Archive for Construction Labor Issues

Secondary Sources: Project Labor Agreement for Monterey County Interlake Tunnel Project

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Something Fishy About County Water Agency, AB 155 & PLA” – commentary by Nicole Goehring in Salinas Californian – July 2, 2014

Will a Few Republican State Legislators Open Floodgates for Costly Union Control of California Water Projects?” – commentary by Kevin Dayton in – July 10, 2014

Interlake Tunnel Sparks Labor Controversy” – Salinas Californian – September 5, 2014

Labor Agreements Key to Monterey County Interlake Tunnel, Unions Say” – Salinas Californian – September 5, 2014

Dan Walters: “Three Obscure Bills Show How Big Policy Gets Buried” – column in Sacramento Bee – September 16, 2014

Documents Expose Union Lobbying Scheme to Control Water Project Construction” – – September 16, 2014

California Lawmakers Throw Business New Roadblock” – WorldNetDaily – September 24, 2014

How a Bill Becomes a Law (California Assembly Bill 155 – 2014) – Labor Issues Solutions, LLC

Interlake Tunnel Bill Signed by Brown Despite Opposition” – Monterey Herald – October 1, 2014

Interlake Tunnel Project In Line for State Water Bond Funding” – Monterey Herald – October 15, 2014

Assemblymember Alejo: No Design-Build, No Interlake Tunnel Funding” – Monterey Herald – October 15, 2014

Legislator Tells County How It Must Bid a Project to Get Prop 1 Water Bond Funds” – commentary by Kevin Dayton in Flash Report – October 17, 2014

Debate Over Interlake Tunnel Project Rages On” – Monterey Herald – October 29, 2014

Labor Issue, Data Stall Interlake Tunnel Approval” – Salinas Californian – October 29, 2014

Interlake Tunnel Project Funding, Labor Agreement Considered” – Monterey Herald – December 8, 2014

Unions Win First Victory to Control Projects Funded by Water Bond” – – December 9, 2014

Interlake Tunnel Project Gets Green Light” – Salinas Californian – December 9, 2014

Ferrini Ranch Gets Nod on 3-2 Board of Supervisors Vote” (article includes report on vote for Project Labor Agreement on Interlake Tunnel Project) – Monterey Herald – December 9, 2014

Arguing Against a Project Labor Agreement Policy with a $500,000 Project Cost Threshold in the City of Martinez

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Below is an email I sent today to the Martinez City Council and top staff regarding their vote tonight on instituting a Project Labor Agreement policy for all city projects over $500,000. Here is the staff report for the agenda item: Policy on Project Labor Agreements.

From: Kevin Dayton
Subject: Agenda Item #5: Project Labor Agreement Policy for “large, complex construction projects” costing $500,000 – warning about litigation
Date: November 19, 2014 at 9:35:40 AM PST

Dear Martinez City Council:

Tonight you will consider a Project Labor Agreement policy for “all City construction projects awarded by the City with a bid amount of more than $500,000 (the “Threshold”).”

According to the proposed resolution, this threshold will encompass “certain large, complex City construction projects involve numerous contractors and employees in different trades.” According to the proposed resolution, the purpose of this policy is the city’s recognition that “it is essential that construction on such projects proceed without the labor disruptions that can occur on projects both from external labor relations problems and from the frictions that often arise when a large number of contractors and their employees work in proximity to one another on a job site.” The resolution also adds that “in the private sector, project labor agreements have been used for years on large, complex construction projects” and “in the public sector, project labor agreements have been used successfully by the County of Contra Costa and other public entities in Contra Costa County for hospital, reservoir, wastewater, and other large, complex construction projects.”

You may be aware that this language has to be included in the resolution because that’s the basis in the National Labor Relations Act to justify a Project Labor Agreement. “Favoritism for contractors that are signatory to collective bargaining agreements in the construction trades” is not a legal purpose for a Project Labor Agreement, despite what anyone claims.

There’s a good chance you’ll be sued if you vote for this policy tonight. I recommend you delay a vote on the policy until you have a report prepared by an outside consultant clearly and thoroughly outlining the following:

1. What is a “large, complex construction project?”

2. What is a “large number of contractors and their employees?” Is it five employees or 736 employees? Is it five contractors or 23 contractors?

3. What is “proximity to each other?” Within spitting distance?

4. Speaking of spitting, what are some of the “frictions” that arise when people are working together to build a project, and what are the basic and immediate causes of those frictions?

5. When does the City of Martinez plan to build an airport, reservoir, or hospital for $500,000? (Note: this would be a valuable service for entities that are spending billions of dollars on similar large, complex construction projects.)

6. What are the recent or anticipated labor disruptions that this policy would prevent? Please indicate the controversies and the parties that caused the disruptions. (Note: this would be a valuable service for union contractors unaware that their unions plan to disrupt upcoming work.) The list of upcoming labor disruptions should include any planned incidents of “the unions and their members, agents, representatives, and employees” endeavoring to “incite, encourage, condone, or participate in any strike, walkout, sit-down, stay-in, boycott, sympathy strike, picketing, hand-billing, work stoppage, work slowdown, or other labor disruption or unrest.”

7. Please provide examples of workers outside of a Master Labor Agreement or Project Labor Agreement who have recently disrupted projects.

8. Please provide examples of workers covered by a Project Labor Agreement who have recently disrupted projects, and describe how those disruptions were resolved.

Here is a link to a report entitled From Peace to Absurdity – The Emergence of Cost Thresholds and Multi-Project Coverage for Project Labor Agreements in California: Shifting the Purpose from Labor Peace to Cutting Merit Shop Competition. I can email this to you directly as a PDF attachment if you want it in that format.

Please regard this email as Exhibit One and the report linked above as Exhibit Two for any future litigation.

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC
(916) 439-2159

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

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In my June 24, 2014 article in 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

“Uncancel the Meeting!” First California Bill to Mandate Project Labor Agreement Was Backroom Deal: Public Discussion Needed

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Here’s an email I sent this morning (June 23, 2014) to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors about the need for openness and transparency concerning the state-mandated Project Labor Agreement provision in Assembly Bill 155, which authorizes the Monterey County Water Resources Authority to use design-build procurement for the interlake pipeline project. I propose that the board’s Legislative Committee “uncancel” its June 30 meeting to discuss AB 155.

From: Kevin Dayton
Subject: Board of Supervisors: Request to “Uncancel” and Convene 6/30 Legislative Committee Meeting – AB 155 and Project Labor Agreement
Date: June 23, 2014 at 12:19:22 PM PDT
To: Monterey County Board of Supervisors

Dear Monterey County Board of Supervisors:

Assemblyman Luis Alejo has gutted and amended Assembly Bill 155 to become an “urgency” bill to authorize the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use the design-build procurement procedure in bidding the interlake pipeline project. That bill includes a provision never-before included in a design-build authorization bill that requires the design-build entity to enter into a project labor agreement with construction trade unions that will “bind all of the contractors performing work on the project.”

See June 19, 2014 report: Monterey County Water Resources Agency: Target of First State-Mandated Project Labor Agreement

A Project Labor Agreement requires a construction company to pay employee fringe benefits into union-affiliated trust funds, obtain most or all journeymen and apprentice workers through the applicable union hiring hall dispatching system, and requires workers to pay union dues and initiation fees. Government-mandated Project Labor Agreements institute favoritism for unions and unionized contractors. Project Labor Agreements are an unnecessary bid specification that discourages bid competition and increases costs of public works construction for taxpayers.

Your Legislative Committee has not discussed design-build authorization for the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, nor Assembly Bill 155, nor the government-mandated Project Labor Agreement. And inexplicably, the next meeting of the Legislative Committee scheduled for June 30 is now cancelled!

June 30 Legislative Committee Cancellation Notice

May 19 Legislative Committee Agenda (no reference to design-build authorization for MCWRA)

On behalf of the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) and other construction companies and trade associations, I ask you to convene a Legislative Committee meeting on June 30 with AB 155 on the agenda for discussion.

Do you believe your constituents should have the opportunity to comment on AB 155 in a public forum in Monterey County? Surely representatives of construction trade associations, unions, and water customers should be able to provide remarks on this highly-controversial issue in a public forum, so that the Board of Supervisors is able to deliberate adequately and make an informed decision on AB 155 and a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement.

Right now the People of Monterey County have no idea what led to the inclusion of the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in a California legislative bill meant to benefit them. Shouldn’t the justification be out in the open?

See Monterey County Legislative Committee Role, Responsibilities & Policies

Let’s bring this state government mandate out into the open, so the People and their representatives on the Board of Supervisors can evaluate whether or not it provides the best quality work at the best price. Please convene your Legislative Committee on June 30 to discuss the Project Labor Agreement mandate in AB 155

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC

Monterey County Water Resources Agency: Target of First State-Mandated Project Labor Agreement

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On June 3, 2014, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to proceed with a plan and $500,000 in funding to construct a $25 million pipeline between the Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio reservoirs that will allow more storage of water for the Salinas Valley. A few days later, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who represents the Salinas Valley, gutted the contents of his Assembly Bill 155 and inserted language that authorized the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use the design-build procurement method for bidding the interlake pipeline project.

Because of the drought, AB 155 is designated as an “urgency” bill that will take effect immediately when the Governor signs it. A two-thirds vote in the Assembly and Senate is required to pass an urgency bill.

But what immediately attracted attention was this provision in AB 155:

(2) If the agency does award a design-build contract as authorized under paragraph (1), it shall do the following:

(C) Ensure that the design-build entity selected for the project enters into a project labor agreement that will bind all of the contractors performing work on the project.

This is the first state mandate for a California local government to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions, and whoever arranged the plot was able to keep it unnoticed until AB 155 was amended. Reportedly the phrase “Project Labor Agreement” was uttered once during discussion of the pipeline project at the June 3, 2014 Monterey County Board of Supervisors meeting, to the visible satisfaction of the head of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council, who was in the audience.

I went to the June 18, 2014 meeting of the Salinas River Basin Management Planning Committee of the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to ask the committee to seek the removal of the Project Labor Agreement mandate from AB 155. (The meeting agenda included a report from the agency’s general manager on the status of the interlake pipeline project.)

By this time, the business community in the Salinas Valley was aware of the state-mandated Project Labor Agreement as a condition of design-build procurement. A representative of the Salinas Valley Water Coalition complained that the Project Labor Agreement in AB 155 was never discussed in a public forum despite changing the Agency’s bidding process. A representative of the Monterey County Farm Bureau also expressed concern that the mandate was never discussed in a transparent manner. He said “politics is changing this” and the agency was “taking what Sacramento dishes out.”

The committee discussed the Project Labor Agreement at length. Some committee members objected to the language and noted that it had been inserted without local deliberation or even knowledge. One board member asked staff what other special interests in Sacramento were planning to “latch onto the bill” and said “We shouldn’t just roll over on this one despite the threat.”

Staff acknowledged that the Project Labor Agreement mandate was added to the bill to neutralize opposition to AB 155 from the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. One board member who seemed to be fully aware of what happened claimed the union mandate was necessary in order to fast track the bill and the project. He said the agency would lose seven to twelve months and would not be “shovel-ready” for grants: “Without union support, we can’t do it. It’s too late to push back; it really is.” He also reported that the head of the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council said unions would oppose the bill unless a Project Labor Agreement was in it. He also claimed that Republicans would vote for AB 155 even with the Project Labor Agreement in it, so the threat of derailing passage of the bill with one-third opposition was not real.

The committee did not take action because the Project Labor Agreement was not on the agenda, and it did not schedule a special meeting to take action. The committee will discuss the Project Labor Agreement at its July 9 meeting, at which time the committee will know if AB 155 will fail or be signed into law. The Monterey County Board of Supervisors is supposed to vote again on the pipeline project on July 29, 2014.

4th Edition Published: Guide to Prevailing Wage Policies in California’s 121 Charter Cities

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The fourth edition of Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? has been released by the California Construction Compliance Group. If you want to free your city from costly state mandates imposed by special interests at the state capitol, you need to consider asking your fellow citizens to enact a charter or asking your city council to exercise its local authority under a charter.

The 121 California cities that operate under a charter (a local constitution granting “home rule” authorized by the California constitution) have the right to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”). Cities can apply these policies to public construction contracts receiving funding solely from the city or private construction contracts receiving funding solely from the city.

The new edition is 115 pages. Here’s the Table of Contents:

  • Background on Charter Cities, Public Works Construction, and California’s State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Examining the Right of Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Under What Authority Does a Charter City Exempt Its Local Construction from State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates?
  • The Prevailing Wage Exemption Is Legal: the California Supreme Court Ended Five Years of Legal Uncertainty and Upheld the Constitutional Right of Charter Cities to Establish Their Own Prevailing Wage Policies
  • There Are Many Good Reasons for a Charter City to Avoid State Laws Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • The Term “Prevailing Wage” Is a Misnomer That Deceives California Citizens
  • State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates Now Include Fees for Union Programs
  • “Public Works” Now Encompasses Much More than Government Projects
  • Laws Imposing Costly State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates Also Impose Duties on Local Governments Such as Notifications, Monitoring, Recordkeeping, Legal Interpretation, Compliance, and Enforcement
  • The State Maintains a Sunset Provision That May Require Volunteers to be Paid State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates in the Future
  • Charter Cities Can and Do Adopt Many Kinds of Policies for Government-Mandated Wage Rates on Purely Municipal Construction
  • Studies and Anecdotes Show High Costs of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • How Is the State Retaliating Against Charter Cities That Set Their Own Policies Concerning Prevailing Wage Mandates? Senate Bill 7
  • The Specific Status Of Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates In California’s 121 Charter Cities
  • Summary of Findings
  • City-Specific Data (for the 121 charter cities)
  • Political Analysis And Considerations 76 Ten Categories of Cities Recently Involved with Decisions Involving Charters and Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Recent Political Dynamics of Charter Consideration at the City Level
  • Who Opposes Charters, and What Are Their Messages and Tactics?
  • Strategies for Exempting Your Charter City from State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates
  • Waiting for the California State Legislature to Reform State-Mandated Construction Wage Laws Is a Futile Exercise – It Is Not Going to Happen
  • Understanding the Debate Over State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates: Governor Pete Wilson’s Mid-1990s Reform Proposals
  • Understanding the Debate Over State Prevailing Wage Rates: A Legislative Analysis of Senate Bill 7 (2013)
  • California Charter Cities and State Prevailing Wage Mandates in 2013 – A Compilation of More than 150 News and Opinion Articles
  • For More Information

Read the fourth edition of Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

Studies About Impact of Prevailing Wage Laws on San Francisco Bay Area Cities Are Not Trustworthy

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Union officials are livid about the continuing defiance of California’s charter cities. For example, the City of Palo Alto continues after 33 years to exercise its right under the California Constitution to maintain its own policy concerning government-mandated wage rates on municipal construction contracts and private projects receiving city financial assistance.

Intellectuals have recently intervened with scholarship meant to educate the unlearned in Palo Alto about the need to submit to the authority of the wise and venerable California state legislature. But don’t be fooled: just because people with higher degrees are churning out studies doesn’t mean these studies are reliable.

In April 2011, the union-oriented think tank Working Partnerships USA published an “Economic Policy Brief” entitled Economic, Fiscal and Social Impacts of Prevailing Wage in San Jose, California.

In response to that study, I had my own analysis published in August 2013:

Report Defending State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates (“Prevailing Wage”) As Beneficial to Taxpayers Not a Credible Tool For Decision Makers

In October 2012, the union-oriented academic journal Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society published an article entitled The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities.

In response to that study, I had my own analysis published in April 2014:

University of Utah Study on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Policies in Five California Cities: Not a Reliable Tool for Policymakers

I write about my analysis of the University of Utah study in an April 22, 2014 article in www.UnionWatch.orgJournal Article on Prevailing Wage Debunked, But Only Outside Academia

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 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


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)



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 – – December 16, 2013

California High-Speed Rail 2014 Draft Business Plan Doesn’t Depict Project Labor Agreement Accurately or Usefully

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By law, every two years the California High-Speed Rail Authority needs to prepare a “business plan,” which includes publishing a draft at least 60 days before final publication so that the public can review it and submit comments to the Authority about it. The Authority is required to “take into consideration comments from the public hearing and written comments” before publishing the final business plan. It is required to approve the final business plan at a board meeting and publish it by May 1, 2014.

My article California High-Speed Rail Business Plan Misrepresents Project Labor Agreement posted on March 18, 2014 in identifies ten distortions of just one paragraph of the 2014 Draft Business Plan. That paragraph describes the Authority’s “Community Benefits Policy,” which was implemented for construction through a Project Labor Agreement (“Community Benefit Agreement”) with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

The Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California (CAPHCC), Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA), and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) – San Diego Chapter have already submitted comments to the California High-Speed Rail Authority based on my post about how the 2014 Draft Business Plan depicts the Project Labor Agreement:

March 20, 2014 Comments to California High-Speed Rail Authority on Project Labor Agreement.

I analyzed the provisions of the Project Labor Agreement in detail in my January 11, 2013 post in entitled Analysis of the Phony Community Benefits and Other Provisions in the Union Project Labor Agreement for the First Segment of California’s High-Speed Rail. I also explained the origins of the Project Labor Agreement in my April 29, 2013 post entitled Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Which Elected Official Was the Catalyst for the Project Labor Agreement on California High-Speed Rail: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

Here is the final version of the Project Labor Agreement:

Project Labor Agreement with Unions for California High-Speed Rail

To submit comments on the depiction of the Project Labor Agreement or other aspects of the California High-Speed Rail 2014 Draft Business Plan, go to High-Speed Rail Authority Releases Draft 2014 Business Plan.

Unions and the Sacramento Kings Arena: The Three-Part Series in

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A new “Entertainment and Sports Center” planned for downtown Sacramento is intended to keep the Kings professional basketball team from moving to another city. A non-binding term sheet approved by the Sacramento City Council on March 26, 2013 indicated a $447 million cost for construction of the arena, to be supplemented by a $258 million public subsidy funded primarily by a city arrangement involving parking revenue.

This project will be a financial bonanza (as well as a public relations triumph) for unions, union-affiliated fringe benefit trust funds, and labor-management cooperation committees. My three-part series in entitled “How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento” provides the best public explanation available about how unions have schemed and will likely scheme to gain control of as many jobs as possible through construction and operation of the arena and surrounding development.

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

In addition, my December 16, 2013 article in entitled Regional Sports and Entertainment Facilities in the Urban Core Attract Costly Political Meddling: Sacramento Kings as a Case Study provides a broader perspective on the ideological agenda grafted onto this new sports and entertainment facility:

…the arena is entangled in idealistic schemes that impose significant financial and logistical costs. Progressive community activists recognize the potential of the downtown arena as a social engineering project. They can get away with using the arena as a vehicle to change the world because so many ordinary people and influential business and community leaders seem to want it at any cost…[business leaders] have to align themselves with leftist political leaders and organizations to secure the Kings arena in a downtown location.

Of course, unions will transfer some money collected through their representation of workers at the downtown arena district to their various in-house political operations and to the Democratic Party in the Sacramento region. This money may hasten and solidify the ongoing transition of Congressional seats, state legislative seats, and local government seats in the Sacramento suburbs from Republican to Democrat control.

In the long term, elected officials will need to figure out how to pay off the bond debt for the Entertainment and Sports Center (and the remaining debt from what is now Sleep Train Arena) if revenue projections for parking aren’t realized by the City of Sacramento. Political pressure will be on the suburbs to share in this cost:

Be vigilant for an ambitious politician from the City of Sacramento to propose some sort regional tax or fee system, perhaps implemented through the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), the regional metropolitan planning organization.