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Unions Defy CEQA Reformers with Taunting Resolution

Despite their reputation as effective and extensive abusers of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to pursue economic objectives unrelated to environmental protection, California union leaders are strategically choosing to be vocal activists against CEQA reform.

Union leaders are obviously quite confident that corporate executives and the news media will hesitate to make them accountable for their practice.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council are an essential part of the “CEQA Works” coalition organized by the California League of Conservation Voters to oppose CEQA reform. I predict these unions will be the major funding source for broadcast advertising from CEQA Works to undermine reform proposals. (Expect advertising to run soon on these radio stations.)

On February 11, 2013, the leadership of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO unanimously approved a resolution stating its commitment to “protecting the critical components of CEQA that have made it effective.” It was presented by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

CEQA documents for proposed solar power plants in Fresno County as of August 7, 2012. A majority of these documents related to union CEQA objections.

This resolution consists of buzz words, emotive language, and facts taken out of context. Many of the declarations provoke laughter at close examination: for example, the resolution praises union “alliances with local businesses” even though small local businesses undermine private sector unionism by operating free of union work rules and not participating in multi-employer union-administered fringe benefit programs.

(This provision probably alludes to CEQA challenges to Wal-Mart supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. As reported in the UFCW Local Union No. 135 newsletter of October 2012, “…pro-business politicians in the California State Senate proposed gutting CEQA, making it much more difficult for us to stop Walmart and similar big-box retailers from coming to San Diego and other places in California.”)

But the resolution also reveals that unions know the psychology of their opponents. From their experience in union corporate organizing campaigns, union leaders recognize how business executives strive to protect their professional reputations and corporate images. The resolution is a warning to any corporate executive advocating for CEQA reform who might be tempted to explain publicly why unions oppose it.

Few California corporate executives have the gumption or rhetorical skill to openly challenge an organization supporting benevolent, humanistic impulses such as “smart and sustainable development,” “public health, especially in low-income communities,” and “protecting local communities, strengthening alliances with local businesses, and promoting the creation of good jobs.”

And as an additional defense from accusations of hypocrisy, union officials strategically included a direct accusation in the resolution that “many of the attacks on CEQA are coming from the same corporations that seek to roll back regulations that protect workers.”

Who would dare to counterattack by pointing out how unions use those regulations as a strategic tool to coerce businesses into collective bargaining?

And it’s not just corporate executives intimidated by the aggressive union counterthrust. Reporters, editors, and newspaper executives who dare to expose union hypocrisy are vulnerable to accusations about poor journalistic practices and reporting of right-wing innuendo.

I sent out two Tweets to present the other side of the story:

Unions oppose #CEQA reform – delaying projects & activities is an essential part of organizing strategy in California http://www.phonyuniontreehuggers.com 

Union resolution to oppose #CEQA reform: subtly stating CEQA’s relevance to unions without detailing how unions use it http://www.calaborfed.org/index.php/site/page/1959 …

These missives were tiny beacons of common sense and fiscal responsibility jettisoned into a maelstrom of leftist commentary on Twitter, to disappear into irrelevance.

No one affirmed my comments by citing a CEQA lawsuit filed on January 22, 2013 by the new, shadowy “Fresnans for Clean Air (FRESCA)” in Fresno County Superior Court alleging that the Fresno City Council failed to adequately assess the environmental damage caused by contracting out garbage services. No one asked about the status of the CEQA lawsuit filed on December 14, 2012 by the Laborers Union (LIUNA) Local No. 783 and “Concerned Bishop Residents” in Mono County Superior Court alleging that the Mono County Board of Supervisors failed to adequately assess the environmental damage caused by an upgrade of the Mammoth Pacific Unit 1 geothermal power plant.

Unions dumped these CEQA objections at a meeting of the United Port of San Diego Board of Commissioners on September 19, 2012.

No one mentioned the notorious CEQA document dumps in May 2012 and in September 2012 by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 against the proposed San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3. In November, the unions announced “settlement agreements” that failed to address almost all of their environmental objections – including rising sea levels resulting from global warming – even as the unions obtained separate labor agreements for construction and hotel and hospitality services.

One of the declarations in the California Labor Federation resolution asserts that “claims of rampant CEQA litigation are wildly exaggerated since there is an average of only 200 CEQA (sic) per year” and that “only 1% or fewer projects subject to CEQA involve litigation of any sort.” While this statistic is deceptive in many ways, it doesn’t indicate how unions slow down projects using CEQA before ever reaching the point where their law firms need to file a lawsuit. There won’t be a union-instigated CEQA lawsuit to block the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3 – the preliminary activity under CEQA was enough to win the labor agreements.

The typical tactic used by exploiters of CEQA is “document dumps,” where an attorney submits a huge stack of CEQA objections at the last possible moment, sometimes with meek apologies. As a lawyer in California said to me last week, “The unions are at the point now where they don’t even need to submit comments about Environmental Impact Reports. The union law firm sends a public records request asking for the company’s application for a permit, and the company then calls up the law firm to arrange for a Project Labor Agreement.”

The web site www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com was established by the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT) in 2012 to document labor union involvement in CEQA environmental objections to proposed projects. Entries are based on actual legal documents that are hyperlinked for reference. The web site also includes the following news articles to show that once in a while, the truth leaks out about union CEQA exploitation:

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

“Labor Coalition’s Tactics on Renewable Energy Projects Are Criticized” – Los Angeles Times – February 5, 2011

“Debate Brews in California Over Unions And Power Projects” – Platt’s Electric Power Daily – October 29, 2009

“A Move to Put the Union Label on Solar Power Plants” – New York Times – June 18, 2009

“Greenmail: Independent Builders Accuse Unions of Coercion” – Central Valley Business Journal – December 2007

“Union Staffing Demands Dim Market for Solar Panels” (Op-Ed) – Los Angeles Business Journal – October 8, 2007

“Unions Wielding Environmental Law to Threaten Foes” – Sacramento Business Journal – January 29, 2006

“Suits in California Delay Wal-Mart Supercenters” – Associated Press – March 20, 2005

“Pressure by Labor Group Alleged” – Sacramento Bee – September 19, 2004

“Struggle Over Power Plants” – Los Angeles Times – September 6, 2004

“Union Group Comes Under Fire at CEC [California Energy Commission] Workshop” – Energy Newsdata’s California Energy Markets – August 20, 2004

“Roseville OKs Labor Agreement for Power Plant” – Sacramento Business Journal – July 22, 2004

“Unions Push Roseville for Power Plant Pact” – Sacramento Business Journal – July 18, 2004

“No Strong-Arming” – Sacramento Business Journal (editorial) – July 18, 2004

“Unions Have Power Over Energy Plants” – Tri-Valley Herald (San Francisco: East Bay) – March 18, 2002

“Power Grab” (Editorial) – Wall Street Journal – February 15, 2001

“Blame Unions for Blackouts” (Op-Ed) – Engineering News-Record – January 29, 2001

“Unions Play Part in Power Crisis” – Bakersfield Californian – December 23, 2000

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.

How Big Labor Intimidates Politicians and Businesses

For years the spokespersons for labor unions have used the tactic of “shame” in an effort to pressure, bully and demonize employers who might stand against their efforts. They have used “shame” in their efforts to misinform the public – to create a misperception that their target is guilty of an unconscionable act and should bear the scarlet letter of these acts. These attacks have been not just against the targeted employer, but against anyone who might oppose them, including the employer’s customers and advertisers, non-union employees, even their own membership if it suits their purposes. Recently, Big Labor has taken the weapon of “shame” to the political arena, both in Wisconsin and now in Indiana.

“Shame” was the word of the day when the SEIU ran one of its Corporate Campaigns against EMS across the Midwest in 2005-2007. The Big Labor bosses never shirked from using the phrase to intimidate loyal EMS employees and customers as they attempted to cross SEIU picket lines. With banners in hand they would publicly attack EMS with incorrect statements and half-truths.

“Shame” was on display constantly last year when Big Labor bosses poured millions of dollars and thousands of foot soldiers into Madison, Wisconsin in an attempt to intimidate Governor Walker and the General Assembly into withdrawing the needed measures to restore fiscal responsibility to a state deeply in debt (see America at a Crossroads. As Wisconsin Goes, So Goes America.). Now, as we approach The Most Important Non-Presidential Election of the Decade, Big Labor bosses are at it again, attempting to “shame” the electorate into replacing Governor Walker via a recall election and then reversing the bills that have arguably put Wisconsin on a path to solvency.

Now “shame” has entered the RTW political arena. In January, 2012, Democratic House leader Patrick Bauer demonstrated his Big Labor allegiances when he incorporated  their very own intimidation tactics, as demonstrated in the last line of his rebuttal to the fact the Indiana Right-to-Work Bill Advances (see Bauer to Right-to-Work Supporters: “Shame on You”).

The true colors of “shame,” however, were displayed recently during an obnoxious Big Labor boss and his small crowd’s attempt to intimidate Indiana Associated Builders and Contractors President J.R. Gaylor and his assistant at the Indiana Statehouse. Click HERE to watch the video coverage. J.R. did a great job keeping his cool as the Big Labor boss displayed his arrogance and lack of civility. The fact is, this type behavior and the use of “shame” and other slogans is no more than a blatant attempt to not only intimidate, but to induce the target to react negatively or irrationally so they can escalate the situation and make the target look like the bad guy.

The ruthless attacks by Big Labor are not confined to the statehouse, the courtroom, public gathering spaces, or even private businesses.  Big Labor has shown that they, in fact, have NO SHAME, when they order their membership to the personal residences of state lawmakers for the purpose of intimidating them from voting for what they believe to be right and harassing them into giving up the fight. This is what recently happened at the homes of Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senator Jim Banks.  Attacks like this were also seen throughout the SEIU’s Corporate Campaign against EMS, and included “house visits” to owners and employees alike.

Imagine your employees, friends, family, children or even yourself enduring this type attack from Big Labor bosses and their cronies.  As an employee, how would you not break down and sign a union card during a Card Check drive? This is what EMS employees, customers and family endured for 2 years during one of the SEIU’s most vicious Corporate Campaigns, in an attempt to force EMS to sign a Neutrality Agreement and put Card Checkinto effect. No human being should be subjected to this type treatment and this is why I believe Right to Work Is A Basic American Freedom, and why I wrote my new book The Devil At Our Doorstep.

“Shame” might better be applied to Big Labor for misconstruing the facts and taking advantage of the small percentage of Americans buying into their misinformation and propaganda, leading them to believe that employers are the intimidators and destroyer of jobs and wages. The truth is quite the opposite.

In the graphic video noted above (Video), which is typical of Big Labor coercion, the target did not react to the intimidation, and all that was accomplished by the big labor boss and his group was to make themselves look like radicals. The majority of the population understands who these people are.  This is the 1% minority trying to control the 99%.  In Wisconsin it was reported that approximately 30,000 protesters (many bused in from out of state) jammed downtown Madison during the height of the protest. AFL-CIO sources claim 10,000 protestors (again many brought in from out of state) filled the Indiana State Capital in Indianapolis to protest RTW. In both cases these were relatively low numbers, less than .5% in terms of percentages, when compared to the respective populations (5,654,744 in Wisconsin and 6,423,113 in Indiana). In either case 99.5% of the population did not buy into the lack of civility.

Interestingly enough neither did the majority of rank and file union members.  In the article UAW Member: Union Workers ‘Need to Embrace’ Right to Work Laws,Terry Bowman, a 14-year UAW member who supports the RTW initiative in Michigan, does an outstanding job during an interview exposing the coercion tactics of Big Labor’s Gasping Dinosaurs and their attempt to survive through inflicting forced unionism on employers and employees. Unfortunately, union membership feels as though they have little power to rein in the out-of-control Big Labor bosses (see When Will the Main Stream Media Wake Up?) When will Americans realize the abuse caused by Big Labor and pass Right-to-Work nationally?

Additionally, we need to Free Workers from Union Bosses by passing the Employees Rights Act. If Big Labor can’t compete openly and fairly, without pressure, intimidation and political cronyism to remain relevant, then maybe it is time for it to follow the lead of other businesses that have lost relevance and become obsolete.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.