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Union Threatens to Block Apple, Inc. “Spaceship” with Environmental Lawsuit

Perhaps the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West deserves grudging praise and respect for refusing to bow to American idols.

Few groups have the gumption to challenge or criticize Apple, Inc., one of America’s most admired corporations. Apple generally gets away with commercial activity that the Left would slam relentlessly if practiced by other large corporations.

For example, Apple is proceeding mostly unhindered with its plan to build a massive complex called Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, a city located in Silicon Valley and within the San Francisco Bay Area. The region is notorious for traffic congestion and anti-growth sentiment.

Apple Campus 2 ("the Spaceship"), as depicted on the web site of the City of Cupertino.

Apple Campus 2 (“the Spaceship”), as depicted on the web site of the City of Cupertino.

Local fans of Apple commonly refer to the edifice – first proposed to the Cupertino City Council in 2011 by Steve Jobs – as “the spaceship.” An article in the October 16, 2013 San Jose Mercury-News explained why a “2.8-million-square-foot behemoth beside Interstate 280” that would normally be tangled in significant controversy is able to move forward without excessive hassle:

During a public-comment session, most speakers wholeheartedly supported Apple, not surprising since Cupertino is a veritable company town, with Apple offices spread far and wide. “As my mom used to say, ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you,'” longtime resident Carol Baker told the council. “If we don’t honor Apple with this building, they’ll leave. There’s no reason for them to stay here and be loyal to a community that doesn’t support them. But if they left, it would be a disaster for the city.”

Not many corporations get to be “honored” in a San Francisco Bay Area community with “a four-story ring of curved glass housing up to 14,200 employees.” Apple gets that privilege.

There is a sour note among the hymns of praise, however, and it comes from a union. The Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) wants to organize the employees of Security Industry Specialists, which provides security services for some of the celebrated high-tech firms of Silicon Valley – Google, eBay, Twitter, and Apple.

SEIU-USWW has targeted these high-profile companies using the traditional strategies of a union corporate campaign, including protests at shareholders’ meetings, paid advertising and public relations, social media, informational pickets, letters from local politicians, and filing unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.

Now the SEIU-USWW is turning to what might be the most powerful weapon in the union organizing arsenal in California – “greenmail,” or environmental permit extortion through exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The union submitted a short warning letter dated July 19, 2013 in response to the City of Cupertino’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Apple Campus 2. It then submitted another letter dated October 2, 2013 in response to the Final Environmental Impact Report. The Silicon Valley Business Journal recognized what was happening:

What about CEQA? Is anyone going to challenge this thing on environmental grounds? Actually, maybe. But don’t look at the Santa Clara/San Benito Building and Trades Council (the group, headed by Neil Struthers, is a vocal supporter of the project, which is using union labor.)

Buried in public comment documents is a response from an attorney for SEIU-United Service Workers West. That union has protested on behalf of security guards stationed at the Google campuses in Mountain View. (They are actually subcontractors of Security Industry Specialists.)

“…USWW is a stakeholder in this Project, and worker and labor organizations like USWW have a long history of engaging in the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) process to secure safe working conditions, reduce environmental impacts, and maximize economic benefits,” wrote Gideon Kracov, an attorney for the union. (Kracov is leading a CEQA challenge of an expansion at Los Angeles International Airport on behalf of SEIU-USWW.)

Kevin Dayton, who heads up Labor Issues Solutions and blogs about what he calls union “greenmail,” called the comment “a shot across the bow.”

“Anyone can reasonably speculate that the union would use CEQA as leverage to get security workers organized,” he told me.

At the October 15, 2013 Cupertino City Council meeting at which the Apple Campus 2 project was approved, a representative of the SEIU-USWW expressed an ominous warning in front of a sea of supporters.

Is the threat credible? As referenced in the Silicon Valley Business Journal article, the Los Angeles attorney who is handling the Apple 2 Campus environmental comments for SEIU-USWW filed a CEQA lawsuit on behalf of SEIU-USWW on May 29, 2013. That lawsuit challenges the approval of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Specific Plan Amendment Study based on alleged violations of CEQA. The SEIU-USWW is trying to organize employees of companies such as Aviation Safeguards and Menzies Aviation that provide contract services for airlines at LAX.

The Service Employees International Union- United Service Workers West has 30 days after the City of Cupertino files its Notice of Determination (that the city council approved the project) to file a lawsuit against the city based on alleged deficiencies in the environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Will the “iconic” Apple spaceship be stopped by professional union organizers for security guards?

Sources

Anticipation High for Apple Spaceship Approval, But Questions Linger – Silicon Valley Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Cupertino Council Clears Huge Apple ‘Spaceship’ Campus for Liftoff – San Jose Mercury-News – October 16, 2013

SEIU-USWW Letter on Draft Environmental Impact Report for Apple 2 Campus

SEIU-USWW Letter on Final Environmental Impact Report for Apple 2 Campus

SEIU United Service Workers West v. City of Los Angeles et al.

Security Industry Specialists – Union Facts (Corporate Site)

Security Industry Specialists: Another Bad Apple Contractor, But Right Here at Home – Stand for Security Blog of SEIU – February 21, 2013

USWW Security Officers Stand Up to SIS Security Contractor at Apple Shareholder Meetingwww.seiu-usww.org – March 2, 2013

Apple Security Officers Demand Company’s Support in Organizing – Labor’s Edge Blog of California Labor Federation – March 5, 2013

SEIU Protests at GoogleMountain View Voice – June 6, 2013

Security Officers, Netroots Nation Activists Call on Google to Help Fight Silicon Valley Income Inequality – Stand for Security Blog of SEIU – June 20, 2013

Outside the Gates: Unions Versus Big TechSF Weekly – July 3, 2013

Security Officers Seeking to Reduce Income Inequality Praise Tech Company’s Decision to Choose Socially Responsible Contractor (Yelp) – Stand for Security Blog of SEIU – September 12, 2013

Unions to Protest Outside Twitter TomorrowSF Weekly – October 9, 2013

Protesters at LAX Allege Unsafe Working Conditions, Unfair Labor PracticesDaily Breeze – March 21, 2012


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.