Tag Archive for Darrell Steinberg

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

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 But the label is simplistic and based on outdated political paradigms.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.


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

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
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?

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.