Tag Archive for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 11 (Los Angeles)

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.

Unions Want Port of Long Beach to Require Contractors to Sign Project Labor Agreement to Build Proposed Downtown New Port Headquarters

Port of Long Beach Headquarters

Port of Long Beach Headquarters

The Long Beach Press-Telegram has always been diligent in reporting labor policy aspects of proposed local construction projects. It reports in its November 13, 2012 article Port of Long Beach Officials Urge Caution in Headquarters Site Search that construction union officials are publicly calling for the Board of Harbor Commissioners for the Port of Long Beach to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on a long-proposed new headquarters building.

A couple of people at the meeting – including Tommy Faavae of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 11 – were happy that a new building is being considered, wherever it may be.

Faavae asked that the port consider a project labor agreement when it is ready to build.

“I feel that a project labor agreement would bring a project on time and under budget and create real good jobs that’s needed here at the port,” he said.

The commissioners of the Port of Long Beach require contractors to sign these Project Labor Agreement for three major projects: Middle Harbor Stages 1 & 2 Project Labor Agreement 2010Gerald Desmond Bridge Project Labor Agreement 2012North Middle Harbor Project Labor Agreement 2012.

The Long Beach City Council approves the mayor’s appointments to the board of harbor commissioners. Consistent with its routine approval of costly and intrusive policies typical of other California coastal cities, the Long Beach City Council requires contractors to sign this Project Labor Agreement: City of Long Beach Airport Terminal Improvements Phase 1 Project Labor Agreement 2010.

Not so long ago the Long Beach City Council could be described as having a “conservative” or “pro-business” majority. (See LONG BEACH: Donelon Leads in Special Election for City Council – Los Angeles Times – February 8, 1995.) The Left has been whittling away at the city council for years, and now there is only one city council member who could be reasonably described as a fiscal conservative – Republican Gary DeLong, who just lost an election for the 47th Congressional district that encompasses parts of Long Beach and Orange County. DeLong was the one vote at the Long Beach City Council’s August 3, 2010 meeting against the Project Labor Agreement for the airport.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster is an outspoken supporter of Project Labor Agreements and claimed in March 2010 before the Harbor Commissioners vote for the Middle Harbor Stage 1 Project Labor Agreement that “in his experience, PLAs always come in ahead of schedule and under budget, and have the added benefits of employing local residents and offering career opportunities for young people.” It’s uncertain where that experience came from, as that was the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in Long Beach, but perhaps he’s referring to energy infrastructure projects built by Southern California Edison when he was CEO of that utility. If they exist, such Project Labor Agreements are not generally available and their performance cannot generally be assessed.

Under these current political circumstances, expect a Project Labor Agreement on the new Port of Long Beach headquarters, if it ever becomes reality.

National Labor College Selling Its Campus (That’s OK, Taxpayers Are Funding Dozens of Labor Colleges at State Universities Anyway)

The blog “Union Organizer,” maintained by a Los Angeles-based “International Lead Organizer” for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) named Bob Oedy (see his web site at www.unionorganizer.com), appears to have broken the news story on the web that the National Labor College is selling its Silver Spring, Maryland campus (just outside of Washington, D.C.) and dedicating itself exclusively to on-line instruction and degrees.

His blog is also the only place I could find on the web that posted this official April 9, 2012 announcement: Email Statement of President Paula E. Peinovich of National Labor College/George Meany Center. Mr. Oedy is a graduate of the National Labor College with a B.A. in Labor Studies.

I first became aware of the existence of the National Labor College when I learned about a senior thesis entitled “Unrelenting Pursuit of the Non-Signatory Electrical Contractors in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s $11 Billion of Construction Work: Subscription Agreements.” To complete her requirements for a B.A. in Labor Studies at the National Labor College in 2004, a compliance official for IBEW Local 11 named Diana Limon wrote about how this Los Angeles-based IBEW local union compels non-union electrical contractors of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to make their employer payments for fringe benefits to IBEW-affiliated trust funds, as they are required to do under the school district’s Project Labor Agreement (PLA). As you can see from this July 7, 2004 article on the IBEW web site, IBEW Local 11 officials actively used the National Labor College program.

I was unable to find ANY references whatsoever on the National Labor College web site about the closing of the physical campus, nor any hints that the college might soon lose its “accreditation.” A web site called Inside Higher Education reported on the closure on April 10. (See “National Labor College Will Sell Its Campus” and read the comments too.) The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on April 16 that “labor historians” were concerned that a “Key Labor Archive May Be Inaccessible After Labor College Sells Campus.” The May 3 Washington Times triumphantly reported “Big Labor Forced to Sell Its Only College” and declared the move to be “the latest sign of the fast-shrinking Big Labor movement.”

My personal opinion is that most post-secondary education providers – including the ones described as “colleges” – don’t need a physical campus and don’t need to submit to the indignities of any accreditation system either. Why would hard-core union ideologues feel the need to conform to the trappings of corporatized higher education? It reminds me of young Occupy Wall Street activists who condemn corporations but seem blind to how the government-academia complex gave them empty and meaningless educations at outrageous prices.

If certain union officials or union activists want “prestige” associated with their education in Labor Studies or Union Organizing, they can simply use one of the dozens of biased, taxpayer-funded labor studies programs based at state universities across the country, such as the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program or the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Another Potential Setback for Fair and Open Bid Competition: Palmdale Water District Will Look at Repealing Project Labor Agreement Ban

Kevin Korenthal of KOREN Communications in Santa Clarita – a former Government Affairs Director for the Los Angeles/Ventura Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) – has tipped me off that construction unions are pushing hard for the repeal of a resolution passed by the Palmdale Water District Board of Directors in October 2010 that prohibits the district (based in the City of Palmdale, in Los Angeles County) from requiring its contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with unions.

Mr. Korenthal is a reliable source of information and well-connected among water district officials in northern Los Angeles County; he ran for the board of directors of the Castaic Lake Water Agency in 2010. He lost after a blistering election featuring massive campaign expenditures against him by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 11 in Los Angeles, both directly to his opponent and through its independent expenditure committee, “Working Californians for Clean, Safe, and Affordable Water Against Korenthal for Director of Castiac Lake Water Agency, Division One, 2010.” He was also a witness to all of the Project Labor Agreement antics at the Palmdale Water District since January 2007, which I summarized in this October 27, 2010 blog posting on the www.thetruthaboutPLAs.com web site.

The defeat of two incumbent water board members in the 2010 election has led to this new local legislative effort to bring down the Fair and Open Competition resolution. Here is Item #7.1 on the April 25 meeting agenda for the current Palmdale Water District Board of Directors

Reconsideration and possible action on Resolution No. 10-20 Amending Appendix M, the Bid Procurement and Change Order Policy, of the Rules and Regulations of the Palmdale Water District to Include Provisions Prohibiting the Requirement of Project Labor Agreements and Other Anticompetitive Measures Except Where Otherwise Required by State or Federal Law. (Director Dizmang)

I am posting below the text of the letter that Kevin Korenthal has emailed to the Palmdale Water District Board of Directors:

From: Kevin D. Korenthal
Sent: Monday, April 23, 2012 1:53 PM
To: Palmdale Water District Board of Directors
Subject: Palmdale Water District Item 7.1 Reconsideration of Open Competition Policy

Honorable Board Members of the Palmdale Water District:

I want to begin by introducing myself to those of you who I have not already met or communicated with. I am a 30 year resident of nearby Santa Clarita and have strong family, political and business ties to the communities of Palmdale & Lancaster.

For the past 6 years I have been intimately involved in union construction-related issues around the state of California. Among my duties in this area have been general government affairs for the Merit Shop trade association of Associated Builders & Contractors Los Angeles/Ventura/Kern County Chapters and most recently, the staff leader of the ABC-CCC, a non-profit cooperation committee devoted to studying and commenting on Prevailing Wage issues in CA. Today I represent non-union contractors and their workforces at large through my Public Relations and Government Affairs consulting firm. As you might imagine, this advocacy does not pay very well but I press on with this work because deep study of the issues has convinced me that it is important for elected officials and the public at large to know the truth about discriminatory policies like Government Mandated PLAs.

In 2007 I participated with a group of local contractors, elected officials and other trade associations in a campaign to rescind a legitimately discriminatory policy that limited how an electrician working on City of Palmdale projects may have received his/her training. This policy would have discriminated against electricians that learned their craft in the military, in a trade technical school or by the passing down of skills from one generation of contractor to the next. See the original policy here and the replacement policy here.

I have also been involved in the PLA discussion at the Water District since the issue was first raised by labor-supported board members in October of 2006. The attached article from today’s Antelope Valley Press goes into further detail about the background and my involvement in this issue culminating in the vote to require open bidding on District Projects in 2010.

The current discussion about Government Mandated Project Labor Agreements and policies that discourage them is really more about the ability of local municipalities like The Palmdale Water District to make decisions about District issues that have a fundamental effect on ratepayers and taxpayers. Local municipalities around California have weighed the cost of certain labor-driven policies like PLAs, and have determined that they are not in the best interest of their constituents. The communities of Chula Vista, Oceanside and San Diego County have all voted in favor of Open Competition ballot initiatives. The Palmdale Water District joins Orange County, The City of Fresno, Placer County and Stanislaus County in approving open competition resolutions/ordinances at the board level.  In response, the Democrat-controlled Legislature in Sacramento has sought to tie the hands of municipalities that enact such policies.

California Senate Bill 922, one of dozens of Pro Labor Bills signed by Governor Brown in mid-2011 says in unambiguous language that communities that require construction projects be bid openly and free of union requirements will not be eligible to receive state funding participation. SB 922 is not, as its supporters in Labor have described it, permission for contractors to use PLAs on public works construction projects. Contractors already have the right to use PLAs. The discussion we have before us relates to the mandate by government that construction contractors winning bids on Public Works projects must use a PLA. This issue is about government picking winners and losers in the public works contracting arena.

(Editor’s Note: see my post about the history and ramifications of Senate Bill 922 here.)

Opponents of the Fair and Open Competition Resolution have pointed to SB 922 as verification that demanding open bidding is somehow discriminatory to unionized workers. This claim is false in that union and non-union contractors are always free to bid and win or lose regardless of whether or not the municipality uses PLAs. The question has always been and continues to be; is it in the best interest of the taxpayers and ratepayers to require non-union contractors – who pay prevailing wages and benefits – to mix their workforce with unionized workers, pay into the union pension and health program and require their workers to pay union dues. After an open debate on the subject that lasted several hours, the Palmdale Water District voted to make it the policy of the district that it will leave it up to the winning contractor to decide if a PLA will be used.

In my comments Wednesday evening, I will be referring frequently to the 2011 lawsuit that the Building Trades filed against YOUR water district following the vote on the Resolution. In it, the Building Trades lawyers contend, but do not prove, that the absence of the ability of a municipality to require the use of a PLA is tantamount to discrimination. The court, having a wide breadth of both adjudicated and media-related study materials to refer to decided that in fact, no such discrimination has been proven. The court dismissed the suit with an invitation to labor to prove their claim of discrimination in a future lawsuit.

So are the Building Trades now setting the stage to build a case of discrimination by letting projects go to bid under the Open Competition Resolution? No. They are abandoning the judicial route and are instead using their perceived majority on the current PWD board to have the Resolution rescinded. Their argument for the rescission being the very same from the lawsuit that the judge did not find evidence for and for which the building trades are completely unwilling to have put to the test.

The reason for this is simple. It is much easier for labor to spread campaign dollars around and change the make-up of a board that enacts policies it does not like then it is to prove in a court of law that what they say is true.

Not only are policies against the use of Government Mandated PLAs not discriminatory, but it is the Government Mandated PLA itself that discourages non-union contractors from bidding on projects thus disenfranchising the family of workers that those contractors employ.

I thank you for your time and look forward to continuing this conversation Wednesday evening.

Respectfully,

Kevin D. Korenthal
KOREN Communications