How Unions Undermined the Rights of California's Charter Cities

In recognition that the municipal needs of people in the City of Needles might be different than the needs of people in the City of San Francisco, the California Constitution gives cities the right to control their own municipal affairs through a charter. These charters – approved by voters – are mini-constitutions that allow “home-rule.” Matters of statewide concern remain under the authority of the state.

Since the early 1930s, charter cities have been using their authority over municipal affairs to deviate from costly state mandates regarding so-called prevailing wages and apprenticeship requirements for purely municipal public works projects and private projects that get public funding (only) from the municipal government. Such laws imposed on public works projects effectively establish the wage and training terms and conditions for each trade in each county based on the applicable union Master Labor Agreement.

In other words, unions have quasi-regulatory power in California to determine contract bid specifications for government-funded projects (in most cases, for contracts of $1000 or more), whether built by a government or by a private developer. As a general rule, these specifications tend to disproportionately increase costs for taxpayers as the location of the project gets more distant from California Department of Industrial Relations headquarters in San Francisco.

During the truncated administration of Governor Gray Davis (1999-2003), union lobbyists succeeded in changing the legal definition of public works and the criteria used to calculate prevailing wage rates. This motivated more cities to ask voters to approve a charter with the intent of setting their own policies for purely municipal projects and private developments getting municipal financial assistance. In addition, other cities that already had charters were choosing for the first time to set their own policies.

Studies, anecdotes, and common sense showed that exercising this Constitutional right allowed charter cities to save money for taxpayers and build projects that would otherwise be economically infeasible. More could be built for less.

By the end of 2012, voters of 121 California cities had approved charters. Some charter cities chose to ignore the state mandates in their entirety and allowed construction contractors to choose wages and training practices based on market conditions. Other charter cities required contractors to follow most of the state mandates but set their own policies for some matters. And other charter cities did not exercise their authority at all for public works wages and training and simply included the state mandates in their project bid specifications.

The choice was left to the cities. See a status report of prevailing wage policies for charter cities at the end of 2012 in Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?)

Union Lobbyists and Lawyers Stomp Down the Charter City Rebellion

Obviously construction union leaders had become increasingly concerned about charter cities evading the provisions in their collective bargaining agreements when advertising contracts. In 2007, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California sued the City of Vista, arguing that prevailing wage was a matter of statewide concern. The California Supreme Court sided with the City of Vista in 2012.

It was time for unions to use political campaigns and the state legislature to undermine the intellectual underpinnings of charter city authority and stop cities from ignoring the laws enacted at the State Capitol for unions. An organization called “Smart Cities Prevail” was created to discourage charter cities from deviating from state law. A new state law was passed to restrict the ability of voters to enact or amend charters. To exert political leverage, unions filed a lawsuit against the City of Oceanside claiming it violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and had to redraw its districts. And unions heavily financed a campaign in the City of Costa Mesa to defeat a proposed charter.

But the strategy that proved completely effective in shutting down charter cities was a new law enacted in 2013, Senate Bill 7. Language in Senate Bill 7 was based on language in two earlier union-backed bills (Senate Bill 922 in 2011 and Senate Bill 829 in 2012) that cut off state funding for construction to any charter city that banned public contracts requiring companies to sign union Project Labor Agreements.

Senate Bill 7 declared that any charter city that deviated from state labor laws for public works contracts (such as prevailing wage and apprenticeship) would no longer be eligible to obtain state funding for construction. Several charter cities filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this law, but a San Diego County Superior Court judge upheld the right of the state to cut off the cash.

By the end of 2014, almost every charter city (perhaps every charter city) had passed an ordinance proclaiming their adherence to state prevailing wage law. Unions actually had the chutzpah to claim that charter cities had changed their policies because they learned about the value of prevailing wage laws, as if local governments had evolved toward ultimate enlightenment rather than being threatened with losing state funding.

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 Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions “Using Political Leverage to Punish Those Exercising Rights” in California Constitution

On October 13, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 7, which cuts off state funds designated for construction to any California city that exercises its right under the California Constitution to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) on contracts. This was a major victory for the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the construction union umbrella lobbying organization that sponsored the bill.

There are 121 California cities that govern their own municipal affairs through a charter, a mini-constitution authorized in Article XI of the California Constitution. In its letter unsuccessfully requesting for a gubernatorial veto, the League of California Cities declared that “using political leverage to punish those exercising rights provided by the Constitution is unjust” and a veto was needed to “protect the integrity of our Constitution and the communities operating in lawful compliance with it.” (Coming from the professional association of California city officials, these statements cannot be easily brushed off by California Democrats and their union allies as irrelevant “Tea Party” rhetoric.)

In California, the “Progressive” movement is determined not to let the structural protections of constitutional government impede the quest for democratic socialism and societal justice. Passing Senate Bill 7 through the state legislature and getting it signed is the type of government activism that earns praise from the national news media, as it compares the State of California favorably against the “gridlock” in Washington, D.C.

Senate Bill 7 has a practical fiscal impact as well as a constitutional significance. Out of California’s 121 cities governed under a charter, 43 do not require construction companies to pay state-mandated prevailing wages on any city contracts, and 10 do not require construction companies to pay state-mandated prevailing wages on some kinds of city contracts. The cities of El Cajon, Bakersfield, and Newport Beach are the most recent cities to establish their own prevailing wage policies. Meanwhile, unions have successfully lobbied the city councils in San Diego and Mountain View in recent months to abandon their own wage rate policies and submit to state prevailing wage law.

A couple dozen “general law” cities have recently proposed charters to voters or plan to propose charters to voters. Evading the costly state prevailing wage mandate for construction contracts has been a primary motivation for these cities, and construction unions have been aggressive in lobbying and campaigning to undermine these local efforts. In 2012, voters in the cities of Auburn, Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach rejected proposed charters.

It’s likely that a charter city or group of charter cities will file a lawsuit in 2014 to strike down Senate Bill 7, along with two similar laws implemented by Senate Bill 922 in 2011 and Senate Bill 829 in 2012. These two laws, also sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, cut off state construction funds to charter cities that adopt Fair and Open Competition policies prohibiting the cities from entering into contracts requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.


Article XI of the California Constitution

Senate Bill 7 (2013) – to be California Labor Code Section 1782

League of California Cities – SB 7 (Steinberg) Undermining Constitutional Exercise of Municipal Affairs – Request for Veto

Information on Charters from League of California Cities (includes list of 121 charter cities)

State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista et al. – California Supreme Court decision of July 2, 2012 upholding constitutional right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for municipal construction contracts.

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? (3rd edition – Summer 2012) – the most comprehensive report ever published on California prevailing wage and charter city policies and an inspiration for advocates of fiscal responsibility and local control. (A 4th edition is in the works.)

Senate Bill 922 (2011) and Senate Bill 829 (2012) – punishing charter cities with prohibitions on city contracts that mandate Project Labor Agreements.

State-mandated prevailing wages for construction trades in all geographic regions of California

State Building & Construction Trades Council of California

News and Opinion Leading Up to and Following Gov. Brown Signing Senate Bill 7

SB 7: Cities Stand to Lose Home Rule over Municipal Affairs – – September 9, 2013

Three Bad Bills that Gov. Jerry Brown Should Veto – editorial – Sacramento Bee – September 9, 2013

Legislative Sampler: 2 to Sign, 2 to Veto – editorial – Riverside Press-Enterprise – September 18, 2013

Has Labor Leader Overreached? – columnist Dan Morain – Sacramento Bee – October 9, 2013 (The answer is “no.”)

Prevailing Wage Bill Deserves a Veto – editorial – UT San Diego – October 4, 2013

Governor Should Veto Wage Bill – editorial – Modesto Bee – October 11, 2013

If Gov. Brown Doesn’t Like Intrusion, He Should Veto SB 7 – editorial – Sacramento Bee – October 12, 2013

Jerry Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill for Charter Cities – Sacramento Bee – October 13, 2013

Governor Brown Signs Union-Backed Senate Bill 7 and Continues Erosion of Constitutional Checks and Balances – – October 13, 2013

Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill – Capitol Weekly – October 14, 2013

Brown Signs Prevailing Wage Bill for Cities – Central Valley Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Governor Signs Prevailing wage Bill for Charter Cities – Sacramento Business Journal – October 14, 2013

Gov. Brown Signs SB 7 to Neuter Charter Cities – – October 14, 2013

Prevailing Wage Law Could Raise Costs – UT San Diego – October 14, 2013

Unions Smile, Cities Frown at Prevailing Wage Law – Bakersfield Californian – October 14, 2013

Modesto Fears Harm from New Prevailing Wage Law – Modesto Bee – October 14, 2013

California Construction Unions Get Two Big Wins – columnist Dan Walters – Sacramento Bee – October 15, 2013

Charter Could Cost City Funding – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – October 16, 2013

Wage Law Costs Cities More Than Money – op-ed by El Cajon Acting Mayor Bill Wells – UT San Diego – October 25, 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 Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.


Something is Bothering California Union Leaders and Lobbyists

Something is bothering union leaders and lobbyists in California. A few unreconstructed troglodytes in the hinterlands still haven’t received the memo explaining how unions will lead the state in its evolution to a more Progressive society, under the firm but benevolent hand of government authority.

The typical political, business, and community leader in California today holds fast to the hope that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. The Establishment often discusses the challenges facing the state’s future without mentioning union political power and the vigorous ideological visions of union leadership.

But a few stubborn fanatics have declined to leave for Texas and instead stick around to harp on outdated, embarrassing notions such as “fiscal responsibility,” “limited government,” “free markets,” and “constitutional doctrines.” These insidious rebels are constantly figuring out clever ways to subvert and circumvent the Left.

Here are some recent critical reports about these people from union officials and union sympathizers. Many of these reports contain inaccuracies about strategies and logistics of the resistance, but the reports are valuable in showing the nature of the resistance.

This Week in the War on Workers: Fending Off the ALEC of the Construction Industry in California – Daily Kos – August 24, 2013

  • “The Associated Builders and Contractors, AKA the ALEC of the construction industry, doesn’t like this so much. So it’s been turning its attention to charter cities, which can make their own laws, trying to get cities to adopt charters and to eliminate the prevailing wage.”
  • “This push employs some ridiculous myths, like the claim that cities can save 20 percent on their construction costs by eliminating the prevailing wage.”
  • “As with most of the ABC’s efforts, it’s important to understand that these are low-road contractors.”
  • “Defenders of the prevailing wage have been doing a good job fighting off city by city attacks, but ABC is relentless, bringing up and helping to fund the same charters in city after city.”

CEO Comes Out Swinging in Favor of SB7, Prevailing Wages, and the Race to the Top – We Party Patriots – August 22, 2013

  • “In recent years, anti-union groups have supported ballot initiatives throughout the state that would designate cities as charter cities specifically to avoid paying prevailing wages on public works projects.”
  • “a subject that has been trumpeted by anti-prevailing wage crusaders time and again: alleged savings associated with gutting wages.”
  • “SB7 is a response to lobbying attempts by contractor associations who wish to change California law for the worse.”

CEOs and Business Leaders for Prevailing Wage – Modesto Bee (op-ed) – August 19, 2013

  • “some Charter Cities have exempted prevailing wages in a shortsighted effort to save money, but the true costs outweigh any perceived benefit.”
  • “out-of-state lobby groups have recently mounted an effort — city by city — to encourage local leaders and politicians to place charters on the ballot in order to eliminate prevailing wage.”
  • “They promise savings of as much as 30 percent on projects.”
  • “The lobbyists making these arguments either don’t know what they are talking about, or they are being deliberately misleading.”
  • “The idea for SB7 didn’t appear out of the blue. It was a logical response to lobby groups trying to convince more cities to make the mistake of eliminating prevailing wage.”

Just What is a ‘Prevailing Wage?’ – Pomerado News (op-ed) – August 24, 2013

  • “Don’t count on the support of most contractors, or developers, or anti-worker politicians for a living wage.”
  • “‘It costs too much, it’s taxpayers’ money,’ they scream.”
  • “Of course, detractors trot out examples of someone being paid an exorbitant rate for a menial job, but those incidences are few.”
  • “With the exception of San Diego, whose original charter dates from the 1800s, the rest of these cities adopted charters relatively recently, for the most part, to avoid paying prevailing wages.” (Note: San Diego has maintained a policy of no government-mandated wage rates for construction contractors since 1980 – see the July 30, 2013 article After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law.)

Prevailing Wage: Moving Forward in California, Backward in Other States – From the President, State Building and Construction Trades Council of California – July 2013

  • “Here is some of what the Building Trades are doing. The hallmark bill for 2013 is Senate Bill 7, to make charter cities eligible for state funding for public works projects only if they pay prevailing wage. Charter cities may choose to exempt themselves from prevailing wage, and some do. This measure would provide a strong financial incentive for those cities to stop shortchanging working men and women with substandard wages.”
  • “Speaking of charter cities, Senate Bill 311 requires that charter city conversion elections be held in a statewide general election, where voter participation is highest, in order to protect workers from the tactic of passing conversion measures in lower turnout municipal elections.”
  • “We are also protecting prevailing wage with Senate Bill 776, to prevent anti-union contractors from defining sham labor compliance committees as a fringe benefit, which can then be deducted from workers’ wages as a portion of the prevailing wage. The Associated Builders and Contractors, the anti-union group, have been using these deductions to fund themselves for their relentless drive to destroy construction unions.”
  • Assembly Bill 26 requires that contractors that do work in refineries carry a workforce that has been trained and graduated in state-approved construction apprenticeship programs, and requires those workers be paid the prevailing wage for construction workers in the area.” (A push to require prevailing wage on private projects! Note: see Senate Bill 54 for the current manifestation of this proposal. It will knock the Steelworkers union out of California refineries as well as non-union industrial contractors – see the August 26, 2013 Los Angeles Times article Two Unions Wage Turf Battle Over Oil Refinery Workers: A state bill would help the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California grab control of thousands of United Steelworkers jobs.)
  • “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…When we compare these worthy actions with the sad developments in many other states, we see the clear benefits of our unity and activism…”

Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 776 into law today (August 27, 2013), cutting off funding to the one independent labor compliance investigative program among several dozen union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committees operating in the state. Will these bills finally allow the “forward-looking individuals” aligned with unions in state and local government to advance their agenda unimpeded?

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 Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Are Unions Behind California Assembly Bill 76 to Hinder Public Records Access?

What special interest group would have such disregard for the tenor of the times that it would now push for a law to hinder the public’s ability to obtain records from local governments?

And what special interest group would have the chutzpah to get that law enacted through a supplemental trailer to an annual budget, thus avoiding public hearings or an opportunity for the public to comment on it?

Until June 12, 2013, California Assembly Bill 76 had been an empty shell for a “budget trailer bill” to be passed as a supplement to the 2013-2014 California state budget. Then it was filled with technical changes and union-backed statutory provisions and whipped through the legislature and to Governor Jerry Brown on June 14. It now waits for the governor’s signature.

At one time, the legislature could claim that it while it was “mindful of the right of individuals to privacy,” it found and declared that “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.” But now there are suspicions that it is more concerned with protecting a special interest group or an individual or individuals  from damaging revelations.

Among the provisions of AB 76 is language that gives local agencies “discretion” to comply with certain provisions of the state’s longstanding Public Records Act. Certain requirements would transform into optional “best practices.” Local governments would no longer need to explain why they couldn’t provide requested records within 10 days; for that matter, local governments would no longer need to explain why they couldn’t provide records at all. Local agencies would no longer need to provide records (such as financial data) in a useful and appropriate electronic format or cooperate with the public to ensure satisfactory fulfillment of records requests.

Special language in Section 4 of the bill seems to indicate that the public records access provision would take effect in law immediately, rather than on July 1, 2013 as explicitly stated (in Section 119 of the bill) for many other sections. Starting in 2014, but not before then, a local government would have to announce orally at a scheduled public meeting that it would not be complying with the relevant public records laws for the next year. It’s hard to believe, but it seems the law was written to allow a local government to avoid compliance with public records access laws for the remainder of 2013 without making a public announcement of the policy.

AB 76 justifies this change with a cynical provision (Section 118 of the bill) claiming the legislature has a “strong interest…in allowing, to the extent possible, local agencies to control the manner in which they perform their public duties, including, but not limited to, the manner in which they comply with the spirit and purpose of the California Public Records Act.” This statement is laughable.

As readers of know from articles such as With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City Charters, the California state legislature recently enacted two union-backed bills (Senate Bill 922 and Senate Bill 829) that nullify local Fair and Open Competition policies that prohibit Project Labor Agreements in counties and general law cities and cut off state funding for charter cities that enact Fair and Open Competition policies. The union-backed Senate Bill 7 is now moving through the legislature to cut off state funding for charter cities that establish their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wage”).

Local control is not the consistent principle in the affairs of the California state legislature – union control is the consistent principle. Knowing this, and recognizing that almost no one in Governor Brown’s office or in the state legislature is publicly defending this attack on government records access with a thoughtful argument, there’s justification to speculate that this provision in Assembly Bill 76 has something to do with a union concern.

Really, does anyone believe Governor Jerry Brown one day decided that the public had excessive access to information about their local governments? Of course not. It’s more likely that a special interest group or a person or persons with significant political clout asked for this. Here are some reasons to suspect unions.

1. Union fingerprints are all over Assembly Bill 76. Many of the substantive policy changes in the bill are related to union objectives. These proposals have not been considered in public hearings and are too obscure and complicated to recognize unless you are already familiar with the related labor issues. Here are examples:

  • There’s a set of amendments to the California Labor Code that allows the California Department of Industrial Relations to charge unlimited fees to school districts for labor compliance and enforcement on construction funded by bond measures that receive state matching grants from the State Allocation Board, while limiting the amount that a school district can reimburse the state using proceeds from those state matching grants. In other words, the operations of the California Department of Industrial Relations will be subsidized by money borrowed by school districts through bond sales authorized by local voters.
  • Money is shifted and loaned among various funds overseen by the California Department of Industrial Relations.
  • The Displaced Janitor Opportunity Act of 2002 is expanded to include contractors that provide food and beverage services at a publicly owned entertainment venue. In other words, the new Sacramento Kings owners, with their planned new arena, will not be able to save money by ending the old union arrangements.
  • New opportunities will be created for unions to impose apprenticeship requirements on industrial construction and maintenance contractors through training and process standards developed through the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board and the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (OSHA).
  • The threshold for state agencies to avoid competitive bidding for contracts under certain conditions is increased from $75,000 to $150,000.

2. Newly-elected Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who was head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council before taking office on May 28, 2013, is one of the few legislators publically defending the proposal. Here’s an excerpt from an article Advocates Press Brown on Records Law in the June 17, 2013 UT San Diego newspaper:

Other Democrats including Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said they appreciated the concerns of the public and the press but couldn’t bring themselves to oppose a bill that included funding for a host of other general government programs, including victims of crime for property losses, a commission on the status of women and to strengthen job safety and wage enforcement for workers.

“This wasn’t a bill situation where I could say ‘Yeah, it’s very easy to vote against this. I don’t agree with this portion,’” Gonzalez said. “What I would like to see is the onus on local governments, where they will continue to provide the information. If not, give me the concrete stories about that not happening because of the change and I’ll be happy to work with that.”

The absence of a credible policy rationale for hindering public records access (other than challenging the credibility of opponents’ arguments) is stunning.

3. Anyone looking for a conspiracy theory might want to research where there are currently active efforts to obtain public records from a local government that are potentially damaging to politicians and special interest groups. One case of note is a lawsuit filed by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction in San Diego County Superior Court on April 22, 2013 to get public records from the City of San Diego regarding the development and implementation of a Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion. (See Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction v. City of San Diego, Case No. 37-2013-00045254-CU-WM-CTL.)

As readers know, this saga has been reported in the articles Unions Threaten Environmental Litigation to Block San Diego Convention Center and Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement. The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has persevered for eight months to get records, and some have been obtained, including a set unexpected provided by the city on June 3, 2013 that contains jaw-dropping information in emails. This was described as “the tip of the iceberg” by an informed source. The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has not released that set of information to the public yet, for reasons that will one day become obvious, but it continues to seek and pry out additional government documents. See for more information.

In the meantime, groups such as the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Freedom Foundation, the California First Amendment Coalition, Californians Aware, and California Common Cause are asking Governor Brown to veto this language. Readers of have good reason to support the efforts of this coalition to preserve open and transparent government.

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 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 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 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 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 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 Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

With Senate Bill 7, California Unions Advance Plot to Neuter City Charters

More than 30 California cities are likely to defy top union officials by asking their citizens in 2014 to vote on enacting a “home rule” charter for local control.

Cities want to free their purely municipal affairs from costly union-backed state mandates, for reasons revealed in these recent articles:

Unions Rise to Defense of “Prevailing Wage” Rates Jeopardizing Hotel Project in Redding – – February 15, 2013 and Redding Needs a Charter to End Nonsense Definition of Private Hotel as a “Public Works” Project – – January 31, 2013.

Stanford Professor Warns Costa Mesa about Pension DebtOrange County Register – February 27, 2013 and City’s Pension Outlook Called ‘Stark’ – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – February 27, 2013. (With the failure of the Measure V charter in November 2012, Costa Mesa is now in the union paradigm with a proposed solution to raise taxes.)

A Former Mayor of a Southern California City Provides an Intellectual Argument for City Charters and Local Government Authority – – February 19, 2013 (a commentary on Reasons to Consider Becoming a Charter City – San Diego Union-Tribune – February 19, 2013).

For a powerful example of how charter cities are saving money and being more cost-effective in their city operations and services, see Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? Cities recognize that exercising the power of a charter can free their municipal affairs from the grip of the state legislature and the special interest groups entrenched at the capitol. A staff report about city charters to the Murrieta City Council for its October 2, 2012 meeting was blunt about the need for cities to enact charters:

…a knowledgeable, involved electorate should both propel and constrain the direction of its own city. Local control has always been a paramount matter of residents, businesses and the Murrieta City Council. Yet state legislators and previous gubernatorial administrations continue to impose far greater mandates, while at the same time hindering the ability of local governments to operate successfully. With little ability to protest, local governments have watched as the state government continues to balance its budget deficits on the backs of fiscally responsible local jurisdictions…The voice of cities in Sacramento has become mute due to a combination of special interest groups, influential political campaign contributions and tone-deaf lawmakers passing unfunded mandates. This process has left cities with little ability to petition the state government…

A city charter is a unique document that acts like a constitution for a city adopting it. Overall, this puts more control into the hands of the residents instead of state legislators and gives a community greater independence to determine its own destiny. Cities typically enter the process to become a charter city to become more autonomous. A charter city has more flexibility and has ultimate authority over municipal affairs. The charter city provision of the state Constitution, commonly referred to as the “home-rule” provision, is based on the principle that a city, rather than the state, is in the best position to know what it needs and how to satisfy those needs. The home-rule provision allows charter cities to conduct their own business and control their own affairs. Therefore, a charter maximizes local control. Such benefits of a charter city are greater flexibility on public works contracts and other changes in the procurement process, more control over economic development practices, and less reliance on the state.

Right now there are 121 charter cities in California, up from 107 in 2007. But there are aggressive opponents who regard cities’ exercise of their charter authority (as cited above from the Murrieta staff report) to be an attack on their hegemony. In 2011 and 2012, unions spent jaw-dropping amounts per voter on campaigns to convince voters to reject reasonable proposed charters.

Charters were defeated in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Costa Mesa, Escondido, and Grover Beach, to the dismay of civic leaders whose local grassroots efforts were rolled over by well-funded union-backed professional campaign operations. Unions are now ready to crush California’s federalist rebellion once and for all in 2013 and 2014.

As one strategy, they are infiltrating and trying to neutralize the League of California Cities as an organization that provides information to cities looking at charters. A union-affiliated group called is trying to influence the League of California Cities through sponsorship, partnership, and participation in the League’s Transportation, Communication & Public Works Committee.

Unions are aggressively opposing charters when proposed on the local level and are trying to derail proposals through charter review commissions (a strategy that worked for unions in Elk Grove, Redding, and other cities). See the newspaper articles listed below for evidence.

Union lobbyists also have a bill now in the California State Legislature (Senate Bill 7) introduced by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and a Republican State Senator, Anthony Cannella. It will cut off state funding for cities that use their constitutional charter authority to establish their own policies concerning state-mandated construction wage rates. (See Bill Introduced in State Senate to Suppress Authority of California’s Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Policies on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates – – February 20, 2013.)

This bill adopts the same concept of crushing charter city authority as did the union-backed Senate Bill 922 in 2011 and Senate Bill 829 in 2012 (two bills pushed by Senator Michael Rubio, who just resigned to take a lobbying position with Chevron). These two laws cut off state money to charter cities that adopt policies prohibiting those cities from requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of work.

Threatening to withhold money as a tactic to force a government to submit to centralized authority may remind you of warnings in the dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2012 concerning the constitutionality of Obamacare:

Structural protections – notably, the restraints imposed by federalism and separation of powers – are less romantic and have less obvious a connection to personal freedom…The fragmentation of power produced by the structure of our Government is central to liberty, and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril…[The] practice of attaching conditions to federal funds greatly increases federal power…This formidable power, if not checked in any way, would present a grave threat to the system of federalism created by our Constitution…Coercing States to accept conditions risks the destruction of the “unique role of the States in our system.”

While the same principles would seemingly apply to the relationship of state and local governments, forces at the state capitol seem to prefer an overbearing centralized government that can solve problems with broad strokes of alleged social justice.

With bills such as SB 922, SB 829, and SB 7 deemed as acceptable modes of governance by the legislative supermajority and the governor, I anticipate a union-backed effort in the future to repeal outright the section of the California Constitution (Article XI, Section 3) that allows cities to govern their own municipal affairs under a charter. It would be an effective way to eliminate another one of the diminishing number of checks and balances that interfere with utopian schemes planned under the benevolent and enlightened one-party state.

Then there is the strange case of Republican Senator Anthony Cannella, who is so proud of undermining local control and raising costs for taxpayers that he used the Senate Republican Caucus communications operation to proclaim his legislative achievement to a gullible press. Here’s a Tweet:

It didn’t go unanswered. I responded with this Tweet:

Senator Cannella may not realize (or may not care) that he represents two cities – Modesto and Merced – that use their charter authority to set their own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). Here is the Modesto policy, set by a 1995 resolution: Modesto Prevailing Wage Policy and Staff Report. Here is the Merced practice: Merced Exempts Rental Housing Preparation from State-Mandated Government Wage Rates (Prevailing Wage). Oh well, sometimes the union lobbyists in Sacramento are a more important constituency than the people back home in the Central Valley.

With the help of Senators Steinberg and Cannella, union lobbyists intend to direct their legislative puppets from Los Angeles and San Francisco to suppress the small and medium-sized cities trying to determine their own financial destinies. To protect union power, these cities must submit to centralized power exercised by the state legislature and Governor Jerry Brown.

In the meantime, the local federalist rebellion continues. In addition to the cities of Temecula and Murrieta, the following California cities are now publicly moving forward on asking their citizens to approve a charter in 2014 (with several more soon to begin public discussion):

Costa Mesa

Outsourcing Back in for Costa MesaOrange County Register (editorial) – February 6, 2013

…passage of Measure V would have made the privatization task easier. But the union outspent Measure V proponents by more than seven-to-one. However, Mr. [Councilman Jim] Righeimer said he hopes a new charter measure will be put on the June 2014 ballot…Within 60 days the council will hold a study session on how to set up the independent committee for the new charter measure.


Escondido Mayor Touts Urban Renewal, Embracing DiversitySan Diego Union-Tribune – February 20, 2013

Delivering his annual State of the City address to nearly 300 residents and business leaders gathered at the city’s arts center… [Mayor Sam] Abed said he also wants the city to take another shot at becoming a charter city, which would increase Escondido’s independence from Sacramento and reduce the cost of some city construction projects.

Moreno Valley

Moreno Valley: City to Explore Becoming Charter City – Riverside Press-Enterprise – February 26, 2013

The Moreno Valley City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 26, unanimously approved establishing a subcommittee that would explore becoming a charter city and appointing two council members to it.

Moreno Valley: Charter City Committee Could Be Created  – Riverside Press-Enterprise – February 25, 2013

The Moreno Valley City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 26, is to follow through on plans to determine whether to become a charter city. The council is set to vote on whether to establish a charter exploratory subcommittee and appoint two council members to it.


Buellton Continues “Home Rule’ Talk – Santa Ynez Valley News – February 7, 2013

The idea of changing Buellton to a “home-rule” city is on hold again after City Council members decided to set up a workshop for more discussion about a draft plan…City Manager John Kunkel said the committee wants voters to be comfortable with the measure and, if the council wants to have a dialogue with unions, there is no rush.

Charting Best Path to Buellton’s Future – Santa Ynez Valley News (editorial) – February 7, 2013

…being a charter city does mean that local elected officials and voters can make more of their own decisions, and are therefore better able to tailor policy to fit specific local needs…Being a charter city also lets local government off the hook for paying a prevailing wage. Labor unions don’t like that possibility…

Arroyo Grande
Arroyo Grande Considering City Charter – – January 28, 2013

The Arroyo Grande City Council has created a committee to explore the idea of becoming a charter city in order to cut costs…Many union members oppose city charters because they allow exemptions from state-mandated prevailing wage agreements. City staff says adopting a charter could save Arroyo Grande $50,000 to $300,000 annually.

Study Under Way to Find Out if Arroyo Grande Should Try to Become a Charter CitySan Luis Obispo Tribune – January 27, 2013

A committee has been convened to study whether Arroyo Grande should try to become a charter city, a move that officials say could save money and give it more local control. The idea, however, faces stiff opposition from local union members…

California cities have two choices about their financial futures: enact a charter as an way to become more cost-efficient, or raise taxes. Guess which choice the unions want?

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