left.
  2. Public accountability for board members is almost non-existent. News coverage is weak. Taxpayers are clueless, and students are too busy to focus on the elected leadership of their institution.
  3. Serving on a community college board attracts relatively erudite, ideological people who believe government and education can be useful and appropriate agents to change the world.
  4. For an ambitious politician dreaming of running for a solidly Democrat-controlled state legislative seat when the current occupant is termed out, it’s useful to show evidence of experience in education. Ambitious politicians, of course, also have to be active in enacting policies desired by the various interest groups that provide financial and organizational support in primary campaigns, including construction trade unions.
  5. People attracted to the community college board often respond to policy proposals based on emotion, feelings, and idealism – and not so much on financial analysis.
  6. The main campaign donors to community college board candidates are parties with financial interests in the district; that is, faculty unions and other unions. It’s difficult to find campaign funding for candidates who advocate fiscal responsibility.
  7. There are a lot of cultural disincentives for an advocate of minimalist government and fiscal responsibility to run for a community college board. These college districts are very political, and the political culture is very “progressive.” Boards like to pass resolutions about foreign affairs, global issues, and leftist bugaboos.

I have not heard about any plans for anyone to establish a program to recruit, train, and elect free market-oriented candidates to community college governing boards in California. Until there is an organized movement to make the government of California community college districts more fiscally responsible, college governing boards remain a welcoming place for believers in activist government to start their long and fruitful political careers in California.

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.

Construction Unions Could Grab Billions Through Education Bonds

Among the many Californians who only occasionally vote in elections, how many understand what they’re doing when they vote for a “bond measure” for a K-12 school district or community college district? They know it’s “for the kids,” but do they know that when they authorize a school district to sell bonds to fund construction, it is borrowing money from institutional investors and wealthy individuals? Do they consider the cost implications, such as how this borrowed money must be paid back – with interest – directly through the taxes of property owners and indirectly through rent and lease payments to landlords?

Presidential elections attract the highest voter turnouts, and as a greater number of people vote, a higher proportion of them are a little fuzzy on some of the policy details. They tend to vote on emotional impulses and are more likely to respond favorably to simple arguments such as “it’s for the kids.” It’s conventional wisdom among California political consultants that voters in Presidential general elections tend to be more likely than voters in primary or off-year elections to approve ballot measures that authorize bond sales.

Perhaps that explains why the November 6, 2012 election includes the highest number of ballot measures ever recorded authorizing California’s K-12 and community college districts to borrow money for construction by selling bonds. As reported by School Services of California and reprinted on September 26, 2012 by the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (CASH) as “K-14 School Facility Bonds Dominate the Ballot,” it’s going to be an election that brings huge new debt burdens to the people of California through authorized bond sales:

School agencies have qualified 106 school facilities ballot measures worth a total of $11.6 billion for the November election. This eclipses the previous high number of measures, 96, which occurred in November 2008. Included within that total are two traditional general obligation (GO) bonds requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage and 104 Proposition 39 measures requiring a 55% majority approval. The measures are broad-based, including eight community college elections and four school facility improvement district (SFID) elections. They also extend to every corner of the state.

The article also makes some election predictions:

If past trends hold true, more than 70% of the school agency measures on the ballot will pass. But every election is different, and in this one, voters are faced with a hotly contested presidential election, two major school funding measures, a number of high-profile, very controversial measures, and we are still caught in the throes of economic malaise. Our prediction, therefore, is that voters will go to the polls and support passage of these measures and that the results will be even better than recent history would suggest. Our experience is that when times get tough, voters are much more likely to take matters in their own hands and turn to the local ballot box, not the state, for support for their children.

Obviously, $11.6 billion in taxpayer money (not including state matching grants) attracts special interests looking to get themselves a guaranteed piece of the action. These interests, of course, include construction trade unions.

So which of California’s K-12 school districts and community college districts with bond measures for construction on the November 2012 ballot have a history of requiring their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with trade unions as a condition of working on projects funded by bond measures? Quite a few:

San Diego Unified School District $2.8 billion
Oakland Unified School District $475 million
Sacramento City Unified School District $346 million +$68 million =$414 million
West Contra Costa Unified School District $360 million
Solano Community College District (Solano County) $348 million
Rancho Santiago Community College District (Orange County) $198 million
Alum Rock Union School District (San Jose) $125 million
East Side Union High School District (San Jose) $120 million

Also, some of the projects to be funded by the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s $260 million proposed bond measure were at one time covered under a developer-negotiated Project Labor Agreement for electrical and plumbing work. That agreement reportedly contained a successor clause to continue coverage after the project was transferred from the developer to the school district.

In addition, school boards of three other school districts with bond measures on the November 6, 2012 ballot have been lobbied aggressively in the past by union officials for a Project Labor Agreement. These will certainly remain targets for Project Labor Agreements:

San Jose Unified District (2003) $290 million
San Bernardino City Unified School District (2010) $250 million
Jefferson Union High School District (2007) $41.9 million

Finally, the Stockton Unified School District approved a resolution in 2007 requiring contractors to obtain apprentices from eligible state-approved training programs that have “graduated apprentices annually for at least the past five (5) years.” The policy was aimed at non-union (and union) apprenticeship programs that the state might approve in the future to compete against existing union apprenticeship programs. Apprentices in those new programs would not be allowed to get on-the-job training on Stockton Unified School District construction projects.

Stockton Unified School District $156 million

If predictions are correct about the November 2012 election results for bond measures, construction unions throughout the state will have plenty of work guaranteed through government-mandated Project Labor Agreements and other tricky arrangements to get union monopolies on taxpayer-funded construction. Keep in mind that many of these school districts will also obtain matching grants for these projects from the State Allocation Board – grants funded by bond sales totaling $35.8 billion authorized by three past statewide propositions:

Want more documentation? Below is a list of Project Labor Agreements that contractors have been required or will be required to sign to work on school construction, along with links to the actual agreements.

Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements for K-12 School and Community College Construction Projects

MARIN COUNTY
College of Marin (Marin Community College District) Project Labor Agreement 2008 Measure C
CITY and COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO
City College of San Francisco Project Labor Agreement 2005
 
San Francisco Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2008 Measure A (2006 Version)
SAN MATEO COUNTY
San Mateo Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2003
 
San Mateo Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2007 Amendment No. 1 
 
San Mateo Union High School District Project Labor Agreement 2002 – San Mateo High School Modernization
 
San Mateo Union High School District Project Labor Agreement 2009 Measure M
 
San Mateo Union High School District Project Labor Agreement 2009 Measure M Solar Work Amendment 2010
 
San Mateo Union High School District Project Labor Agreement 2009 Measure M Additional Work Amendment 2011
 
South San Francisco Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2011 Measure J
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
Alum Rock Union Elementary School District 2009 Measure G
 
East Side Union High School District Project Labor Agreement 2003 Measure G 2009 Measure E
 
Foothill-DeAnza Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2008 Measure G
 
Foothill-DeAnza Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2011 Measure G Amendment No. 1
 
San Jose-Evergreen Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2006 Measure G 2010 Measure G
 
ALAMEDA COUNTY
Albany Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2005 Measure A
 
Berkeley Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2011 Measure I
 
Chabot-Los Positas Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2007 Measure B
 
Chabot-Los Positas Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2010 Measure B Amendment No. 1
 
Fremont Union High School District Project Labor Agreement 2009 All Outdoor Athletic Facilities
 
Hayward Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2009 Measure I
 
Oakland Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2003 Measure A (Original)
 
Oakland Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2005 (Revised) Measure A and Subsequent Measure B
 
Peralta Community College District (Oakland & Berkeley) Project Labor Agreement 2009
San Leandro Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2007 Measure B
San Leandro Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2007 Measure B Amendment No. 1 Measure M 2012
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
San Leandro Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2007 Measure B Amendment No. 1 Measure M 2012
CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
Contra Costa Community College District Project Labor Agreement 2012 Measure A (2006)
 
John Swett Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2009 Measure A
 
Mt. Diablo Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2006 Measure C Pilot Projects
 
Pittsburg Unified School District Project Labor Agreement 2004 Measure E
 
West Contra Costa Unified School District Project Labor Agreement
SOLANO COUNTY
Vallejo City Unified School District Project Labor Agreement Measure A 2001
 
Solano Community College District Project Labor Agreement Measure G 2004
SACRAMENTO COUNTY
Sacramento City Unified School District Project Labor Agreement Measures E and I 2005
 
Sacramento City Unified School District Project Labor Agreement Measures E and I 2005 Amendment No. 1 2009
LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Centinela Valley Union High School District Project Labor Agreement – Proposition CV and California Emergency Repair Program – 2009
 
Compton Unified School District Project Labor Agreement – Remainder of Measure I – 2005
 
Los Angeles Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Proposition A, Proposition AA, and Measure J – 2001 (Revised through 2011)
 
Los Angeles Unified School District Project Labor Agreement – Proposition BB and Measure K (now also applies to Measure R, Measure Q, future bond measures, and Job Order Contracts) – 2003
 
Los Angeles Unified School District Project Labor Agreement – Proposition BB and Measure K – 2003 – Amendment No. 1
 
Rio Hondo Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Measure A – 2005
 
Pasadena Unified School District Project Labor Agreement (called a “Continuity of Work Agreement) – Measure TT – 2012
 
San Gabriel Unified School District Project Labor Agreement – Measure A – 2010
ORANGE COUNTY
Rancho Santiago Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Measure E – 2003
 
Santa Ana Unified School District Project Labor Agreement – Measure C – 2000
SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY
Rialto Unified School District Project Labor Agreement – Wilmer Amina Carter High School (District High School #3) – 2001
RIVERSIDE COUNTY
Riverside Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Measure C – 2010
SAN DIEGO COUNTY
San Diego Unified School District Project Labor Agreement – Proposition S – 2009

Project Labor Agreements Negotiated by Private Parties for K-12 School and Community College Construction Projects

CONSTRUCTION MANAGER-AT-RISK – MONTEREY COUNTY
Hartnell Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Measure H – 2004 – Negotiated by DPR Construction and Employers’ Advocate – Nullified After Three Small Projects
LEASE-LEASEBACK – KERN COUNTY
Westside Educational Complex for Delano Union School District Project Labor Agreement 2011 between Grapevine Advisors LLC and the Kern, Inyo, Mono Building and Construction Trades Council 
DEVELOPER-BUILT SCHOOLS – CONTRA COSTA COUNTY
San Ramon Valley Center Campus of Contra Costa Community College District Project Labor Agreement between Windemere-Brookfield-Centex and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 159
 
Almond Grove Elementary School of Oakley Union Elementary School District Project Labor Agreement 2004 between Pulte Homes and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 159, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 302, and Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 104
 
Seven Schools (Including Creekside Elementary School) of San Ramon Valley Unified School District Project Labor Agreement between Shapell Industries and Windemere and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 159 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 302 (copy not in my possession)
DEVELOPER-BUILT SCHOOLS – PLACER COUNTY
Junction Elementary School, Barbara Chilton Middle School, and Three Other Schools of Roseville City School District 2005 between Westpark Associates and Signature Properties and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 340, and Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 162
DEVELOPER-BUILT SCHOOLS – VENTURA COUNTY
Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Rio Vista Middle School, and Another Elementary School of the Rio School District in the RiverPark Development 2004 between RiverPark Development, LLC and Shea Homes with the Ventura County Building and Construction Trades Council
 
Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Rio Vista Middle School, and Another Elementary School of the Rio School District in the RiverPark Development 2007 between RiverPark Development, LLC and Shea Homes with the Ventura County Building and Construction Trades Council – Amendment

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