Archive for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

Union Abuse of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Exposed in Petaluma

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In my June 24, 2014 article in UnionWatch.org entitled Union Abuse of California Environmental Laws Goes On, Unabated, I report on my exposure of construction union “greenmail” against the Basin Street Properties Riverfront Mixed-Use Project to the Petaluma Planning Commission. As usual, getting a Project Labor Agreement on construction is apparently the purpose of the relentless union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the development.

The Planning Commission approved the project on a 5-0 vote. It now goes to the Petaluma City Council, where unions will likely continue to threaten the developer with CEQA complaints.

Here are the four sets of objections so far:

Union Request for Extension of Public Comment Period for Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration – June 26, 2013

Union Objections to Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration – July 25, 2013

Union Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report – February 6, 2014

Union Objections to Final Environmental Impact Report – June 24, 2014

As Predicted! Unions Target Sacramento Kings Arena Ancillary Development Using California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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Here’s an email I sent to the City of Sacramento Planning and Design Commission about the Sacramento Central Labor Council’s interference in the proposed approval of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Entertainment and Sports Center (the new Sacramento Kings basketball arena). The Planning and Design Commission will consider recommending city council approval of the EIR at its April 10, 2014 meeting. (See meeting agenda for more information.)


From: Kevin Dayton
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2014 10:54 PM
To: City of Sacramento Planning and Design Commission
Cc: City of Sacramento planning staff
Subject: Planning & Design Commission: Speak Out at 4/10 Meeting Against “Greenmail” – Unions Exploiting CEQA for Economic Objectives on ESC – Kings Arena

Dear Members of the City of Sacramento Planning and Design Commission:

According to an article on the Sacramento Business Journal web site today (Union Group Makes Noise Over Development Around Arena – April 9, 2014), the Sacramento Central Labor Council is demanding that the Planning Commission extract the ancillary development from your proposed approval of the Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the Entertainment and Sports Center Special Planning District (SPD).

Unions threatening to use CEQA as a tool to extract economic benefits such as labor agreements is no surprise to anyone who has followed proposed developments in the Sacramento region over the past 15 years. Look at the history of environmental review for these projects:

  • Sacramento Railyards
  • Sutter Medical Center Expansion
  • Promenade at Natomas
  • Greenbriar
  • Delta Shores
  • Township 9
  • Metropolitan Hotel
  • West Roseville Specific Plan
  • Roseville Galleria Expansion
  • Rio del Oro in Rancho Cordova
  • Placer Vineyards
  • Regional University Specific Plan
  • Roseville Energy Center
  • Cosumnes Power Plant

This new threat from the Sacramento Central Labor Council was expected. I wrote a comprehensive article published in www.UnionWatch.org on March 11, 2014 predicting how the Entertainment and Sports Center Final Environmental Impact Report would be targeted with union CEQA objections as a strategy to get a union Community Benefit Agreement/Project Labor Agreement on ancillary development. (See text below.)

Most of the development partners targeted in this union CEQA greenmail attempt will lay low and wring their hands hoping this costly CEQA exploitation can be settled somehow without raising costs to the point that it jeopardizes the entire project. But as members of the Planning and Design Commission, you have the authority and the responsibility of service to the public to investigate the objectives of these CEQA complaints.

At the April 10, 2014 Planning and Design Commission meeting, please ask the union representatives and their lawyers the following questions:

  1. What does the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Basketball Holdings (SBH) need to do to resolve your concerns about the environmental impact of the ancillary development around the new Entertainment and Sports Center (aka Sacramento Kings Arena)?
  2. Does a Community Benefit Agreement or Project Labor Agreement have to be part of any settlement to relieve your environmental concerns?
  3. Do you believe backroom deals such as this one to end union CEQA objections against the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion are an appropriate way to resolve environmental concerns? (Link to email outlining the deal between the Mayor of San Diego and the head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO)
  4. Who will you designate to negotiate any settlements with the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Basketball Holdings (SBH)?

For a project of such importance for the Sacramento region, the ulterior motives of groups that identify shortcomings under CEQA need to be examined and aired for the public good. Thank you for the courage to investigate and expose this scheme. See you at the meeting.

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC

 

How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 3

by KEVIN DAYTON on MARCH 11, 2014 · LEAVE A COMMENT

This is Part Three, explaining how unions may attempt to win control of the construction and permanent jobs at the ancillary development around the arena. Part One explained the background of how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena itself. Part Two explained the union plot to monopolize the service jobs at the arena.

Factions in the Construction Industry: Trusting Pragmatism Versus Principled Cynicism

Leaders of the Sacramento regional construction industry were on the sidelines as the new ownership of the Sacramento Kings basketball team privately negotiated a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions for construction of the new downtown arena. Yet construction business associations such as Associated General Contractors (AGC) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) still supported the city’s plan for the arena.

In a pragmatic decision, these construction associations took the risk to trust that private developers for buildings near the arena will not require their contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements. This development will supposedly include 475,000 square feet of office, 350,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, up to 550 new residential units, and up to 250 hotel rooms, for a grand total of as much as 1.5 million square feet. Up to 11,000 jobs would result.

In exchange for acquiescing to the Project Labor Agreement on the arena, these associations expect fair and open competition for adjacent projects within the city’s Entertainment and Sports District. TheSacramento Bee reported this perspective expressed at a January 27, 2014 rally of contractors and union leaders in support of the arena:

John Cooper of Associated General Contractors said his group, which represents both union and nonunion builders, supports the arena project. “We see an opportunity for huge leaps and bounds when it comes…to job creation,” said Cooper, the AGC’s regional manager.

But Cooper said he’d “pull my support” if the ancillary development – a hotel, retail and more – isn’t open to all bidders. He said “I’ve been assured” there won’t be a project labor agreement covering this ancillary development, like there is for the arena itself.

Political consultant Chris Lehane, who is part of The4000′s leadership, said it’s “premature to ask those questions” about how the ancillary development would be built.

“Our focus right now is to make sure we get those 11,000 jobs,” Lehane said.

A handful of electrical contractors objected vehemently to this arrangement. They felt that allowing unions to have a monopoly on construction of the basketball arena would set a precedent for other major projects in the region. In addition, they did not trust union leaders or the politicians backed by union leaders to resist such a lucrative target once it was definite.

Dissenting from the major trade associations, these contractors individually provided enough campaign funding to revitalize a floundering signature-gathering campaign on petitions for a ballot measure for voters to establish a city charter provision requiring voter approval of a public subsidy for an entertainment or sports facility. Arena supporters feared – and arena opponents expected – that Sacramento voters would approve this check and balance against the proposed $258 million public subsidy for the basketball arena.

Enough signatures were collected to qualify the petition for the June 2014 ballot, but the city clerk disqualified the petitions because of numerous technical errors. The campaign then sued to overturn the city clerk’s decision, but a Sacramento County Superior Court judge agreed with the city clerk’s judgment and also ruled that the city charter could not be amended in this manner.

Can Unions Resist Grabbing More Work Through CEQA Greenmail?

Which of these two positions among bickering groups of contractors will be proven right? One possible indication of the future is an ultra-last-minute attempt by unions to amend a last-minute bill in the California State Legislature providing certain breaks to the arena and surrounding development from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the primary tool of unions to extort concessions from private developers. (This practice is known as “greenmail.”)

Late in the 2013 session, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) amended Senate Bill 743 to make some minor modifications to the California Environmental Quality Act and “expedite judicial review of the entertainment and sports center project” for the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Despite some griping from Left and Right, SB 743 passed 56-15-7 in the Assembly and 32-5-2 in the Senate. This occurred early in the evening of the last day of the 2013 session.

As the midnight deadline for legislative action approached, Assembly Bill 852 mysteriously appeared on the Assembly floor, courtesy of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). This bill supposedly made technical corrections to SB 743, passed earlier in the evening.

Reportedly a specific individual senior staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus became suspicious of the bill and investigated it. This staffer realized that it was some sort of union scheme to remove the CEQA breaks for development around the downtown Sacramento arena.

The Sacramento Bee described what happened next:

In a final flare of end-of-session drama, Assembly Republicans led the defeat of a last-minute labor-inspired cleanup bill related to legislation passed earlier in the evening to hasten the building of a new arena in downtown Sacramento.

Assembly Bill 852 surfaced late on Thursday evening, after both houses had passed Sen. Darrell Steinberg’s SB 743 to streamline the construction of a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. AB 852 was cast as a minor cleanup bill, making just a small change to the arena bill by further restricting which projects could be exempted from some environmental review.

It was requested by labor unions, Steinberg said, who feared that other businesses would get in on the streamlined environmental review procedures intended for the arena.”The concern from labor was that Wal Mart and the big box stores could potentially take advantage of that part of (SB) 743 to get an exemption,” he said.

The 2013 legislative session wrapped up in anger and partisan rancor as the Assembly Republican leadership refused to support AB 852 and accused the Democrats of trickiness. The bill only received 28 votes in the Assembly, and the legislature adjourned for the year with SB 743 intact.

Of course, there was no plan for a Wal-Mart next to the Kings arena. But the distaste of the Left for Wal-Mart provided a politically-potent rationale to “fix” SB 743. An article in Salon provided a perspective on SB 743 otherwise neglected by the news media:

Along with special exceptions for a new stadium for Sacramento’s basketball team, the new law restricts some grounds for CEQA lawsuits. “It’s going to give much more leeway to big companies to just come in and ram these projects through,” said James Araby, who directs the Western States Council of the United Food & Commercial Workers union…

The UFCW and Wal-Mart – and allies on both sides – faced off with particular fury not long before the final SB 743 vote, as legislators considered language labor argued was needed to stop the bill from becoming a loophole for unchecked Wal-Mart expansion…

[Assemblymember Lorena] Gonzalez, a former labor council secretary-treasurer, told Salon that in fights with Wal-Mart, “one of the only tools we’ve been able to use is CEQA, and specifically the traffic impact of Wal-Mart.” Following what she called “massive lobbying by the Chamber of Commerce” and “mainly by Wal-Mart,” the labor-backed amendment failed.

An official with the union-aligned Planning and Conservation League acknowledged in the article that “We all know that Wal-Mart is one of the biggest targets of CEQA lawsuits.”

Is it likely that the amendments backed by the United Food & Commercial Workers union will reappear at the last minute in a budget trailer bill or some other gut-and-amend bill in 2014? Of course it is, and every union will benefit from ending the CEQA break.

More evidence that unions will use environmental laws to target the ancillary development around the Kings arena comes from comments submitted to the City of Sacramento concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Entertainment and Sports District. As noted in Part 2, the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 49 submitted objections to the report along with remarks about wanting to retain and represent service workers at the new arena.

In addition, a group called Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity submitted objections in conjunction with a demand for a “Community Benefits Agreement” that developers must sign for ancillary development. That agreement, modeled on the L.A. Live Community Benefits Agreement for development around the Staples Center, could guarantee “union jobs” for hotels, restaurants, janitors, parking attendants, and construction trade workers, among various occupations.

Perhaps the biggest threat to the downtown arena is the possibility that SB 743 is unconstitutional and that the arena doesn’t even qualify under the criteria in SB 743. If a court agreed with either of these claims, the environmental review would probably need to start from the beginning.

How will the Sacramento Kings basketball team ownership and the City of Sacramento respond to these costly union demands, packaged with the grounds for potential environmental lawsuits? If unions exploit the weakness of SB 743, they may get the whole package – provided the resulting cost increase allows the Entertainment and Sports District to get built in the first place.

The Three-Part Series: How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento

 

1. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 1 (how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena)

2. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 2 (how unions are likely to win representation of the food and service workers at the new downtown Sacramento arena)

3. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 3 (how unions will likely target the ancillary development around the arena)

Sources

 

Union Leaders and Building Contractors Rally in Support of Arena – Sacramento Bee – March 11, 2014

UNITE HERE Local 49 comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report

Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report

California Senate Bill 743

California Assembly Bill 852

Legislature Rejects Late Night Attempt to Tweak Kings Arena Bill – Sacramento Bee – September 12, 2013

Very Sneaky, Walmart: How The Mega-Retailer Rolled Back California Regulations – Salon – October 14, 2013

Regional Sports and Entertainment Facilities in the Urban Core Attract Costly Political Meddling: Sacramento Kings as a Case Study – www.FlashReport.org – December 16, 2013

Time for City of Tracy to Reveal Identity and Plot of Horizon Planet, a Mysterious Group Using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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Here’s an email I sent to the Tracy City Council and top management of the City of Tracy.

 

From: Kevin Dayton
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2014 10:09 PM
To: ‘council@ci.tracy.ca.us’
Subject: For Tracy City Council: 3/4/14 closed session item – Horizon Planet v. City of Tracy, et al.

Dear Tracy City Councilmembers:

During your closed session meeting tomorrow (March 4, 2014), you will discuss Pending Litigation – Horizon Planet v. City of Tracy, et al. (San Joaquin County Superior Court Case No. 39-2013-00302508-CU-WM-STK).

I urge you to inform the public about the true identity of this alleged group known as “Horizon Planet” and reveal the concessions it is demanding from the City of Tracy and/or the parties planning to develop the Cordes Ranch project.

At some point, someone in this state needs to have the gumption to reveal the extent of how the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is used in actual practice behind the scenes. Hiding behind a law firm, the backers of the so-called “Horizon Planet” organization have been hounding your city concerning the approval of several projects. The public doesn’t know who they are or what they want. Yet the public is paying to defend your city from litigation and may end up paying some sort of settlement.

Time to flush them out.

Here’s an article I wrote in the fall of 2013 in www.FlashReport.org about Horizon Planet’s activities in Tracy: Space Aliens Abuse CEQA!

Here’s the Petition for Writ of Mandate – Horizon Planet v. City of Tracy, et al.: http://phonyuniontreehuggers.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2013-10-02-Horizon-Planet-v.-City-of-Tracy-Cordes-Ranch-Project.pdf

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC

Union Trying to Organize Silicon Valley Security Guards Threatens Apple, Inc. with Lawsuit under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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I have been compiling a list of union-instigated activity in 2013 involving the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). (See Revised List of Union Actions in 2013 Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) at www.UnionWatch.org.) In a practice sometimes called “greenmail,” unions exploit CEQA to attain economic objectives from public agencies and private developers that are unrelated to environmental protection.

The latest example (the 24th I’ve discovered this year) is a threat from the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West against a massive proposed project for Apple, Inc. called Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino. The SEIU-USWW is trying to organize employees of companies that provide security under contract to the major companies in Silicon Valley, including Apple.

Read my October 19, 2013 article Union Threatens to Block Apple, Inc. “Spaceship” with Environmental Lawsuit at www.UnionWatch.org.

News Coverage

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

Source Documents

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

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

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Exposes CEQA Abuse and Union Deal on San Diego Convention Center Expansion to California Coastal Commission

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Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, was the very last public speaker at the California Coastal Commission meeting today (October 10, 2013) concerning a staff recommendation to reject the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. This web site describes some of the unsavory aspects of moving this project, including extensive union interference: www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com.

Building this project is expected to cost $520 million (not including interest on bonds) and employ 3000 construction trade workers. Contractors will be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in order to work on this project, despite a ballot measure (Proposition A) enacted in June 2012 by 58% of voters in the City of San Diego. The “Fair and Open Competition” ordinance implemented by that ballot measure prohibits the city from entering into contracts requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

After hours of public comments overwhelmingly in support of the expansion project, Eric Christen spoke. He commented on the union abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (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. (See the list of links to exhibits at the end of the press release below.)

People in the room were livid about his tainting of community consensus in support of the project. Union representatives booed and screamed insults at him after he finished his comments. One commissioner said he was new and inquired if the Coastal Commission had mandated the Project Labor Agreement.

The Coastal Commission proceeded to ignore its staff recommendation and the objections of an attorney from the Briggs Law Corporation and unanimously certified the changes to allow the Convention Center Expansion to be built.

Here’s the press release sent by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.


PRESS RELEASE
October 10, 2013
Contact: Eric Christen
(858) 431-6337

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Deliver Comments to Coastal Commission Concerning Use of Greenmail by Unions on San Diego Convention Center Expansion Project

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction will deliver documents showing the abuse of CEQA in order to attain a discriminatory Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center

SAN DIEGO – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction’s (CFEC) executive director, Eric Christen, will be attending today’s Coastal Commission meeting in which the approval of the San Diego Convention Center Expansion will be discussed. CFEC will educate the Coastal Commissioners on the exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which was used by labor to attain a discriminatory Project Labor Agreement (PLA) which now covers the project. View the letter that will be distributed below.

“The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” submitted 436 of the 536 pages of comments concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project and associated hotel development. The group identified itself as “an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions”. Less than six months later however, parties representing San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates finalized various settlements and a PLA was placed on the project. Once the ulterior objectives were attained, the environmental concerns were generally abandoned. This tactic known as “greenmail” was completed behind closed doors and discriminates against 85% of San Diego’s construction industry.

“This abuse of CEQA must be exposed”, said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. “This process is utterly corrupt through and through and is nothing more than a scam designed to enrich a few while sticking it to the vast majority of citizens, taxpayers, and workers of San Diego. It is shocking. The Coastal Commission works on behalf of the People of California, and they need to be informed about how environmental concerns are used as leverage to obtain labor agreements, economic concessions, and political appointments.”

The use of greenmail on this project exemplifies the abuse of CEQA and raises questions as to the legality of this PLA. To address this, CFEC is currently working with stakeholders to prevent this type of corruption and ensure that future San Diego projects cannot be held hostage by labor unions.

###

California Coastal Commission
Suite 2000
45 Fremont Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

Re: Background on Request of the United Port of San Diego to Amend Its Master Plan to Include the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion and Hilton Bayfront Addition

Dear Coastal Commissioners:

Before you vote on October 10, 2013 for or against any resolutions concerning the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion, you should consider and publicly discuss the brazen exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by labor unions during the evaluation of the environmental impact of this project.

Start by examining the extensive and comprehensive comments and exhibits submitted by unions concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report and Final Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion, including concerns about sea level rise and view corridors:

  • Union Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – June 29, 2012 (see Exhibit A) with exhibits (see Exhibit B)
  • Union Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – September 19, 2012 (see Exhibit C)

Now examine the weak settlement agreements that allegedly resolved the environmental concerns:

  • Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; SAN DIEGO COALITION FOR A BETTER CONVENTION CENTER; SAN DIEGO COUNTY BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL; UNITE HERE LOCAL 30; AND BILLIE JOHNSON) (See Exhibit E)
  • Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY AND BETWEEN CITY OF SAN DIEGO; BRIGETTE BROWNING; SERGIO GONZALES; AND UNITE HERE LOCAL 30) (See Exhibit F)
  • Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; CITY OF SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL; SAN DIEGO CONVENTION CENTER FACILITIES DISTRICT NO. 2012-1; COALITION FOR RESPONSIBLE CONVENTION CENTER PLANNING; TERRY LUTNICK; CINNA BROWN; AARON MICHAELSON; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRIC (sic) WORKERS LOCAL 569; UNITED ASSOCIATION OF PLUMBERS & STEAMFITTERS LOCAL 230; SHEETMETAL WORKERS LOCAL 206; AND IRONWORKERS LOCAL 229) (See Exhibit G)

Even as these settlement agreements were finalized, concerns were being raised elsewhere about the effect of rising sea levels because of global warming. This was an issue unions addressed in their DEIR comments but completely ignored in their settlement agreements. What happened?

Timeline: Intense Concern of Unions about Environmental Issues Dissipates

Below is a timeline of incidents related to CEQA concerns about the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion identified by unions and the alleged resolution of these concerns in the context of labor agreements, economic concerns, and political appointments.

  1. On February 22, 2011, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction held a press conference at the San Diego Convention Center to expose and condemn credible reports from reliable sources that labor unions were planning to use administrative and legal procedures under CEQA to block the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion project. Reportedly, unions would refrain from advancing their environmental objections if the city required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work.
  2. On June 29, 2012, a group called “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” submitted 436 of the 536 pages of comments concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project and associated hotel development. The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center identified itself as “an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions” including the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates. It was represented by the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo. The letter was 63 pages; exhibits comprised 374 pages.
  3. On September 19, 2012, an official of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 declared at the Board of Port Commissioners meeting that the Final Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. At that same meeting, an attorney from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted to the commissioners a 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) on behalf of “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” with 250 pages of referenced exhibits. She was given extra time to speak because Tom Lemmon – head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – submitted a speaker card and then transferred his speaking time to her. Later in the meeting, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed in to announce there were problems with the Environmental Impact Report for the convention center. She proposed that the Port Commissioners approve a “tolling agreement” that would extend the statute of limitations for the unions to file a lawsuit.
  4. On September 21, 2012, an email from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Chief of Staff Julie Dubick to Lorena Gonzalez and Steven Cushman outlined a deal for discussion at a meeting to be held at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon. Unions would drop or settle their environmental objections under CEQA to the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Unions would also drop their lawsuit challenging the structure of a tax assessment to pay back the principal and interest on bonds sold to borrow money for the expansion. Unions would openly and actively support the convention center expansion at the San Diego City Council and at the California Coastal Commission. In exchange, the San Diego Mayor’s Office would facilitate negotiations between the unions and the construction manager at-risk selected for the project (Clark Construction) for a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions. Also as part of the deal, the Mayor’s Office would initiate discussions with Marriott hotel management in support of a union position (apparently on behalf of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30) and appoint someone acceptable to the unions to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors. (See Exhibit D)
  5. On November 8, 2012, parties representing San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates finalized various settlement agreements related to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. The settlement agreements includes some provisions for minor environmental mitigation but ignored many of the key issues addressed in the comments about the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports, including the effects of rising sea levels because of global warming.
  6. Also on November 8, 2012, Mayor Jerry Sanders and Lorena Gonzalez participated in a press conference to announce the settlement agreements. In response to questions from the press following the announcements, participants acknowledged that contractors would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work.
  7. Also on November 8, 2012, Mayor Sanders appointed Laurie Coskey (the Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice) to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors. (See Exhibit H)
  8. On November 15, 2012, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council issued a press release formally revealing that contractors would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. (See Exhibit I)
  9. On April 23, 2013, the City of San Diego provided a copy of the Project Labor Agreement to the public, less than 24 hours after the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction filed a lawsuit against the city as a last resort after repeatedly failed under the authority of the California Public Records Act to obtain any records of substance about the suspected deal. (See Exhibit J)
  10. On July 2, 2013, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction finally succeeded in obtaining a document (the September 21, 2012 email referenced above) revealing that the office of former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders arranged a secret backroom deal with Lorena Gonzalez to end potential union-initiated legal obstacles to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Previous requests for public records were foiled because the Chief of Staff for the Mayor of San Diego was using a private Gmail address to facilitate meetings between top city officials and top union officials. (See Exhibit D)
  11. On September 12, 2013, a letter from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez read at a press conference supporting the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion depicts her as being a consistent supporter of the project, as if her CEQA concerns never happened. In addition, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council issues a letter of support claiming that the project provides “environmental sustainability” because of a few routine design provisions. (See Exhibit K)

As the Coastal Commission works on behalf of the People of California, you should be concerned about how environmental concerns are used as leverage to obtain labor agreements, economic concessions, and political appointments. Once the ulterior objectives were attained, the environmental concerns were generally abandoned.

Sincerely,

Eric Christen
Executive Director
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction

Attachments

Exhibit A: Union Comments on DEIR – Letter – June 29, 2012

Exhibit B: Union Comments on DEIR – Exhibits – June 29, 2012

Exhibit C: Union Comments on FEIR – Letter – September 19, 2012

Exhibit D: Union Deal with Mayor’s Office – September 21, 2012

Exhibit E: Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – November 8, 2012

Exhibit F: Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – November 8, 2012

Exhibit G: Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – November 8, 2012

Exhibit H: Mayor’s Appointment to San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors – November 8, 2012

Exhibit I: Press Release of San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – November 15, 2012

Exhibit J: Project Labor Agreement

Exhibit K: Letter of Support from San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – September 12, 2013


Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction – P.O. Box 1627 – Poway, California 92074
Tel: (858) 633-6523 – Fax: (760) 690-4471 – www.opencompca.com

They Are Here. And They’ve Discovered the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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As I was monitoring the environmental objections of the Carpenters Union Local 152 (such as this May 20, 2013 letter) to the proposed Cordes Ranch Specific Plan in the City of Tracy, I stumbled upon a much more mysterious and sinister entity submitting CEQA objections to the city’s proposed developments.

A group called Horizon Planet had been submitting objections under CEQA to the City of Tracy for a variety of development policies and proposals over the past year. It had even sued the City of Tracy.

But no information was available about who was behind Horizon Planet or what they wanted. My article about Horizon Planet – Space Aliens Abuse CEQA! – was published in www.FlashReport.org on September 20, 2013.

Response of Eric Christen of Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Sacramento Bee Article “Downtown Arena Deal Creates Unlikely Alliances”

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The Sunday, September 8 Sacramento Bee newspaper includes an article “Downtown Arena Deal Creates Unlikely Alliances” that makes this observation:

The prospect of a new arena at Sacramento’s Downtown Plaza has caused political foes to unite and groups with opposing philosophies to occupy common ground. Unions and business groups have joined in support of the project, while some left-leaning Democrats find themselves aligned with conservative anti-tax and anti-union interests.

The Dayton Public Policy Institute blog would obviously be labeled as part of “conservative anti-tax and anti-union interests.” But the label is simplistic and based on outdated political paradigms.

I would contend that these new alliances are simply a symptom of a fundamental political realignment going on in the United States and California, in which populist movements on the Left and Right are unifying against the establishment that holds up the structure of Crony Capitalism. The old Republican versus Democrat dichotomy is fading away.

But that is an issue I’ll address at another time (probably in www.FlashReport.org). For now, I provide below – without my editorial comments – an email from Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment, to the two Sacramento Bee reporters who wrote this article.

From: eric christen
Sent: Sunday, September 08, 2013 8:38 AM
To: Dale Kasler; Ryan Lillis
Cc: xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; Kevin Dayton; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx
Subject: Regarding Your Piece in Today’s Bee

Your article is pretty good and interesting on many levels but it really fails on three: First, because we fight for the right of all workers (85% of whom locally are union-free) to work on projects and thus oppose PLAs does not make us “anti-union.” That’s the third article that trope has now been used Dale and Ryan and it’s getting tendentious. I have union board members. Now a group that proposes PLAs as a way to discriminate against union-free workers, that group is in fact anti-merit shop and anti-competitive. Interesting how ones ideology allows certain groups to be framed using certain language while exempting others.

Secondly the Bee still has yet to fully connect the relationship between the PLA and union greenmail. Greenmail is where unions use CEQA to hold up projects until such time as the owner “agrees” to a PLA. Then all the union environmental concerns magically go away. This is implied by Mr. Thatch in the last part of the article but it is deserving of its own stand alone article. It is absurd that with Steinberg’s bill on the verge of being passed this week that exempts this project from CEQA delays that this paper has not written on this issue. I mean really?

Lastly, why would you allow two people (Thatch & Ken Jacobs, that latter nothing but a union mouthpiece working for a union “think tank”) to say something as silly as “this would be built union-only anyway” but not call us to get the other side? It is such a silly statement I’m embarrassed they actually said it. If it would be built union-only anyway then why the PLA that forces non-union workers to pay union dues and into union pensions? But even more obvious is the fact that right up the road the $1 BILLION airport project is being built with union and non-union labor and has no PLA. In other words projects of this magnitude (and larger) get built all over America and California without PLAs and with non-union labor. When PLAs are used, which is rare because they are an irrational business decision, their sole intent is to keep big non-union guys like Bergelectric, Rex Moore Electric, and Helix Electric from getting work. They are welfare for a few unions who simply can’t compete for a variety of reasons.

The parts of the article that deal with Mayor Johnson (I like him) and Mark Freidman (a real gentleman) are in fact interesting. I understand why they think they needed to make this deal with union bosses just as I’m sure they understand why I need to stand up for the rights of my people. What I don’t get at the end of the day is what leverage they thought the unions had on this project that would force them to agree to a deal that will only make this project more expensive. Would the unions seriously greenmail this project thus opening themselves up to untold derision and legislative action? Really? Was it just because Steinberg and his ilk said there had to be a PLA? This is the $64,000 question here, a question that cannot be answered seriously with “We needed the PLA to stop strikes and bring the project in on time.”

I hope the Bee will more fully cover the PLA itself and provide historical context as well as how CEAQ conflates with this whole issue. CEQA reform is needed because greenmail is symptomatic of the economic distortions that infect this state and make it an economic laughingstock. PLAs are another one of those distortions and, again, they are related.

As far as what we intend to do we will be holding a press conference soon that will make it very explicit. We view this issue as not just about an arena but about the railyards, the work around the arena, the new Sacramento courthouse, Delta Shores, etc. In other words we are looking big picture and realize that PLA proponents will stop at nothing to keep workers out of a job simply because they don’t belong to their group. That bigotry will be fought by CFEC vigorously and in a non-linear manner.

Remember, we aren’t the bad guys here. We are reacting to actions being taken against us. If the shoe were on the other foot and unions were somehow being targeted those targeting them would not be safe in their homes or places of business, and everyone damn well knows it.

We are different. We just show up at your event and borrow your microphone for a minute or two.

Eric

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction web site is www.opencompca.com.

The “Steinberg bill” giving a CEQA break to the Kings arena project is Senate Bill 743.

Ken Jacobs is affiliated with the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program.

Today’s the Day: Union Project Labor Agreement Announced for Construction of New Sacramento Kings Arena

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Protest of Sacramento Kings Arena PLA

UPDATE: Critics of the Project Labor Agreement for the new Sacramento Kings arena were aggressive and pierced the orchestrated public relations message advanced by politicians and union officials at Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s September 4 press conference.

Here’s a YouTube video of an excerpt from the press conference.

News Coverage:

Union Deal on Downtown Sacramento Arena Prompts Protest – Sacramento Bee – September 5, 2013

Sacramento Makes Deal to Use Union Labor to Build ArenaSacramento Business Journal – September 4, 2013

Kings, Mayor Announce Union Deal for New Downtown Arena – KFBK News 1520 AM – September 4, 2013

Kings Arena Labor Agreement: Union Wages, Local Workers, No Strikes – Capitol Public Radio – September 4, 2013

Nonunion Labor Groups Outraged By Sacramento Kings Arena Deal – KOVR CBS 13/CW 31 – September 4, 2013 (KOVR also ran a positive story that unions and their political friends anticipated today: Sacramento Kings Arena Deal Would Create Up To 3,500 Jobs)

Worker Groups Clash Over Sacramento Arena Jobs – KCRA NBC 3 – September 4, 2013

Labor Deal Reached for New Sacramento Arena – KTXL FOX 40 – September 4, 2013 (video is the positive story that unions and their political friends anticipated today, but there is another story about opposition to the Project Labor Agreement that is not yet posted on the KTXL FOX 40 web site)

Labor Agreement Struck to Build Arena (starting at 2:35) – ABC 10 – September 4, 2013 (generally the positive story that unions and their political friends anticipated today, with about 30 seconds at the end about opposition to the Project Labor Agreement)


September 4, 2013 – 8:45 am: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, representatives of Turner Construction, union officials, and other dignitaries and community leaders will announce today at noon in downtown Sacramento that construction companies will have to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the new Sacramento Kings basketball arena.

The announcement is being made as California State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is gutting and amending a bill to give special breaks from CEQA to Sacramento Basketball Holdings LLC, the developer of the planned new arena for the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team.

Project Labor Agreements can increase costs of projects because of reduced bid competition. For example, see the 2011 study from the National University System Institute for Policy Research (in San Diego): Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California. It reports that “our research shows that PLAs are associated with higher construction costs. We found that costs are 13 to 15 percent higher when school districts construct a school under a PLA.”

It appears that reporter Steve Large with KOVR Channel 13 (CBS) News in Sacramento was the first to break the story, at 10:43 pm on September 3, 2013:

Sacramento Kings Owners Finalizing Labor Agreement With Unions For Arena Construction

Here’s a press release just issued by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction:

September 4, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Eric Christen, (858) 431-6337

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Condemns Union Project Labor Agreement for Taxpayer-Funded New Sacramento Kings Arena
Gut-and-Amend CEQA Exemption Bill is the Reason for Today’s Announcement

Sacramento – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) – a 15-year old California-based organization dedicated to opposing Project Labor Agreements – declares the Project Labor Agreement for the new Sacramento Kings arena as “a waste of taxpayer money and a payoff to unions to avoid baseless complaints and lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).”

“We have known for years that unions would target the Sacramento Kings arena for a monopoly on construction,” says Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction since 1999. “Today is the official announcement of this costly and discriminatory union deal for a publicly-funded project.”

Christen charges that the announcement about the Project Labor Agreement is happening TODAY (September 4, 2013) because California State Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is gutting and amending a bill to give special breaks from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) specifically for the arena.

“Steinberg needs union lobbyists and Democrats to push through his special CEQA exemption bill,” Christen said. “Requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions locks up majority support in the legislature for this special interest bill.”

Knowing the threat of a Project Labor Agreement on the arena, an alliance of business associations and taxpayer groups led a campaign in 2011 to qualify a ballot measure in the City of Sacramento to prohibit Project Labor Agreements on taxpayer-funded public works projects. Petitions were submitted to the city in December 2011, but the measure failed to qualify because of an unusually high number of invalid signatures.

Christen vows that the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction will make the unions and the Sacramento Kings billionaires accountable to taxpayers and people who park downtown. “Opponents of taxpayer funding for this arena just found an aggressive new ally today.”

Today’s PLA announcement by Turner Construction will take place at noon at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento Downtown Plaza Piazza court near Macy’s, K Street between 4th Street and 5th Street. CFEC will be on hand to make sure the voices of Sacramento’s workers, apprentices, contractors and taxpayers are heard.

###

Here are some of my tweets about the announcement of the Project Labor Agreement:

 


Here are various articles about the Project Labor Agreement threat for the Kings arena:

How Are Unions Funding Opposition to a Vote on Public Funding of the New Sacramento Kings Arena? – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – August 10, 2013

Request for Proposal for Prime Contractor for New Sacramento Kings Arena Refers to Project Labor Agreement with Construction Unions – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – July 10, 2013

The Union Quest for a Project Labor Agreement on a New Sacramento Kings Basketball Arena: Part One – 2006 – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 21, 2013

Out of Nowhere: Project Labor Agreement and Community Benefit Agreement Tacked on End of Motion for New Sacramento Kings Basketball Arena – www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com – March 9, 2012

City Council Endorses PLA for Sacramento Arena Project – State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (web site) – March 7, 2012

Pay to PLA? Local Ballot Measures Aim to Curb Union Power on Public ProjectsSacramento News & Review – August 18, 2011

Union Fight Already Brewing on New Kings ArenaSacramento Bee – June 16, 2011

Will Someone Dare to Admit in Public that Labor Unions Derailed Meaningful CEQA Reform?

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As I reported in my August 12 www.UnionWatch.org article Union Environmental Appeal of San Jose Infill High-Rise Fools No One, construction trade unions are so confident about their capability to prevent meaningful reform of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that they brazenly appealed city approval of a San Jose infill project on CEQA grounds (as well as planning and zoning grounds) at a critical stage in the development of the primary CEQA reform bill, Senate Bill 731.

Union officials in San Jose surely knew that SB 731 has been whittled down to only addressing CEQA abuse on infill projects – the head of the Santa Clara-San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council is married to a member of the California State Assembly.

As of this writing, the most updated insider report on CEQA reform (from California Forward’s California Economic Summit web site) reiterates the remarks of State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg at an August 12 Assembly hearing on SB 731. Here is an excerpt from CEQA Roundup: With Time Running Out, Steinberg Doubles Down on Infill, Tries to Pull Back Business:

Sen. Darrell Steinberg used the final policy committee hearing on his much-debated CEQA legislation this week to draw a clear line around the goal of his year-long effort to reform the state’s forty-year-old environmental law – and to try to pull back business leaders who have begun to drift away from negotiations as the legislative session nears an end.

Updating CEQA for infill projects, Steinberg made clear, is in.

As for the rest of the more comprehensive changes to the law sought by the business community – including efforts to rein in what business leaders consider widespread CEQA litigation abuse and to streamline its cumbersome process for projects outside specific infill sites? Those ideas, Steinberg said in surprisingly pointed remarks, are most definitely out

“If there is any expectation – and I know there is a big expectation – that my bill will include the lengthy and ever-changing list that the CEQA coalition seems to want, you’re going to have to find another author, another year, another time, another way to do this.”

Senator Steinberg represents the City of Sacramento. There are at least two Sacramento infill projects that construction trade unions recently tried to hassle using CEQA; the Railyards project and the Township 9 project. In addition, in recent years unions have used CEQA in Sacramento to block the Greenbriar and Delta Shores developments, the Sutter Medical Center in midtown, and the Promenade at Natomas development. Steinberg certainly knows about union greenmail – it happens in his own district.

At this time, lobbyists for construction unions that are active in “greenmail” (environmental permit extortion) claim their organizations support whatever Steinberg is developing, which means they aren’t worried about his bill ever compromising their power to stop infill projects when they want a Project Labor Agreement. The California Economic Summit blog has twice reported on the role of unions in discussions about CEQA reform and SB 731:

While would-be reformers have continued to push for what they call “meaningful” changes to CEQA, sources close to the negotiations have said Steinberg was surprised by the opposition from some labor leaders, in particular, who also pushed back against his legislation’s focus on streamlining CEQA for infill projects. Viewing those same projects as a steady stream of future jobs, labor groups are wary of losing CEQA as a tool they can use to reach project labor agreements with developers.

The main business coalition pushing for CEQA reform, CEQA Working Group, is still not publicly acknowledging that unions are a major (if not THE major) abuser of CEQA to win objectives unrelated to environmental protection. In fact, other people have mentioned to me that the otherwise-excellent CEQA Working Group list of ten “CEQA Misuse Case Studies” does not include one example of union greenmail. This is not an accident.

More is said in public by the CEQA Working Group about Andy’s BP using CEQA to prevent Moe’s Stop from adding three gas dispensers than is said about the pervasive involvement of unions in stopping residential, commercial, and industrial projects throughout the state in order to pressure developers to sign Project Labor Agreements or other labor agreements. Who has seen, heard, or viewed anything in the news recently that identifies unions as a primary obstacle to developing “green energy” projects essential for the state to reach its greenhouse gas emissions goals set through the “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006″ (AB 32)?

This does not mean that Californians wouldn’t regard union greenmail as outrageous and important; in fact, most ordinary people immediately label it as extortion when they find out about it. Silence about this practice shows how unions subtly control even what business and political leaders and the news media say in public about state and local government policies.

At least there is “alternative social media” nowadays to get the message out. I have compiled 21 CEQA Misuse Case Studies featuring union activity just for 2013 alone, and I’m sure the list is still missing several 2013 incidents. I’ve also compiled an extensive list of union environmental inference in the permitting for solar thermal power plants and solar photovoltaic projects. See these lists:

Collect Them All: Environmental Objections of California Unions in 2013

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

California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Involvement in the Sixteen Applications to the California Energy Commission for Approval of a Solar Thermal Power Plant

In the meantime, I’m hoping that major California business groups act out their frustration about wasting a year trying to reform CEQA by finally exposing the Big Time CEQA abuse of unions.

 

Unions Use California’s Environmental Laws to Hinder Solar Energy Projects

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Here is extensive primary source evidence to show that construction trade unions are hindering solar energy projects in California with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Power Plant Site Certification Program of the Warren-Alquist Act.

Here is a compilation of union involvement with proposed solar thermal power projects:

Did Unions Hasten Demise of California’s Solar Thermal Power Plants? – www.UnionWatch.org – July 16, 2013

Here is a compilation of union involvement with proposed solar photovoltaic power projects:

Unions Extensively Interfere with California Solar Photovoltaic Power Plant Permitting – www.UnionWatch.org – July 20, 2013

I asserted in an October 8, 2007 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Business Journal (Union Staffing Dims Market for Solar Panels) that the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) union “is the first and only organization in California to find staggering environmental problems with solar power. If the union can’t monopolize the construction of solar facilities it seeks to obstruct solar energy opportunities for everyone else.”

In the opinion piece, I cite an example from June 2007 of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) filing requests as an official “intervenor” for the proposed Victorville 2 Solar Hybrid Power Plant for the applicant to provide massive amounts of data to the California Energy Commission. This was the first of 16 proposed large solar thermal power projects in California following the enactment of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

I also cite an early example from July 2007 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 100 trying to use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block approval of a proposed solar photovoltaic project at Fresno International Airport. This was among the first of the rush of proposed solar PV power projects following the enactment of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

Have unions continued to oppose solar power projects since then? Absolutely. My assertion about unions (especially the IBEW) acting as a chief obstacle to solar power has been confirmed.

I concluded my 2007 op-ed by declaring that state legislators and other elected officials should not allow the IBEW to interfere with the permitting of solar projects for the purpose of winning Project Labor Agreements or other union guarantees for construction and maintenance. Regrettably, the practice has continued without any serious legislative or regulatory efforts to restrict it.

My Article in www.UnionWatch.org – Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center

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The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has never given up its effort to research and expose how the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council obtained a Project Labor Agreement for the $520 million San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion.

In November 2012 it obtained the settlement agreements between the unions and the City of San Diego that ended the union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the union lawsuit against the financing scheme for repaying the bonds. This was reported in my November 15, 2012 blog post Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center.

My April 23, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org entitled Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement reported on how the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction finally obtained the Project Labor Agreement negotiated between Clark Construction and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council for the convention center expansion. It was released by the City of San Diego after the Coalition filed a lawsuit to get the union agreement and other elusive public records.

Now the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has obtained from the City of San Diego a September 21, 2012 email from a personal Gmail account of the Chief of Staff to former Mayor Jerry Sanders. That email outlines a deal to be discussed at a 2:00 p.m. meeting that day between the mayor and Lorena Gonzalez, former head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and now a member of the California State Assembly.

My article Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center posted today (July 8, 2013) on www.UnionWatch.org describes the deal and identifies ten outrages about it.

Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley: My Article in www.UnionWatch.org

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As documented on the web site www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com, construction trade unions continue to be active in objecting to proposed projects based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Napa Pipe Project in Napa County is the latest high-profile example.

The Napa Valley Register newspaper has referenced the environmental objections of three unions in a few articles, and on March 24, 2013 it published my letter to the editor exposing the apparent “greenmail” plot for a Project Labor Agreement on the Napa Pipe Project.

My May 28, 2013 article Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley in www.UnionWatch.org aims to make a larger audience aware of the ulterior motivations behind the union CEQA objections.

Information and News Media Coverage:

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 Pipe – Napa 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 Wages – Napa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Union Pressure Leads to Labor Agreements – Napa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections (Who Wrote It, Who Paid for It?) – My Article in www.UnionWatch.org

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My article Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections was posted on www.UnionWatch.org on March 12, 2013. Here’s the introduction:

A broad coalition opposing any changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) held a press conference today (March 12, 2013) that included the findings of a newly-released study, The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental  Quality Act.

The study was written by a University of Utah professor with a long history of academic work biased toward the construction union agenda. It was funded by the union-affiliated California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Trust. Study results were summarized at the press conference by Bob Balgenorth, chairman of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust and the former head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

Read the full article here: Opponents of CEQA Reform Cite New Study with Union Connections

Highlighting the Top Union Abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): My Latest Article in www.FlashReport.org

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FlashReport 2013-02-19I continue to see news articles and commentaries about reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that do not mention labor unions as practitioners of “greenmail,” that is, objecting to proposed projects and activities on environmental grounds to achieve economic objectives unrelated to the environment (such as Project Labor Agreements).

My article today in www.FlashReport.orgHighlighting the Top Union Abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), reports that journalists, political columnists, and opinion writers are more frequently referring to union CEQA abuse. In addition, I provide extensive documentation (with hyperlinks to primary source documents) for the top union CEQA objections in 2012 and 2013.

My top pick for the worst CEQA abuse of 2012 was against the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3 – see www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com for more information.

My top pick for the worst CEQA abuse of 2013 (so far) is against two proposed geothermal power plants in Mono County – see www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com for more information.

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Asks How “Pretend Reform Can Become Real Reform” of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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There are a few Californians who read my February 1, 2013 www.FlashReport.org article Republicans Have Opportunity to Broaden CEQA Reform and agreed with it. Not surprisingly, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction – long familiar with how unions exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to get Project Labor Agreements – expressed its support for my proposed strategy to Republicans in the California State Legislature and called my article “a must read for real reformers.”

Californians should NOT settle for a weak CEQA reform that only targets inconvenient and pesky little neighborhood community groups. It needs to target the true professional greenmailers.

Here’s an excerpt from the February 12, 2013 Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction PLA Update, a weekly emailed bulletin:

CEQA Reform Update: Union-Dominated California Legislature Continues with Pretend Reform

Union boss abuse of the landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has been highlighted by CFEC and our allies for more than a decade. Such abuse has forced projects to be delayed or stopped altogether costing workers and our economy billions in lost wages and revenue.

The abuse of CEQA, undertaken solely by trade unions and their lap dogs in the radical “environmental” community, has now forced a few in the legislature to pretend they can fix a problem they cannot even bring themselves to admit the cause of for fear of offending their union masters.

The latest on this pretend legislation comes from many different perspectives, all of which is good as it makes sure this issue remains in the public spotlight.

Recently the Pasadena Star-News ran this piece (which must have been hard for them) admitting that reform is needed and that unions are one of the reasons why. The California Business Properties Association [on behalf of the CEQA Working Group - ed] published this embarrassing item throwing support behind “moderate reform” of CEQA. And the Santa Cruz Sentinel ran this editorial on the issue.

How can this pretend reform be turned into real reform?

Labor Issues Solutions’ Kevin Dayton explains how exactly this can be accomplished in this excellent piece, which is a must read for real reformers.

In the meantime we had last week just the latest example of how this law is being abused and why real reform is needed. The UT San Diego ran this story highlighting the love fest that took place at the California Coastal Commission’s recent board meeting where union bosses and “environmentalists” praised the approval of a new hotel in San Diego. Why the praise for a project they had both opposed for years? You guessed it: Their greenmail resulted in the owner caving and the project being built with a PLA (the owner having to admit the PLA would add $17 million to its cost).

Thus another lesson in exactly why it is California is ranked as the 51st best state to conduct business in. (Yep, even Puerto Rico beats us out.)

I’m eagerly awaiting the introduction of the CEQA reform bill to see how the Assembly Republican Caucus and Senate Republican Caucus respond to it. What strategy will they adopt on an issue for which they have some leverage because of a divided Democrat supermajority?

Dueling CEQA Coalitions:

CEQA Working Groupbusiness groups that support CEQA reform.

CEQA Worksenvironmental groups and labor unions that oppose CEQA reform.

Phony Union Tree Huggers – very sensitive topic strictly off-limits for both coalitions.