Tag Archive for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100

Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Which Elected Official Was the Catalyst for the Project Labor Agreement on California High-Speed Rail: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

Residents of California’s Central Valley from Merced to Bakersfield are still asking how unions obtained costly monopoly control of the first construction segment of the California High-Speed Rail through a Project Labor Agreement that all contractors must sign as a condition of work. The union requirement was inserted in late December 2012 as Addendum 8 in the bid specifications for the project, without public comment or scrutiny. Here are some of the mysterious circumstances behind this Project Labor Agreement:

  1. The board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority never voted on the Project Labor Agreement or even discussed the concept as a scheduled board item.
  2. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration apparently never approved the Project Labor Agreement, even though it awarded a American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Obama stimulus package) grant in 2010 of $2,552,556,231 for construction of the first segment.
  3. No local elected officials in the Central Valley have taken responsibility or credit for the Project Labor Agreement; in fact, elected officials either express opposition to the Project Labor Agreement or avoid mentioning it.
  4. The head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was on the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority while Fresno civic leaders developed a local hiring program that eventually transformed into a union agreement.
  5. A select group of professional staff and appointed officials in Fresno seemed to be the driving force for the Project Labor Agreement, and they developed the policy and made the decisions without accountability to the people.

Today I obtained several documents through my California Public Records Act request to the Fresno County Workforce Investment Board. These documents reveal that agitation for a Project Labor Agreement was coming from the Fresno Works consortium, described on its web site as an unprecedented coalition of officials from the County of Fresno, City of Fresno and the Council of Fresno County Governments, working together with the education, labor and business communities to ensure the success of the California High-Speed Rail initiative and its heavy maintenance facility in Fresno County. This group has come together in support of this effort to bring forward a technically responsive and compelling expression of interest in locating the heavy maintenance facility in Fresno County.”

Somehow a lobbying effort to get the California High-Speed Rail Authority to place the highly-coveted Heavy Maintenance Facility in Fresno was used as the agent to get unions a Project Labor Agreement for construction of the Madera to Fresno segment of the rail line. One of the organizations listed in the consortium is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the photo on the home page shows local union officials standing in the background. As noted below, Chuck Riojas, the head of the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100, spoke before the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority in November 2012 about a proposed targeted hiring program that became the Project Labor Agreement.

The other individual who seems to play a prominent role in the process to get a Project Labor Agreement is Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who had run for mayor in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012 with a platform of supporting fair and open competition on city construction projects. Mayor Swearengin had worked extensively with unions when she was the top executive for the Fresno Regional Jobs Initiative, and during that time union officials tried to use the Regional Jobs Initiative as an agent to recommend policies to local governments that favored unions for public works construction. (See documents concerning a 2005 controversy at the Fresno Regional Jobs Initiative concerning apprenticeship requirements.) Her June 2012 letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation asking for comments about a Project Labor Agreement ended up being a centerpiece of the process to implement it.

June 19, 2012 letter from Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood - California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement

Here are summaries of the documents leading to a Project Labor Agreement on the first segment of California’s High-Speed Rail:

The Acting Chief Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) sent a letter dated January 6, 2012 to the Chief Counsel of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. It opened with this opinion:

This letter is in response to your request for the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) views of the proposal described in the September 8, 2011 Memorandum to the Fresno Works Consortium (Memorandum) from the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board (FRWIB) staff recommending that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) implement a “Targeted Unemployed Worker” Program and “First Source” transparency requirements for the California High Speed Rail Project (Project) funded in part by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). For the reasons set out below, we have concluded that while not specifically precluded as a matter of applicable Federal law, the “Targeted Unemployed Worker” Program conflicts with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) – and FRA’s – general disapproval of local or in-state geographic preferences because of the potential negative impacts on open and competitive procurement procedures.

Meanwhile, an unrelated federal review of a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement for regional highway construction in Southern California would become a key justification for a Project Labor Agreement on the California High-Speed Rail. The Chief Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sent a letter dated February 7, 2012 to the Chief Administrative Services Officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA).

The letter indicated that the federal agency reviewed the LACMTA’s Project Labor Agreement and its associated “Construction Careers Policy” and concluded that the LACMTA would not violate the federal requirement that federal grant recipients “conduct federally assisted procurements using full and open competition.” The board of the LACMTA had already approved the Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Policy at its January 26, 2012 meeting. A group closely aligned with unions called LAANE (Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy) had worked with Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to impose this union requirement on all significant transportation projects in the county. The head of the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 11 is on the board of directors for LAANE.

In a memorandum to the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the California High Speed Rail Authority dated March 21, 2012, Blake Konczal – the co-chairman of the Education Committee of the Fresno Works Consortium and the executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board – proposed a set of revised “Targeted Unemployed Worker” Hire Criteria and “First Source” Transparency Requirements. In its list of proposed requirements, the proposal included these references to unions:

A mandate that to the extent that said jobs will be drawn from organized labor, that such hiring criteria also be reflective of union apprenticeship requirements.

Coordination with unions. The Contractor(s) and their sub- contractors that have an agreement with a construction union shall use the following procedures and shall inform each relevant union of these requirements:

While these provisions do not indicate that unions will be the sole source of construction trade labor, the proposal includes a reference to a Project Labor Agreement:

d. If a project labor agreement is negotiated to cover this project, such an agreement shall include a provision requiring the parties to adhere to this Targeted Unemployed Worker Program. The Contractor(s) and their subcontractors shall promptly notify the CA-HSRA of any union that fails or refuses to refer Targeted Unemployed Workers and/or Disadvantaged Workers for construction jobs on this project.

So when this memo was written, the idea was circulating in Fresno to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the California High-Speed Rail project. And at some time between March 21, 2012 and June 19, 2012, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin learned that the U.S. Department of Transportation had declared that the Project Labor Agreement for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not violate federal laws. In a June 19 letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Mayor Swearengin wrote the following comments:

it has come to my attention that Mr. Dorvel R. Carter, Chief Counsel of the Federal Transit Administration, approved language put forward by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Administration (sic) (LACMTA) and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council which is very similar to the Fresno Works targeted hiring program. This language focuses on establishing targeted hiring criteria in project labor agreements…we have modified our initial proposal to more closely comport with the LACMTA language that has been approved by USDOT-FTA and respectfully request that USDOT work with us to institute this revised proposed, the “National Targeted Hiring Program,” for the Initial Construction Section of the California High Speed Rail program…I look forward to discussing it with you and your team at your earliest convenience.

Copies of Mayor Swearengin’s letter calling for the Project Labor Agreement were sent to Fresno County Supervisors Susan Anderson and Henry R. Perea and California High-Speed Rail Authority board members Dan Richard and Tom Richards, who is listed as the chairman of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board and is also the chairman and CEO of The Penstar Group, a Fresno-based real estate investment, development and construction company. Presumably this letter would have alerted them to the proposed Project Labor Agreement, although they probably already knew that a Project Labor Agreement was in the works.

Obviously the Obama Administration works quickly when unions are involved. A letter sent from the head of the Federal Railroad Administration at “Secretary LaHood’s request” dated June 29, 2012 assures Mayor Swearengin that “we would respect the choices of CHSRA in adopting a variation of a targeted hiring program so long as the program is consistent with the California state procurement policies and procedures that CHSRA uses in the expenditure of its non-Federal funds.” The letter also expressed some concerns:

We are happy to work with CHSRA to examine the revisions to the targeted hiring program and the program advanced by Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Administration’s (LACMTA) and approved by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). One distinction I note is that LACMTA, as a local government entity, is covered by 49 C.F.R. §18.36(b) through (i) while CHSRA, as a state entity, is governed by§ 18.36(a). Additionally, FRA looks forward to reviewing any final findings or recommendations resulting from the CHSRA subcommittee study of the Fresno Works proposal and CHSRA’s proposal for adopting a targeted hiring program in implementing the HST project.

The general counsel for the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board then sent a memorandum dated August 8, 2012 to the executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board summarizing a proposed “National Targeted Hiring Program” that would pass muster with the federal government. He notes the following:

The legality of the National Targeted Hiring Program is further evidenced by the U.S. D.O.T. Federal Transit Administration’s prior approval of a similar hiring program included in a project labor agreement proposed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“LACMTA”). The LACMTA’s project labor agreement included contractor requirements nearly identical to those proposed in the Fresno Works National Targeted Hiring Program.

In summary, the general counsel of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board uses two letters as the basis to declare to the general counsel of the California High-Speed Rail Authority that the Fresno Works Consortium’s National Targeted Hiring Program is legal: (1) the Federal Transit Administration’s February 7, 2012 letter to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority about the acceptability of the Project Labor Agreement and (2) the U.S. Department of Transportation’s June 29, 2012 letter to Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

Notice three things at this stage of the development of the Project Labor Agreement:

  1. The Federal Railroad Administration never explicitly approved the Project Labor Agreement. The national office of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) realized this and sent a letter dated January 17, 2013 to the head of the Federal Railroad Administration asking for more information. A letter back to ABC from the Federal Railroad Administration dated March 26, 2013 stated that “We have received CHSRA’s analysis demonstrating that the proposed CBA is consistent with California’s procurement practices and policies and is otherwise consistent with state law” and also that “FRA understands the CHSRA is evaluating whether the HST project meets the criteria established in the Executive Order.”
  2. The union Project Labor Agreement itself is mentioned only in passing, even though by this time it is to be the vehicle for any alleged efforts to hire any “targeted” workers.
  3. The hiring policy no longer focuses on employment opportunities for workers in the Central Valley, where the construction will be performed.

According to the transcript of the November 14, 2012 meeting of the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board – speaking on behalf of the Fresno Works Consortium – made a presentation in conjunction with Chuck Riojas, a union official with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100. Blake Konczal told the following to the board:

…we were able to find out the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority in working with the Federal Transit Administration rather was addressing the same question. And through the Chief Legal counsel at FTA, at the Transit Administration, a man by the name of Dorvel Carter, an opinion was put forward that said it was possible to have focused or targeted hiring for areas of high long-term unemployment nationally. We were able to get ahold of the legal reasoning that went into that opinion. And through elected representatives in Fresno, a request was put forward to the Secretary of Transportation LaHood that it seemed that what the FTA was granting to Los Angeles County Transit was what the FRA was denying in our request. So Secretary LaHood asked there be a unified federal policy across the different administrations and we were able to generate a revised positive findings from Federal Rail Administration legal counsel Melissa Porter. I should mention the letters I’m referencing, I have copies if you want all went them. I can give them to you. We were ecstatic. We found a policy. We revised our policy to comport with the language that Los Angeles County had submitted and been analyzed. And then we communicated that information back to your Board.

Mr. Konczal does not mention how “we were able to find out” about the letter from the Federal Transit Administration to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Commission about the acceptability of the Project Labor Agreement. (Communication among officials of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers might be a good guess.) Nor does he name Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin as the local elected official who sent the inquiry to the U.S. Department of Transportation about using the language of that Project Labor Agreement for the California High-Speed Rail.

Mr. Konczal also added the following:

And to be clear up front and to clear up any misconception about what we’re proposing, we are not recommending a local hire program. We are not mandating the Authority or its contractors hire on the basis of any geographical region.

He is correct – the Project Labor Agreement subsequently included in the bid specifications for the Madera to Fresno segment as Addendum 8 is not a local hire program. Other than one passing reference in the preamble, there is nothing mentioned about Central Valley residents getting jobs. It is a UNION hire program, so it’s not surprising that Mr. Konczal introduced a representative of the unions to speak:

MR. KONZCAL: If I could ask Chuck Riojas to come up from the local IBEW also with the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings – I think that’s all of them – Building Trades Council.

Mr. Riojas then talks about union apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeship programs. He claims he’s “here not to speak as a union electrician” and that “This isn’t I’d like to stress a union or non-union document” because it would give “people the opportunity to come into the respective apprenticeship programs, be it union or non-union in any apprenticeable craft.” This is not true, of course: Article 1.2 of the Project Labor Agreement specifies that apprentices shall be registered and participating in Joint Labor/Management Apprenticeship Programs.

And in fact California High-Speed Rail Authority chairman Dan Richard concludes discussion of the proposal by noting “there had been a lot of very positive discussions with the construction trades, the represented union, and making sure that this program dovetails with what is the normal course of business there.” He has no qualms about the union requirements.

At their December 6, 2012 meeting, the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority approved a “Community Benefits Policy” that contained no references to a Project Labor Agreement. That policy was then incorporated internally and administratively into the Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, which was added to bid specifications in late December 2012.

Here are questions that remain to be answered:

  1. Is the Project Labor Agreement for California High-Speed Rail actually acceptable to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration?
  2. Did Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin know that she was submitting an inquiry to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation asking about the acceptability of a union Project Labor Agreement for the California High-Speed Rail? Why did she help the effort to give unions a monopoly on this project?
  3. Is there a connection between the quest of the Fresno Works Consortium for a Project Labor Agreement and the quest of the Fresno Works Consortium to get Fresno selected as the site for the California High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility?
  4. Why is there so little overt involvement of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors and staff in the development of the hiring policy? Was this to avoid an apparent conflict of interest involving the board member who was head of the state’s construction unions? Or are there reasons not yet known that might be troubling to the public if revealed?
  5. To what extent did Fresno-based California High-Speed Rail Authority board member Tom Richards know about the union Project Labor Agreement?
  6. Who tipped off the Fresno Works Consortium that it should adopt the Project Labor Agreement and associated Construction Careers policy implemented at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority?
  7. Does this process build public confidence in California High-Speed Rail?
Background and Sources:

Project Labor Agreement for California High-Speed Rail

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 – www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 11, 2013

Community Benefits Policy for California High-Speed Rail

Project Labor Agreement for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Construction Careers Policy for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board (FRWIB) Board of Directors

Fresno Works Consortium

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin

January 6, 2012 Federal Railroad Administration Letter – California High-Speed Rail – Targeted Hiring

March 21, 2012 Fresno Works Consortium Revised Targeted Hiring Program for California High-Speed Rail

June 19, 2012 Letter from Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to Federal Railroad Administration – Inquiry on Applying Project Labor Agreement to California High-Speed Rail

June 29, 2012 Letter from Federal Railroad Administration to Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin on Targeted Hiring Program for California High-Speed Rail

August 8, 2012 Legal Analysis for Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board of California High-Speed Rail Targeted Hiring Program

Transcript of November 14, 2012 Board Meeting for California High-Speed Rail Authority – Hints of Project Labor Agreement

January 17, 2013 Letter from Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) National Office to Federal Railroad Administration on California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement

March 26, 2013 Letter from Federal Railroad Administration to Associated Builders and Contractors on California High-Speed Rail Project Labor Agreement

April 11, 2013 Letter from Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board – Public Documents – Process Leading to Project Labor Agreement on California High-Speed Rail

California High-Speed Rail Authority Keeps Union Deal Out of Public Forums – my article in www.FlashReport.org – February 10, 2013

www.CaliforniaHighSpeedRailScam.com – your centralized source for key information about the debacle that is the California High-Speed Passenger Train for the 21st Century.

10,000 Households in Kings County Learn How Unions Are Extorting Solar Power Developers (Such as Recurrent Energy)

UPDATE: On October 1, 2012, the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow issued a press release announcing its follow-up to the 10,000 mailers: “Opponents of Union Manipulation of Mustang Ranch Solar Power Plant in Kings County Launch 10,000 Robo Calls About Union Greenmail on Project: Union Extortion Tactic Exposed to General Public in Widely Dispersed Automated Call.”


 

Front of mailer sent to 10,000 households in Kings County (California) informing residents about how unions are abusing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block solar power plant construction until the developers sign a Project Labor Agreement - a practice known as "greenmail."

Front of mailer sent to 10,000 households in Kings County (California) informing residents about how unions are abusing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block solar power plant construction until the developers sign a Project Labor Agreement – a practice known as “greenmail.”

Union CEQA Abuse Works! Please read: the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) signed by Recurrent Energy with unions for the construction of Mustang Solar Generation Project in Kings County, California.


Residents of Kings County (in the San Joaquin Valley of California) see local opportunities for economic growth and job creation through the construction and operation of proposed solar-powered electrical generation facilities. At the same time, residents worry about the possibility that out-of-town developers could build or partially build these solar power facilities on former farmland but then abandon them to rust when solar energy is found not to be profitable.

This is why the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow (ACT), a project of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC), mailed 10,000 educational pieces this week to Kings County households informing them that construction trade unions are abusing the the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to grab control of solar power construction jobs, in the process increasing costs of construction and risking the economic viability of solar energy generation in the San Joaquin Valley.

Back of mailer sent to 10,000 households in Kings County (California) informing residents about how unions are abusing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block solar power plant construction until the developers sign a Project Labor Agreement - a practice known as "greenmail."

Back of mailer sent to 10,000 households in Kings County (California) informing residents about how unions are abusing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block solar power plant construction until the developers sign a Project Labor Agreement – a practice known as “greenmail.”

In a press release issued today (September 25, 2012), the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow reported that it intended to make 10,000 Kings County households aware of the epidemic of union “greenmail” against renewable energy projects in the San Joaquin Valley – and specifically against Recurrent Energy‘s Mustang Solar Generation Project in Kings County.

Groups such as California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local No. 100 in Fresno exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other environmental laws to delay proposed projects. Their objective is to coerce developers to hand over monopoly control of the construction to unions through a Project Labor Agreement. The CEQA abuse racket is called “greenmail,” and it is rampant throughout California.

A San Francisco-based company, Recurrent Energy, succumbed to the union CEQA threats and signed a Project Labor Agreement for construction of the Mustang Solar Generation Project in Kings County.

Eric Christen, executive director of the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow, says the following in the September 25, 2012 press release:

For too long, construction unions have claimed, with a straight face, that solar power is bad for the environment. It’s as shameless as it is absurd. The unions block or threaten to block solar power projects using the California Environmental Quality Act – commonly known as CEQA – until the developer surrenders to the unions and agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). This is exactly what happened on the 160 megawatt solar power plant in Lemoore called the Mustang Solar Generation Project.

The press release also outlines the details of how greenmail works.

The Kings County Planning Commission had received this letter from CURE when Recurrent (Energy) first made its plans known for a Kings County project. Like rain in springtime, these implicitly threatening letters appear like clockwork as soon as a project is announced anywhere in California…The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 100 has a long history of hiring the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo out of South San Francisco to dig up alleged environmental problems with solar projects. One of the most prominent was the Fresno Airport Parking solar project in 2007.

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is cited in the Project Labor Agreement for the Mustang Solar Generation Project.

The press release concludes with the motivation for sending the mailers:

We’re going to make sure that Kings County residents and the people of California and the San Joaquin Valley know why solar power plants are so expensive, why they are taking so long to build, and why local workers don’t get to build them,” Christen added.

When will the California State Legislature reform CEQA to stop this?

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Issues Press Release on Planned Exposure of CEQA Attacks on Solar Power Projects – Kings County Planning Commission Meeting on August 6

Here’s a press release issued on Friday, August 3, 2012 from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction concerning a plan to expose union abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against proposed solar energy power plants in the San Joaquin Valley. The issue will be addressed by the public when the commissioners consider approval of the proposed 160 megawatt Recurrent Energy Mustang Solar Generation Project in Lemoore.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 3, 2012

Contact: Eric Christen, (858) 431-6337

Opponents of Union Manipulation of Solar Power Plant Developers in the San Joaquin Valley Will Expose and Condemn This Racket to the Kings County Planning Commission

Cat’s Out of the Bag at Planning Commission Meeting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, August 6

The August 6, 2012 meeting of the Kings County Planning Commission will become a forum to expose and condemn the epidemic of union “greenmail” against renewable energy projects in the San Joaquin Valley.

In the outrageous but still legal scheme of “Greenmail,” construction trade unions (such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 100 in Fresno) exploit environmental laws to delay proposed projects with the objective of coercing developers to hand over monopoly control of the construction to unions through a “Project Labor Agreement.”

“For too long, construction unions have claimed that solar power is bad for the environment,” said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. “It’s all a sham. The unions block or threaten to block solar power projects using the California Environmental Quality Act – commonly known as CEQA – until the developer surrenders to the unions and agrees to sign a Project Labor Agreement.”

At their meeting on August 6, the Kings County Planning Commission will consider approval of a 160 megawatt solar power plant in Lemoore called the Mustang Solar Generation Project.

The developer of the Mustang Solar Generation Project – Recurrent Energy of San Francisco – signed a Project Labor Agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 100 in Fresno. Read the Project Labor Agreement here.

We’re going to make sure the Kings County Planning Commission and the people of California and the San Joaquin Valley know why solar power plants are so expensive, why they are taking so long to build, and why local workers don’t get to build them” Christen said.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 100 has a long history of hiring the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo out of South San Francisco to dig up alleged environmental problems with solar projects. One of the most prominent was the Fresno Airport Parking solar project in 2007.

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is cited in the Project Labor Agreement for the Mustang Solar Generation Project.

###

Union Exploitation of CEQA to Coerce Project Labor Agreements from California Solar Energy Power Plant Developers Will Be EXPOSED at August 6 Kings County Planning Commission Meeting

During the past ten years, public testimony at several specific government meetings has initiated exposure of “greenmail” to a wide audience. The general public learns how construction unions and their environmental lawyers exploit California’s environmental protection laws to squeeze union-only Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) out of private developers. Not surprisingly, the public reaction is overwhelmingly negative.

Here are some of the most prominent specific examples of these past meetings:

  • The July 24, 2007 meeting of the Fresno City Council
  • The July 21, 2004 and August 2, 2006 meetings of the Roseville City Council
  • The October 21, 2008 meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors
  • The November 4, 2008 meeting of the Placer County Board of Supervisors
  • The February 8, 2011 meeting of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors

Now it looks like August 6, 2012 will be added to this list.

The August 6, 2012 meeting agenda for the Kings County Planning Commission includes this item under New Business:

2. Conditional Use Permit No. 11-09 (RE Mustang LLC) – The applicant proposes to establish a 160 Megawatt solar photovoltaic energy facility located at 15866 25th Avenue, Lemoore, CA. The proposed project is located on Assessor’s Parcel Numbers 024-260-004, 010, 011, and 016; 024-270-001, 004, 006, 007, 008, 010, 015, 016, 018, 022, 023, 024, and 025.

The Mustang Solar Generation Project in Lemoore is proposed by Recurrent Energy, a solar power plant developer based in San Francisco. The proposal comes with a special deal for a union: see the Project Labor Agreement imposed on this project here.

Unions Exploit CEQA to Win Costly Monopolies on Solar Power Plant Construction

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 100 in Fresno has retained the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo to block or threaten to block solar power plants in the San Joaquin Valley using CEQA – the California Environmental Quality Act (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.).

While there is no way of knowing the exact amount spent on this legal activity or who pays for it, the IBEW Local No. 100 LM-2 annual report for 2011 filed with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards indicates that the union spent $20,117 for legal services from Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

The union motivation is not to save Mother Earth (Gaia), but to coerce the developer into signing a Project Labor Agreement with the IBEW (and often other unions). Once this happens, union environmental concerns go away, and union officials start showing up at government meetings to support the project. See the minutes of the November 7, 2011 meeting of the Kings County Planning Commission for a brazen example of this racket:

Mr. [Sandy] Roper [Principal Planner for the Kings County Community Development Agency] reported that the applicant has entered into a written agreement with the commenter for the Union Group agreeing not to challenge the project…Kevin Cole, business manager for the electrician’s [sic] union organization, stated they are very pleased with Solar Projects Solutions and are in favor of the project.

And an article in the November 8, 2011 Hanford Sentinel newspaper entitled “Four Solar Projects Get County OK” also alluded to the union monopoly:

Also in attendance Tuesday night were representatives of electrical contractors and unions hit hard by the loss of construction jobs as a result of the recession. They praised the projects, saying they would provide badly needed work.

“We have been decimated by the economy,” said Kevin Cole, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union branch in Fresno. “This is an excellent opportunity to get my men and apprentices back to work.”

The electrical contractor representative was Matt Furrer, branch manager for Contra Costa Electric, Inc., a unionized contractor in a collective bargaining agreement with the IBEW.

On Behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted a Records Request to Kings County on the Mustang Solar Project

Click here to read the January 27, 2012 letter from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) requesting notification about any environmental documents or hearings concerning Recurrent Energy’s Mustang Solar Project. Could this be considered a shot across the bow?

Study the Project Labor Agreement for the Mustang Solar Project

All electrical contractors that work on the Recurrent Energy Mustang Solar Generation Project will be required to sign and abide by this Project Labor Agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100, based in Fresno. If Recurrent Energy sells the project or another developer gets the project after a bankruptcy proceeding, the Project Labor Agreement comes with the package. (See Section 12)

This Project Labor Agreement locks a broad swath of work under the jurisdiction of the IBEW, obviously to prevent unions representing other trades (such as the Laborers) from getting a piece of the action. (See Sections 3.1 and 3.2) It states that the union will be the sole source of all craft employees for work covered under the Project Labor Agreement. (See Section 6.3) It requires all contractor employees performing that work to be or become and remain members of the union in good standing – in other words, pay union dues and fees. (See Section 6.2)

According to the IBEW Local No. 100 LM-2 annual report for 2011 filed with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, regular dues and fees ranged between $15.30 and $29.30 per month, working dues ranged between 2.5% and 5.0% of gross pay per hour, and initiation fees ranged between $25.00 and $102.00.)

Who developed this Project Labor Agreement? Section 13.8 lists four interested parties to receive any notices related to it:

  1. Judith A. Hall, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the victim, Recurrent Energy.
  2. John S. (Rocky) Miller Jr., an attorney with the law firm of Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP in Los Angeles who often represents construction trade associations, contractors, and developers in negotiations for union agreements. It might be a good guess that he helped to negotiate the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of Recurrent Energy.
  3. Kevin Cole, Business Manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100, based in Fresno.
  4. Daniel Cardozo of the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

The agreement was signed on April 9, 2012.

Local Workers Have Had Enough of the IBEW Environmental Scam

It’s expected that the August 6 meeting of the Kings County Planning Commission will be packed with local non-union electricians intent on deriding the IBEW union for its anti-competitive, monopoly-seeking CEQA abuse. Here are excerpts from an email now circulating among community leaders in Kings County:

Between the High Speed Rail Authority and the flood of solar energy power plant developers, you’re probably sick of outsiders intruding into Kings County.

You may have heard that a law firm out of South San Francisco called Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has been identifying alleged environmental problems with the proposed solar power plant projects in the San Joaquin Valley, including in Fresno, Tulare, Kern, and Kings counties.

And then all of a sudden, they don’t see anything wrong with the projects anymore.

Construction unions hire the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and block proposed solar projects until the developer surrenders and agrees to sign a “Project Labor Agreement” that gives unions monopoly control of building the project. See the Project Labor Agreement for the proposed Recurrent Energy Mustang Solar Generation Project in Lemoore here.

Once these union monopolies are secured, the proposed projects become the most wonderful, planet-saving, global warming-fighting projects ever seen. The projects suddenly have the power to save the Santa Cruz Boardwalk from drowning in the ocean, and snow will forever fall in the Sierras.

Of course, there are additional greenhouse gas emissions as union workers drive into Kings County from the Bay Area to work on the projects, but that is not a concern to the unions.

Now, there are some problems with this arrangement:

  1. How will these solar power developers in Kings County make a profit if they have to give unions the construction and maintenance work on their costly terms without any sort of legitimate competition?
  2. Will these power plants become rusting, weed-tangled eyesores after the state loses interest in the “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006” and the developers have to pay up on their loans?
  3. Will anyone from Kings County actually get a chance to build these projects, with hundreds of unemployed union workers in the big cities waiting for dispatch from the hiring hall “out-of-work” lists to distant jobs in the San Joaquin Valley?

On Monday, August 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Kings County Administration Building No. 1 (1400 West Lacey Boulevard in Hanford), the Kings County Planning Commission will consider approval of some of these solar energy projects.

Union officials will be there as usual to support the projects and talk about how wonderful they are for the planet. But this time, there will be a response to their cynical Public Relations campaign.

We will be there to distribute their Project Labor Agreement, expose their “greenmail,” and shame them and their San Francisco lawyers back to union headquarters, so they won’t return until they build the High Speed Rail through your communities. (Speaking of union-only construction projects under Project Labor Agreements that could become rusting, weed-entangled eyesores after the state loses interest in fighting global warming…)

Won’t you join us to watch or participate in the Kings County Extortion Exposure Party? Once again, it’s on Monday, August 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Kings County Administration Building No. 1 (1400 West Lacey Boulevard in Hanford).

Public Exposure of Greenmail Can Be Very Embarassing for Unions and Their Lawyers

This will not be the first time that local businesses, business groups, and workers have publicly criticized the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100 in Fresno and their hired South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

On July 24, 2007, the Fresno City Council voted 7-0 to reject a baseless and absurd public appeal objecting on environmental grounds to the city council’s approval of a two-megawatt solar panel system to supply energy to Fresno International Airport. The appeal was filed by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of the Fresno-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 100.

Representatives of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction spoke before the city council and described how unions and this law firm exploit California’s environmental laws to delay projects and increase project costs in order to extort Project Labor Agreements and other commitments from developers to use union workers. Representatives of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce and the California Solar Energy Industries Association (Cal-SEIA) also expressed general concerns about the legitimacy of the appeal.

While some city council members appreciated ABC’s exposure of the “greenmail” racket, other city council members were furious about it. Councilman Mike Dages declared ABC’s statements to be “rude” (apparently he was referring to my blunt comments about reality), insulted the developer, and insinuated that the appeal was justified to force the developer to “work with the unions.” By the end of the hearing, it was obvious that everyone in the council chamber recognized that the appeal was about Project Labor Agreements and not about the potential environmental damage caused by solar panels. See the meeting minutes here.

The July 25, 2007 Fresno Bee newspaper article “Fresno Won’t Halt Airport Project” reported on the union appeal and the hostile response. And the developer successfully built the project in the end without a Project Labor Agreement.

Where the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust Spends Its Money: Now We See How Unions Spread It

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is an arcane entity authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Since its founding in 2006, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has collected $5,110,095 in receipts, consisting of $2.6 million in seed money from another trust, about $1.7 million in “membership dues” (paid by power plant owners and contractors as a condition of Project Labor Agreements extracted by California Unions for Reliable Energy), and $450,000 in net investment returns. A chart of the organization’s finances is at the end of this post.

Where does the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust send its millions of dollars? I attempted to find out using the organization’s IRS Form 990s (2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008), state and local campaign finance reports, and other sources. See the list below.

1.  $1,095,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No on Measure A, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 5, 2012 election in City of San Diego)

As of May 25, 2012, the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust has contributed $1,095,000 to the campaign committee opposing Proposition A, a “Fair and Open Competition” measure on the June 5, 2012 ballot in the City of San Diego that would prohibit the city from requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on a taxpayer-funded project. The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust has provided 92% of all receipts for this campaign committee.

2.  $770,000 – UCLA Labor Center (aka UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education), part of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has contributed a cumulative total of $770,000 to the UCLA Labor Center, primarily or exclusively for the establishment and operation of the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy, a propaganda operation that issues biased studies and bogus reports about construction labor issues using the UCLA name and affiliation.

The UCLA Office of Research Administration’s Office of Contract and Grant Administration received $250,000 in 2010-11, $250,000 in 2009-10, and $150,000 in 2008-09 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. In 2007-08, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $120,000 for a “Workforce Development Leadership Academy Grant” sent to PO Box 951478 in Los Angeles, zip code 90095. (This is the address for the UCLA Labor Center.)

There seems to be confusion at the UCLA Labor Center about how much the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has contributed to the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy. The 2010-11 annual report for the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education recognizes a grant of $450,000 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, but a footnote added on April 4, 2012 indicates that the $450,000 is a cumulative amount for several years, with $180,000 as the actual amount for 2010-11. A press release from the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy tries to rebut a March 27, 2012 article from www.PublicCEO.com entitled Project Labor Agreement Debate is as Complex as It is Conflicted by stating that “according to the 2009 990 IRS Form, the UCLA Labor Center received $450,000. In fact, when clicking on the document, the amount the Labor Center received was $180,000.” (See this link: Correction on PublicCEO.com Post: CCA Advances Broad Construction Industry InterestsCalifornia Construction Academy: A Project of the UCLA Labor Center – March 27, 2012.) PublicCEO.com then countered with its own correction that stated “Editors note: Originally, the UCLA Annual Report showed a donation of $450,000, as was reported in this article. That was an incorrect total. The report, and this article, now accurately reflect a donation of $250,000. The $450,000 UCLA reported was a total of several years.”

This outfit of five professional staff promotes the political agenda of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, including government-mandated Project Labor Agreements and union control of so-called “green jobs” in the construction industry. The founding Academy Director and Senior Advisor is David Sickler, former Southern California Regional Director of the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The advisory board for the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education consists extensively of officials representing building trades unions. 

The UCLA Labor Center California Construction Academy was the organization used by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California to awkwardly and ineffectively challenge a study published in July 2011 by the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego indicating that schools built in California with Project Labor Agreements cost 13%-15% more than schools built under fair and open competition. As part of this response, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust mailed a letter to local elected officials throughout the state attacking the study, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson mailed a letter to county superintendents and other educational officials attacking the study and providing the report from the UCLA Labor Center California Construction Academy.

3.  $250,000 – No 98/Yes 99 – A Committee of City and County Associations, Taxpayers and Environmental Groups, League of California Cities, Californians for Neighborhood Protection, Coalition of Conservationists

On April 7, 2008, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $250,000 to this No on 98/Yes on 99 campaign committee to oppose a statewide ballot proposition on the June 2008 ballot that would have restricted the ability of governments to gain possession of private property through eminent domain. The proposition failed – it only received 39% of the vote.

4.  $164,550 – “Other” (?)

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports that it spent $164,550 on “Other” fees for services (non-employees) in 2010-11. No additional information is given, and these expenditures are not classified as administrative, accounting, or legal services. I’m unable to determine where this money went, but I’m guessing it was used for something political that promoted unions and socked it to California taxpayers. Any ideas?

Contrary to some rumors, “Other” does not appear to be the union front group Citizens Against Identity Theft and Ballot Fraud, sponsored by labor organizations, which funded a radio advertising scam in the summer of 2011 meant to discourage Sacramento and San Diego voters from signing petitions to place Fair and Open Competition measures and a Paycheck Protection initiative on the 2012 ballots. See my post thoroughly outlining this scheme here.

5.  $100,000 – Apollo Alliance

The Apollo Alliance received $75,000 in 2010-11 and $25,000 in 2009-10 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. This is currently a project of the Blue-Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental organizations and unions on a quest to stop global warming through government programs and a union workforce. President Obama’s former “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones was an influential founder and leader of this organization.

6.  $100,000 – Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop in San Joaquin County

In 2007-08, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $100,000 to the San Joaquin Office of Education’s Career and Technical Education Program to establish a Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop.

The story behind this contribution is a mystery. Public records provided by the San Joaquin Office of Education in October 2011 did not include any documents dated earlier than September 17, 2007, when the former County Superintendent sent a letter to Bob Balgenorth (chairman of the the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and chairman of California Unions for Reliable Energy – CURE) thanking him for the contribution. Surely there was something beforehand that led to a private contribution of $100,000 arriving at the office! Those kinds of checks usually don’t arrive in the mail without extensive solicitation.

In addition, the records did not indicate whether or not the Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop was ever built. Where are the two plaques celebrating Bob Balgenorth (as referenced in the letter)? When was the photo op? Where are the photos? How was the money spent?

In May 2007, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the county’s New Administration Building. (See my post here providing some background on that vote.) Is there a connection between the two incidents? 

7.  $50,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No On Measure G, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 8, 2010 election in City of Chula Vista)

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust contributed $50,000 to the campaign committee opposing Proposition G, a “Fair and Open Competition” measure on the June 8, 2010 ballot in the City of Chula Vista that would prohibit the city from requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on a taxpayer-funded project. The funding was in vain, as 56.37% of Chula Vista voters approved the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance is now Chula Vista Municipal Code Section 02-59. At the behest of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Governor Brown and the Democrat Party leadership in the California State Legislature tried to financially punish the citizens of Chula Vista for enacting this ballot measure with Senate Bill 922 (signed into law in 2011) and Senate Bill 829 (signed into law in 2012). See my blog posts about these laws here and here.

8.  $50,000 – Fresno Area Construction Team (F.A.C.T.)

A group called the Fresno Area Construction Team received $50,000 in 2010-11 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Trust to promote union contractors, union construction, and union apprenticeship programs in the Central Valley. It appears to have the involvement of the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 162, Plumbers Union Local No. 246, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100. This group advertises, spent $51,862 on “consulting,” and even spent $992 on “travel and entertainment for public officials,” according to this form.

Financials: California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust

Year Gross Receipts Contributions & Grants/Program Service Revenue/Other Investment Income Total Revenue
   $ 2,595,954 “Contribution from Prior Trust”
2007-08  $    593,950  $    283,670  $      97,150  $    380,820
2008-09  $    463,792  $    506,403  $    (42,611)  $    463,792
2009-10  $    522,782  $    274,437  $    200,583  $    475,020
2010-11  $    933,617  $    678,209  $    195,780  $    873,989
Total  $ 5,110,095  $ 1,742,719  $    450,902  $ 2,193,621

 

Year Grants & Similar Amounts Other Expenses Total Expenses
2007-08  $    220,000  $    290,859.  $    510,859
2008-09  $    150,000  $      21,143  $    171,143
2009-10  $    205,000  $      16,839  $    221,830
2010-11  $    375,000  $    234,319  $    609,319
Total  $    950,000  $    563,160  $ 1,513,151

 

Year Revenue Minus Expenses Total Assets
2007-08  $  (130,039)  $ 2,595,954
2008-09  $    292,649  $ 2,888,603
2009-10  $    253,181  $ 3,141,784
2010-11  $    264,670  $ 3,406,454