Tag Archive for Gaylord Entertainment

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.

California Republicans Need to Ensure That Unions Don’t Evade California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Reform in 2013

As interest groups await State Senator Michael Rubio’s introduction of his bill to revise the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), it’s becoming clear that this reform, as introduced, will not hinder the CEQA exploitation strategies used by California Unions for Reliable Energy, regional building trades councils, and individual unions to block proposed projects until the project owners commit to labor agreements or other economic concessions.

Despite not quite having one-third control of the California State Assembly and State Senate, Republicans may be able to influence CEQA reform and add appropriate and meaningful provisions that end union abuse of CEQA for purposes other than environmental protection.

My commentary Republicans Have Opportunity to Broaden CEQA Reform was published on February 1, 2013 in www.FlashReport.org. Here is a summary of my recommendations:

An Ideal Republican Response: Analyze Before Praising and Demand Real Reform

Considering that Senator Rubio may be able to ride on his leadership in CEQA reform to future statewide office, and considering that environmental groups may convince some legislative Democrats to oppose any CEQA reform, how should Republicans use their potential political leverage in response to Senator Rubio’s specific proposal?

When he actually introduces the bill, Republicans should refrain from immediate praise and support. Instead, they should take the time to analyze it, line-by-line, to determine if such language would have been effective in discouraging notorious union CEQA threats against projects such as Gaylord Entertainment’s now-abandoned Bayfront Hotel and Conference Center in Chula Vista or the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3, for which hotel and construction unions dropped CEQA objections after obtaining commitments for union monopolies in employment.

As a guide, Republicans may want to look at concepts proposed in past CEQA reform legislation such as Senate Bill 628 (2005), Senate Bill 1631 (2008), and Assembly Bill 598 (2012).

If Senator Rubio’s bill does nothing but suppress the simple CEQA complaints of elderly long-time California residents who are upset about an apartment complex proposed for their rural community, Republicans should resist the corporate pressure to vote for it anyway as pro-business “CEQA reform.”

Instead, Republicans need to ensure that Senator Rubio’s CEQA reform proposal discourages ALL parties that exploit CEQA for purposes unrelated to environmental protection, including unions that engage in “greenmail” to coerce labor agreements or other economic concessions from project applicants.

Without a coordinated caucus strategy, individual Republicans in the legislature will adopt their own strategies about planning and portraying their relevance in CEQA reform. If assessments are accurate such as the anonymous February 5, 2013 commentary in www.FlashReport.org entitled Sacramento Syndrome: Republicans Accept Their Status as the Political Hostages of Big Business, some Republicans may greet the Rubio proposal with instant enthusiasm, rather than appropriate skepticism and public attention to its shortcomings.

Opinion Pieces:

Phony Tree Huggers Are Abusing CEQA…CEQA Needs To Be Updated!!! – “Monday Morning Quarterback” bulletin of Associated General Contractors of San Diego – by Jim Ryan, Executive Vice President – February 4, 2013

Republicans Have Opportunity to Broaden CEQA Reformwww.FlashReport.org – op-ed by Kevin Dayton – February 1, 2013 (reprinted on the Families Protecting the Valley web site)

Senator Rubio’s CEQA Reform Gives Unions a Free PassSacramento Bee – letter to the editor by Kevin Dayton – January 30, 2013

Rubio’s Interest in CEQA Reform Turns Out to Be Highly SelectiveBakersfield Californian – op-ed by Kevin Korenthal of KOREN Communications – January 29, 2013 (Kevin Korenthal was a guest on the Ralph Bailey Show, KNZR 1560 AM in Bakersfield on February 7, 2013 to talk about Senator Rubio’s CEQA reform and union greenmail.)

Rubio Would Gut CEQA for Public, but Not Touch UnionsSacramento Bee – letter to the editor by Tim Bosley – January 20, 2013

Lead Democrat for “Reform” of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Never Mentions Unions as the Major Instigator of CEQA Abusewww.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 14, 2013

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders

The San Diego Daily Transcript business newspaper today (October 10, 2012) published an opinion piece from Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction entitled Unions Manipulate City Leaders with CEQA Threats.

In the commentary about union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, Christen contends that business, political, and community leaders in San Diego have essentially surrendered to the organizing agenda of union leaders. Unions and their lawyers have effectively exploited the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block proposed projects until the developer signs a Project Labor Agreement for construction and a neutrality agreement leading to a collective bargaining agreement for the permanent workforce. Eric writes the following:

In San Diego, the city’s civic leaders regard union CEQA abuse as a customary part of doing business. Instead of exposing it and shaming the perpetrators, they say nothing publicly and surrender to it privately. Then they pass the costs to the taxpayers and consumers.

Why aren’t San Diego business, community and political leaders — other than Councilman Carl DeMaio — holding these union officials accountable for their CEQA extortion on the proposed Convention Center expansion? Why aren’t they highlighting this incident as an outrageous example of CEQA abuse?

Apparently America’s Finest City is fine with this “cost of doing business in San Diego.” What an outrage.

I’m guessing that civic leaders and big developers closely observed how Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment exposed and resisted the union environmental extortion in 2007 and 2008 against the proposed $1.2 billion Chula Vista Bayfront Hotel and Convention Center. The San Diego news media covered the story extensively, and ultimately it led to voters in the City of Chula Vista approving a ballot measure (Measure G) that prohibits the city from entering into contracts that require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements.

Apparently, San Diego union leaders strategically determined that either Gaylord Entertainment would succumb to their demands to build and operate its facility exclusively with union workers, or Gaylord would never build it. After Gaylord Entertainment finally abandoned its plan to build the Chula Vista project and instead began construction of a facility in Mesa, Arizona, the Political Director/Organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 was proud, as she acknowledged to the now-defunct San Diego News Network in the July 6, 2009 profile Union Leader Badgley Shares Her Journey with IBEW 569:

Q: What accomplishment are you proud of?

A: Gaylord. We put a lot of resources into organizing the bay front in Chula Vista. It’s one of the last pieces of undeveloped land on the water, and we wanted something that was good for the environment and good for the workers. We worked with the environmental community, the trade show unions, the hotel and restaurant workers, and we tried to make sure that the project would be good for the environment and the workers. In some ways, I’ll take the blame. You have to respect the workers and the environment. We were asked, “Isn’t something better than nothing?” Our feeling is that if we build it right, we can build more.

(Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment wanted to build a 1,500 room hotel and convention center on the Chula Vista bay front. In 2007, the company pulled out allegedly because it could not reach an agreement with labor unions. It then continued negotiating, and pulled out again a year later because it could not get financing.)

I believe we sent a strong message about the power and commitment of San Diego’s electrical workforce with the Gaylord campaign. We are committed to continue to make sure that whatever is built on the bayfront must create good, green, local careers.

Now we see San Diego developers and their community allies waving white flags, even as San Diego is close to having a free market-oriented mayor and a Republican city council majority, and even as voters in the County of San Diego and in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside, and El Cajon have expressed their views on union monopolies by prohibiting government-mandated Project Labor Agreements through ballot measures.

For example, an article today in the October 10, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune (Lane Field Hotels Approved by Port) reported that the Lane Field developers (Rob Lankford, architect John Portman & Associates and contractor Hensel Phelps) surrendered to union demands in order to get two proposed hotels approved and finally under construction:

Developers also avoided opposition from labor groups by agreeing to require union construction labor and welcome unionized workers at the finished hotels…But Trammer said underground parking could add nearly $18 million to the $115 million construction cost, roughly the same it will cost to use union labor.

So this is another Project Labor Agreement won by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council (costing the developers an extra $18 million), and another neutrality agreement won by UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 to be imposed on a hotel operator who hasn’t even been identified yet. Again outraged by another surrender to extortion, Eric Christen posted a comment in response to the article:

Once again we see that threats of environmental lawsuits filed by labor unions would have been used had not the owner of this project not agreed to use union labor. And this is not laid out by the writer more explicitly why? This same writer just covered the Port Commission meeting two weeks ago where the unions dropped 150 pages of comments via their lawyers on the Convention Center Expansion yet these two striking similar projects but totally different union responses are not connected here.

This of course follows a decade of unions pulling this greenmail starting with Petco Park to this current project, and of course chasing Gaylord out of the state was their crowning achievement.

This extortion that unions use on projects that do not agree to use union labor is astounding. The silence form (sic) developers and the press on this is equally astounding.

As outlined in the www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com article Lane Field in San Diego: UNITE-HERE Local 30 Doesn’t Like a Proposed Hotel, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 had hired the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to identify and submit substantial environmental objections to the project under CEQA.

And here is a THIRD example of union greenmail working its magic. A September 28, 2012 article in Voice of San Diego (U-T CEO Denies Threatening Port; New Email Emerges) revealed that developers who want to convert the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal into a new sports/entertainment complex are seeking input and advice from Tom Lemmon, the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. The email was released by Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

These three examples from just the last three weeks show that labor unions have been able to use CEQA to control anything having to do with downtown project development in the City of San Diego, particularly within the Port of San Diego‘s jurisdiction. Giving into union CEQA extortion is indeed a “cost of doing business” in San Diego (and throughout California).

Is this surprising, knowing the nature of humanity? After all, paying people off to avoid unwanted artificially-placed obstacles has probably been a standard way of doing business in most places in most times throughout human history. This country is not particularly clean: the United States is only ranked 24th in 2011 on the Transparency International annual Corruption Perceptions Index, with corruption defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

California’s urban local governments near the coast are generally fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged, unaccountable, and governed by pragmatists (at best) or compulsive criminals (at worst). These are ripe conditions for unions, corporate entities, and other self-interested organizations to infect and pervert government and commerce. The republican (lower case “r”) structure of checks and balances in American government works haphazardly in these cities; in particular, citizens fail to fulfill their necessary duty of educated and informed democratic participation in the process of choosing representatives and setting policies.

Nevertheless, Eric Christen is committed to fighting this urban corruption as reflected in union CEQA greenmail, according to an email he sent on October 10, 2012:

What is frustrating for myself as someone who deals with this locally and statewide every day is that I get what unions are doing and why they are doing it. What I do not get is how on earth they can keep getting away with doing it without being held accountable by an inquisitive press that asks simple questions after seeing the obvious staring them in the face.

I can fight unions and their shameless abuse of the California environmental law. I can continue to educate and inform the public about this and get them to ban PLAs when we put it on the ballot. I can continue to educate the media about this abuse. But what I cannot do is write the stories or pose the questions that help educate taxpayers, voters and citizens about exactly what is going on.

Sorry Eric, looks like few people want to join you in exposing this racket. You’re putting abstract principles ahead of tangible financial self-gain. That’s not a popular proposition.

But here is some consolation: this appeasement to union extortion recalls a well-known quotation attributed to Vladimir Lenin (but probably spurious): “the capitalists will sell us the rope from which we’ll hang them.”

Some of the capitalists to be hung will die rich. A few courageous ones to be hung will die right.