As of today, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner says he will remain in office despite women accusing him of sexual harassment. For the mayor, this is the most damaging of several recent scandals that include a mysterious trip to Paris, a generous complimentary refurbishing of the mayor’s office reception area, and alleged demands for payments in exchange for project approval.
While some of Mayor Filner’s staff have resigned in recent weeks, other people are coming into his administration to fill the power vacuum. And who better to become entrenched in this scandal-ridden administration than union officials?
Jennifer Badgley, Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs
Apparently the mayor has brought on a former (or current) professional organizer and political director of San Diego’s International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 569. Jennifer Badgley has recently become the “Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs” for Mayor Filner, according to her Linked In profile.
She arrived just in time! A vote at the San Diego City Council is scheduled on July 30, 2013 to adopt a union-backed ordinance proposed by Mayor Filner to require construction companies with city contracts to pay wage rates (“prevailing wages”) set by the State of California. Since 1980, the City of San Diego has exercised its authority as a charter city to issue contracts for most purely municipal projects without state-mandated wage rates, as a result saving money for taxpayers. Filner’s proposal would submit the City of San Diego to state law regarding wage rates on public works projects.
Circumstances have now allowed the mayor’s Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs to be the coauthor of a July 16, 2013 propaganda memo to the San Diego City Council arguing why city taxpayers should pay more for construction and why the city bureaucracy should be entangled in $250,000 worth of monitoring and enforcement of cumbersome unfunded state mandates per $100 million spent on construction. Some of the highlights of this memo:
- It disparages the city’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, which issued a Review of Proposal to Require Compliance with the State’s Prevailing Wage Laws on All City Public Works Projects. The review estimated a cost increase of 5 to 10 percent on projects and noted “the likely trade off in the form of higher capital project costs and the resulting impact to infrastructure programs which are a high priority for the City.”
- It claims that the state exempts volunteers from prevailing wage requirements, but doesn’t note that the exemption has an expiration date and that certain unions have objected to this exemption.
- It cites and provides text of the 2010 Azusa Land Partners v. Department of Industrial Relations California appellate court decision that expanded prevailing wage to certain private housing developments, but it doesn’t mention the much more relevant 2012 California Supreme Court decision in State Building & Construction Trades Council of California v. City of Vista. Unions lost this case badly when the California Supreme Court upheld the right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for purely municipal contracts.
- It reports that “staff presented this proposal to construction industry stakeholders at their quarterly meeting on June 20, 2013,” apparently through a presentation by Murtaza Baxamusa, City of San Diego, Office of the Mayor, Special Advisor for Public Policy. (See more about Baxamusa below.) The association representatives at the meeting were reportedly delighted about the proposal; of course, the groups listed as attending the meeting represent and provide contract negotiation and administration services to companies that choose to be bound under the requirements of union collective bargaining agreements. They have a financial interest in government increasing project costs.
Such an rigid approach to public policy as reflected in Badgley’s memo is consistent with her history of advancing the union agenda. In the summer of 2009, at a time when 20% of IBEW Local 569 members were unemployed, Badgley expressed pride in what she identified as her greatest accomplishment: derailing the plan of Gaylord Entertainment to build a $1.2 billion hotel and convention center in Chula Vista because the company wouldn’t sign a Project Labor Agreement guaranteeing 100% of the construction trade work to unions. A July 6, 2009 profile on the now-defunct San Diego News Network web site reported her perspective as part of an interview to reveal her “journey” as she sought to “create broader social change.”
Badgley is or was married to Tefere Gebre, the executive director of the Orange County Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, who is expected to become the next Executive Vice President of the national AFL-CIO. In 2012 he proclaimed The Truth About the Right-Wing’s Latest Scheme to Punish Workers in Costa Mesa, and in 2009 he decried “The assault on Orange County by Colorado-based zealot Eric Christensen (sic) and Supervisor John Moorlach.” Gebre caused a stir in August 2007 when he sent Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction a bizarre email claiming that he saw Christen “on TV as a gay whitehouse corspondent.” (sic)
Murtaza Baxamusa, Special Advisor for Public Policy
Murtaza Baxamusa used to churn out policy reports for the union-backed Center on Policy Initiatives in San Diego. He was a founder of the phony Middle Class Taxpayers Association, which advocates for union-backed initiatives that increase costs to taxpayers. In 2011 he was hired as Director of Planning and Development for the San Diego County Building Trades Council Family Housing Corporation. The San Diego County Building Trades Family Housing Corporation contributed $85,000 to the November 2012 campaign to pass Proposition Z, a $2.8 billion bond measure with a Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Unified School District. It’s unclear if Baxamusa is still employed at the union housing corporation.
Mayor Bob Filner’s Support for the Union Political Agenda
Bob Filner, the Mayor of the City of San Diego, has long supported the political agenda of construction trade unions. Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction wrote in an opinion piece in Voice of San Diego on July 20, 2007 that Filner had “an almost canine affection for doing the unions’ bidding.”
In 1999, then-Congressman Filner recognized Art Lujan of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO for his leadership in the San Diego labor movement. He noted that “Art successfully secured a Project Labor Agreement with the County Water Authority resulting in over $700 million in construction projects throughout the next eight years.” This was the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in San Diego County.
As a member of Congress in 2007, Filner blamed Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox for the decision of Gaylord Entertainment to withdraw its proposal to build a $1.2 billion hotel and conference center on the Chula Vista Bayfront. Unions were threatening to block the project with environmental objections unless the company signed a Project Labor Agreement to build the project. Filner apparently felt that Cox should have pressured Gaylord to give the unions what they wanted.
A letter to the editor in the July 15, 2007 San Diego Union-Tribune explained Filner’s political attack:
So now the finger-pointing begins. And the show is being led by Rep. Bob Filner, who demonstrated political grandstanding at its finest by swooping in to defend the unions. How much has he been involved in this process before now? And without demonstrating any personal effort in advancing the project, how does he justify a self-appointed role as the arbiter of who did what wrong?
In 2010, Filner wrote a letter on Congressional stationery (in apparent violation of U.S. House of Representatives ethics rules) to the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce telling them to oppose Proposition G. Prop G was a “fair and open competition” ballot measure to enact an ordinance prohibiting the City of Chula Vista from entering into contracts that required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work. Filner claimed that it would be a “fool’s errand” to obtain federal funding for the City of Chula Vista if voters approved Proposition G. On June 6, 2010, 56% of Chula Vista voters supported Proposition G, and Filner subsequently played the fool and continued to send federal money there.
Of course Filner supported the Project Labor Agreement that the board of the San Diego Unified School District imposed on $4.9 billion in construction (not including state matching grants) approved by voters as Proposition S in 2008 and the subsequent Proposition Z in 2012. And citing arguments from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), he wrote letters to the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 and 2010 opposing Sempra Energy’s construction of an electricity transmission line between Mexico and San Diego County.
And notably, he recognized Murtaza Baxamura in 2012 in the Congressional Record. Now Baxamura is on his staff, pushing for government-mandated construction wage rates.