Tag Archive for Center on Policy Initiatives

Union Operatives Infiltrate Office of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to Push Costly and Burdensome Prevailing Wage Mandate for City Contracts

As of today, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner says he will remain in office despite women accusing him of sexual harassment. For the mayor, this is the most damaging of several recent scandals that include a mysterious trip to Paris, a generous complimentary refurbishing of the mayor’s office reception area, and alleged demands for payments in exchange for project approval.

While some of Mayor Filner’s staff have resigned in recent weeks, other people are coming into his administration to fill the power vacuum. And who better to become entrenched in this scandal-ridden administration than union officials?

Jennifer Badgley, Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs

Apparently the mayor has brought on a former (or current) professional organizer and political director of San Diego’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 569. Jennifer Badgley has recently become the “Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs” for Mayor Filner, according to her Linked In profile.

Jennifer Badgley – San Diego Mayor’s Office and IBEW Local Union No. 569

According to a lobbying report filed by the IBEW Local 569, Badgley had lobbied Mayor Filner and staff on a few issues during the second quarter of 2013 (April 1 to June 30), including “good green local jobs and career pathways for local workers,” Community Choice Aggregation, and “responsible construction and development,” including on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion. She also “sat in with business” concerning a “potential San Diego energy project.”

She arrived just in time! A vote at the San Diego City Council is scheduled on July 30, 2013 to adopt a union-backed ordinance proposed by Mayor Filner to require construction companies with city contracts to pay wage rates (“prevailing wages”) set by the State of California. Since 1980, the City of San Diego has exercised its authority as a charter city to issue contracts for most purely municipal projects without state-mandated wage rates, as a result saving money for taxpayers. Filner’s proposal would submit the City of San Diego to state law regarding wage rates on public works projects.

Circumstances have now allowed the mayor’s Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs to be the coauthor of a July 16, 2013 propaganda memo to the San Diego City Council arguing why city taxpayers should pay more for construction and why the city bureaucracy should be entangled in $250,000 worth of monitoring and enforcement of cumbersome unfunded state mandates per $100 million spent on construction. Some of the highlights of this memo:

  • It disparages the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, which issued a Review of Proposal to Require Compliance with the State’s Prevailing Wage Laws on All City Public Works Projects. The review estimated a cost increase of 5 to 10 percent on projects and noted “the likely trade off in the form of higher capital project costs and the resulting impact to infrastructure programs which are a high priority for the City.”
  • It claims that the state exempts volunteers from prevailing wage requirements, but doesn’t note that the exemption has an expiration date and that certain unions have objected to this exemption.
  • It cites and provides text of the 2010 Azusa Land Partners v. Department of Industrial Relations California appellate court decision that expanded prevailing wage to certain private housing developments, but it doesn’t mention the much more relevant 2012 California Supreme Court decision in State Building & Construction Trades Council of California v. City of Vista. Unions lost this case badly when the California Supreme Court upheld the right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for purely municipal contracts.
  • It reports that “staff presented this proposal to construction industry stakeholders at their quarterly meeting on June 20, 2013,” apparently through a presentation by Murtaza Baxamusa, City of San Diego, Office of the Mayor, Special Advisor for Public Policy. (See more about Baxamusa below.) The association representatives at the meeting were reportedly delighted about the proposal; of course, the groups listed as attending the meeting represent and provide contract negotiation and administration services to companies that choose to be bound under the requirements of union collective bargaining agreements. They have a financial interest in government increasing project costs.

Such an rigid approach to public policy as reflected in Badgley’s memo is consistent with her history of advancing the union agenda. In the summer of 2009, at a time when 20% of IBEW Local 569 members were unemployed, Badgley expressed pride in what she identified as her greatest accomplishment: derailing the plan of Gaylord Entertainment to build a $1.2 billion hotel and convention center in Chula Vista because the company wouldn’t sign a Project Labor Agreement guaranteeing 100% of the construction trade work to unions. A July 6, 2009 profile on the now-defunct San Diego News Network web site reported her perspective as part of an interview to reveal her “journey” as she sought to “create broader social change.”

Badgley is or was married to Tefere Gebre, the executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, who is expected to become the next Executive Vice President of the national AFL-CIO. In 2012 he proclaimed The Truth About the Right-Wing’s Latest Scheme to Punish Workers in Costa Mesa, and in 2009 he decried “The assault on Orange County by Colorado-based zealot Eric Christensen (sic) and Supervisor John Moorlach.” Gebre caused a stir in August 2007 when he sent Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction a bizarre email claiming that he saw Christen “on TV as a gay whitehouse corspondent.” (sic)

Murtaza Baxamusa, Special Advisor for Public Policy

Murtaza Baxamusa used to churn out policy reports for the union-backed Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego. He was a founder of the phony Middle Class Taxpayers Association, which advocates for union-backed initiatives that increase costs to taxpayers. In 2011 he was hired as Director of Planning and Development for the San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation. The San Diego County Building Trades Family Housing Corporation contributed $85,000 to the November 2012 campaign to pass Proposition Z, a $2.8 billion bond measure with a Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Unified School District. It’s unclear if Baxamusa is still employed at the union housing corporation.

Mayor Bob Filner’s Support for the Union Political Agenda

Bob Filner, the Mayor of the City of San Diego, has long supported the political agenda of construction trade unions. Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction wrote in an opinion piece in Voice of San Diego on July 20, 2007 that Filner had “an almost canine affection for doing the unions’ bidding.”

In 1999, then-Congressman Filner recognized Art Lujan of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO for his leadership in the San Diego labor movement. He noted that “Art successfully secured a Project Labor Agreement with the County Water Authority resulting in over $700 million in construction projects throughout the next eight years.” This was the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in San Diego County.

As a member of Congress in 2007, Filner blamed Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox for the decision of Gaylord Entertainment to withdraw its proposal to build a $1.2 billion hotel and conference center on the Chula Vista Bayfront. Unions were threatening to block the project with environmental objections unless the company signed a Project Labor Agreement to build the project. Filner apparently felt that Cox should have pressured Gaylord to give the unions what they wanted.

A letter to the editor in the July 15, 2007 San Diego Union-Tribune explained Filner’s political attack:

So now the finger-pointing begins. And the show is being led by Rep. Bob Filner, who demonstrated political grandstanding at its finest by swooping in to defend the unions. How much has he been involved in this process before now? And without demonstrating any personal effort in advancing the project, how does he justify a self-appointed role as the arbiter of who did what wrong?

In 2010, Filner wrote a letter on Congressional stationery (in apparent violation of U.S. House of Representatives ethics rules) to the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce telling them to oppose Proposition G. Prop G was a “fair and open competition” ballot measure to enact an ordinance prohibiting the City of Chula Vista from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work. Filner claimed that it would be a “fool’s errand” to obtain federal funding for the City of Chula Vista if voters approved Proposition G. On June 6, 2010, 56% of Chula Vista voters supported Proposition G, and Filner subsequently played the fool and continued to send federal money there.

Of course Filner supported the Project Labor Agreement that the board of the San Diego Unified School District imposed on $4.9 billion in construction (not including state matching grants) approved by voters as Proposition S in 2008 and the subsequent Proposition Z in 2012. And citing arguments from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), he wrote letters to the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 and 2010 opposing Sempra Energy’s construction of an electricity transmission line between Mexico and San Diego County.

And notably, he recognized Murtaza Baxamura in 2012 in the Congressional Record. Now Baxamura is on his staff, pushing for government-mandated construction wage rates.

Board of Emeryville Unified School District Approves Union-Only Community Benefit Agreement for Idealistic Center for Community Life

Construction trade unions are getting a monopoly on building a multi-government collaborative San Francisco Bay Area project tangled up in trendy “progressive” concepts about how government should require private companies to create and operate their businesses.

As an item on the consent calendar of its “special meeting” agenda on December 17, 2012, the board of trustees of the Emeryville Unified School District approved a “Community Benefit Agreement” to be incorporated in a lease-leaseback contract signed by the prime contractor for the construction of the Emeryville Center for Community Life. This project is coordinated by the City of Emeryville and the Emeryville Unified School District and “touted as a model for the 21st century urban environment.”

Unions and other activist organizations routinely pressure local governments in urban areas of California to require developers to sign a “Community Benefit Agreement” as a condition of providing a permit or financial assistance for a project. Not surprisingly, these Community Benefit Agreements usually include a requirement for developers or contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with construction unions or adopt some other program (often a “First Source Hiring” program) that gives construction unions control of the work.

California has been on the cutting edge of local governments forcing developers to support union political agendas; in fact, four California regional think tanks backed by labor unions and other interests came together as the “California Partnership for Working Families” to develop a guidebook on using Community Benefit Agreements. These policy organizations are the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (San Francisco Bay Area), Working Partnerships USA (San Jose), Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (aka LAANE), and the Center on Policy Initiatives (San Diego). The work of these groups to make “economic development subsidies more accountable and effective” generally goes unchallenged, as California is devoid of free market-oriented policy institutes that study state and local union interference with commerce.

The Community Benefit Agreement for the Emeryville Center for Community Life was developed by a consulting firm called A Squared Ventures, which worked with community “stakeholders” including the Residents United for a Livable Community (RULE), a group “concerned that the City has handed out tens of millions of public dollars to large developers without asking for many benefits for the community in return.” This same group has worked with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and UNITE-HERE Union Local No. 2850 to seek a Community Benefit Agreement for Phase II of the Bay Street project in Emeryville.

This Community Benefit Agreement for Emeryville’s Center for Community Life does not include a Project Labor Agreement, nor does the Community Benefit Agreement contain provisions that resemble provisions in a traditional pre-hire labor agreement. Instead, this Community Benefit Agreement sets employment goals for the project and simply requires the prime contractor and its subcontractors to obtain their workers through the union hiring hall dispatching process. For example, it requires contractors to “utilize name call procedures with the representative union hiring halls” to obtain workers classified as journeymen. Although it does not specifically indicate that contractors must request or obtain apprentices from union-affiliated Joint Apprenticeship Training Programs, this is apparently assumed in the additional provision that requires the prime contractor to “work with the construction trade unions to identify and implement local apprentice worker rotation opportunities” on a quarterly basis.

In addition to requiring contractors to obtain trade workers from unions, the Community Benefits Agreement requires the prime contractor to encourage Emeryville Unified School District students and their parents to attend recruitment events and meetings for a 16-week pre-apprenticeship program run by the Cypress Mandela Training Program, an organization with close ties to construction trade unions.

All of these requirements are intended to find jobs for people who live in certain zip codes in Emeryville, Berkeley, and Oakland, or within a wider “East Bay Green Corridor.”

But that’s not all. The prime contractor will be required to set up a “Learning Lab” on the job site to show students how the project achieves “environmental sustainability.” The Community Benefits Agreement requires contractors to pay the state-mandated prevailing wage to their trade workers (but that was required by state law anyway). There is a “living wage” requirement for workers not in the construction trades, based on the City of Emeryville’s living wage ordinance. The prime contractor will commit to using subcontractors and other construction-related contractors that are local small businesses.

California law allows school districts to choose “lease-leaseback” contractors using somewhat subjective “best value” criteria, rather than awarding the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. Surely the school district will chose its prime contractor based on its proposal to fulfill the requirement of the Community Benefits Agreement. A Project Labor Agreement is likely to be part of any proposals for the lease-leaseback contract.

Which developers and contractors will agree to meet these government-mandated conditions (or at least make it look like they’re going to meet these conditions)? I’m guessing a lot of the activists behind the Community Benefit Agreements expect these businesses to reduce their profit margin (and not increase the price) to fulfill these conditions for the good of the People, just like contractors allegedly have reduced their profit margins for the honor of working under the union Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Unified School District. It will be interesting to see how the cost of the Emeryville Center of Community Life compares to other similar projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You are invited to go to the web site “dedicated to sharing information and encouraging an open conversation about the Emeryville Center of Community Life.” As it says, “From here you can participate in the emerging community dialog and gain access to current and background information that will help inform the exchange of ideas and allow for an authentic community engagement process.” You can share conversation and dialogue about fiscal responsibility, capitalism, free markets, profit, private property, etc.


Editorial Comments

1. I was surprised to see the provision in the Community Benefit Agreement requiring the prime contractor and the unions to rotate apprentices among various tasks, because union leaders like to claim that their apprenticeship programs provide comprehensive training for many tasks to their indentured apprentices, while non-union unilateral apprenticeship training programs exploit their apprentices by making them do the same task over and over again, in violation of their own program standards. Inclusion of this requirement suggests to me there is a problem with the scope of on-the-job training for union apprenticeship programs, at least in Alameda County.

2. Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate economic development subsidies altogether? Ask defeated California Assemblyman Chris Norby, author of Redevelopment: The Unknown Government, who was not rewarded for being alone in this position at the California state legislature. As government power has grown at the state and local levels in California, one of the easiest ways for corporations to make big money in this state is to avoid competing in the messy, insecure free market and instead feed off the compulsory tax payments of ordinary citizens and small businesses. In response, unions and other leftist groups pressure government officials to impose costly and burdensome requirements on these corporations, who in turn pass these costs along to consumers, and the cycle of crony capitalism continues at the expense of the fleeing middle class.

The Superintendent of the Emeryville Unified School District reported on April 10, 2012 that “because rent in the Bay Area is expensive and unemployment remains high, approximately 30 families in EUSD have been so impacted by the recession that they have opted to relocate to other cities.” It’s not a friendly place for ordinary families.

3. Which investors plan to buy the $95 million in bonds that 1,982 Emeryville voters authorized in November 2010 to be sold through Measure J in order to borrow money to pay for projects such as the Emeryville Center for Community Life? Interest and transaction fees for Measure J bond sales seem to be a loophole that allows the One Percent to make money off of this project. Or maybe the People’s Republic of China will buy the bonds.