Tag Archive for Project Labor Agreements
My November 5, 2015 article published at www.UnionWatch.org entitled Will Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees Crumble Against Union Power? outlines the history of Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees in reviewing and making recommendations on proposed Project Labor Agreements at California school and community college districts.
What’s the latest addition to this history? On November 12, 2015, the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District voted 7-1 to recommend against a proposed Project Labor Agreement for a $398 million bond measure. Here is the text of the resolution:
The Citizens Bond Oversight Committee for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District approved the following recommendation at a special meeting on Thursday, November 12, 2015 by a vote of 7 in favor of the motion, one opposed to motion, and one recused as follows:
The CBOC has reviewed the concept of a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) and recognizes why some responsible and fully capable companies may choose not to bid certain projects if a PLA is required as part of the GCCCD construction contract. We believe that a PLA, if implemented with Proposition V, would discourage competitive bidding and may increase costs, impact how the bond money is used, and undermine the District’s efforts to maximize bond revenues and achieve cost savings. Also, it is apparent that under a PLA, local non-union workers (especially apprentices) will not be treated equally in comparison with union workers which would constitute a violation of the Board’s prior Bond resolution. Furthermore, evidence was presented to the CBOC indicating that without the use of a PLA, no significant problems occurred on the previous Proposition R bond projects and none are expected to occur on the Proposition V projects. Therefore, there is no substantial taxpayer interest that could reasonably require the District to establish a PLA for all of the Proposition V projects.
For these reasons and in order to maintain voter confidence of the District, the CBOC recommends that the Board of Trustees does not continue with its plan to require construction companies to sign a PLA or negotiate a PLA for Proposition V projects. Furthermore, we recommend that the District be open and transparent on future bond measures and tell the voters if a PLA is being considered at some point prior to the ballot going before the voters. We believe it irresponsible to implement a PLA based on the language in the current Bond.
The typical Project Labor Agreement deliberation at California local governments often endures for hours, with several dozen speakers pounding away with their arguments and attacks on their opponents. Presiding officers of local agency boards routinely declare that the Project Labor Agreement item has set a record for most submitted speaker cards. Arguably this is the most intense and contentious issue now encountered on the local level in California.
Now the elected board of the Chula Vista Elementary School District is trying to slip a Project Labor Agreement through the process without experiencing the obligatory legislative agonies. The meeting agenda for April 15, 2015 assigns the item to the consent calendar as Item 5P.
In 2010, 56% of voters in the City of Chula Vista voted for Measure G, which prohibited the city from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions. Nevertheless, the board decided to put the item on the consent calendar.
Update: at the meeting, a board member removed the item from the consent calendar, and several supporters and opponents spoke on it. The board then approved it on a 4-1 vote.
California Public Agencies Revert to Closed Session When Construction Unions Have a Spat Over Who Gets Taxpayers’ Money
UPDATE (November 13, 2013): At its November 12, 2013 meeting, the board of trustees for Rancho Santiago Community College District voted unanimously to continue a practice adopted in August 2013 not to discuss its Measure Q Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session until the college chancellor gets legal clarification from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. An opinion from the Attorney General is not likely to be produced for several months.
Speaking in support of having the discussions in open session was Dave Everett, Government Affairs Director for the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, and Craig Alexander of the Pacific Justice Institute. On behalf of trustee Phil Yarbrough, Alexander wrote a November 5, 2013 memo to the board explaining why discussing Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session was not legal.
The head of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council was at the meeting but didn’t speak. Also silent was board member José Solorio, who is running for California State Senate in 2014 and appears to be the impetus for the Project Labor Agreement.
During his public comments, Dave Everett asked the college to identify its source for the list of local governments that have discussed Project Labor Agreements in closed session. The chancellor responded that staff obtained the list, but Mr. Everett then asked if those governments had indicated their closed session discussions on public meeting agendas. The chancellor did not know. Mr. Everett then expressed concern that the list was provided by a union lawyer based on personal experience and knowledge – not a reliable source of information for making decisions concerning a $198 million bond measure.
In addition, when the board president asked Mr. Everett if he assumed the construction plan would not move forward while the college and unions were negotiating a Project Labor Agreement, Mr. Everett responded by asking “Are they planning the projects with or without a PLA?” The board president replied “I’m not going to tell you that” and then the Chancellor declared the exchange to be out of order.
Thank you to elected trustee Phil Yarbrough for being a champion of the people on this issue.
There are always a few “people on the fringe” who stubbornly fight for what is right after most people choose to acquiesce to the prevailing culture for their own good and the alleged “common good.” I’m told that a few aggressive opponents of the construction union political agenda are spoiling negotiations for “peace in our time” and making California’s political, corporate, and union leaders very angry.
Construction trade union lobbyists and lawyers are continuing to advance legislative strategies that will neutralize these people, described as “radicals” by one union official. These union strategies eliminate or circumvent structural checks and balances that advocates of fair and open competition use to expose and derail Project Labor Agreements and other union initiatives.
In my September 17, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org (California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements), I reported on “the end of public deliberation and votes for Project Labor Agreements in the legislative branch of state and local governments. Instead, backroom deals are made in the executive branch to give unions control of the work.”
Now, in my November 9, 2013 article in www.FlashReport.org entitled Smoothing Over Project Labor Agreement Disputes in Closed Session: The Latest Union Scheme for “Progress” in California, I report that “In order to evade public scrutiny of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for construction contracts, union officials are implementing a strategy to redirect certain discussions of this controversial issue into ‘closed session’ at board meetings of government agencies.” The board of trustees for the Rancho Santiago Community College District will discuss the legality of the practice at its November 12, 2013 meeting.
The public learned about this abuse of “closed session” through my July 23, 2013 article in www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com entitled Project Labor Agreement Negotiations Fail, Government Transparency Is Restored, Ferry Agency Resumes Fair and Open Bid Competition, followed by a July 27, 2013 article in the Vallejo Times-Herald, Vallejo Ferry Hub Accord in Jeopardy.
It’s not hard to figure out what’s happening. Ultimately, the negotiation and execution of Project Labor Agreements for government projects will always occur administratively through backroom deals, without unpleasant and embarrassing public discussions and votes. The perspectives of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, Associated Builders and Contractors, certain districts and chapters of Associated General Contractors, the Western Electrical Contractors Association, and local business and taxpayer groups will be moot.
“He’s Going to Be President One Day” – The Changing Positions of Candidate for San Diego Mayor Nathan Fletcher on Labor Policy Issues
In the mid-2000s, establishment Republican Party officials would tell me that a young man named Nathan Fletcher was going to be President of the United States one day. He was a good-looking “war hero” – an up-and-coming model candidate whose wife was a top advisor for President George W. Bush and then for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Soon Nathan Fletcher ran for office in an affluent area of San Diego – not for a mere school board or city council, but for the California State Legislature, where political talents often launch their lifelong quest for power, fame, and wealth. He was an undistinguished member of the Republican minority in the California State Assembly for two terms, from 2008 to 2012. He quit the Republican Party in March 2012 after the Republican Party of San Diego County didn’t endorse him among three Republican candidates running for Mayor of San Diego.
Ditching the Republican label transformed Fletcher into an innovative paragon of political enlightenment. His decision even received national attention and praise when New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote about it in A Moderate Conservative Dilemma.
Ordinary voters weren’t impressed. Fletcher came in third in the primary for Mayor of San Diego. He spent a lonely year unaffiliated with a political party, got himself some gigs as a corporate executive and as a “professor” at the University of California at San Diego, then joined the Democratic Party in May 2013. Now he’s running for Mayor of San Diego again, this time as a Democrat backed by power-brokers such as Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a friend of Fletcher who was the president of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council in 2012.
No one would identify Fletcher today as a “moderate conservative.” He has remade himself as a Silicon Valley-style liberal Democrat, glorifying a vague concept of “innovation” while endorsing government intervention in commerce and personal behavior to make the world a better place.
Just before the San Diego City Council ended 33 years of autonomy on city construction contracts and voted 5-4 to submit to state prevailing wage law, the San Diego Daily Transcript published an op-ed signed by Fletcher entitled Prevailing Wage: Good for Local Economy, Local Workers. He had opened his mind and decided that charter cities should let the state government set wage rates for city construction contracts based on employer payments indicated in union master labor agreements. I responded with the July 29, 2013 op-ed Did Nathan Fletcher Lose His Mind on Prevailing Wage?
It’s hard to pin down how Fletcher would act on specific issues, as his shtick is portraying himself as a pragmatist who doesn’t stoop to the abstract ideologies and philosophies that bind the thinking of bad people. However, behind the scenes he makes commitments to ensure campaign support from powerful political groups, such as labor unions.
After someone leaked Nathan Fletcher’s September 5, 2013 candidate questionnaire for the San Diego Imperial County Labor Council, Tony Krvaric, executive director of the Republican Party of San Diego County, analyzed the astonishing change in Fletcher’s positions on economic and labor issues in 18 months. Read the analysis and the signed questionnaire here:
The October 31, 2013 article Critics Focus on Fletcher’s About-Face on Issues in the UT San Diego notes Fletcher’s conversion (or “evolution”) on high-profile labor issues, including Project Labor Agreements:
Much has been made of Nathan Fletcher’s political evolution from Republican to independent to Democrat, but what truly irks his most vehement critics is the 180-degree turn he’s made on several key issues. Some of those issues — project labor agreements, pension reform and managed competition — have formed the bedrock for the dividing line in San Diego between the two major political parties in recent years…
“I’m very comfortable as a Democrat, a pro-jobs Democrat.”…That’s a far cry from March 2012 when Fletcher sought the local Republican Party’s endorsement in the mayor’s race. He told party leaders he was a lifelong Republican who supported the June 2012 ballot initiative (Proposition B) to replace pensions with 401(k)-style plans for most new city workers, a ban on project labor agreements that call for city contractors pay union-level wages and benefits, and outsourcing city services…
Fletcher filled out a questionnaire in September for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council that outlined several stark changes. Specifically, he indicated support for project labor agreements and public employee pensions and opposition to putting city services up for competitive bid, a process also known as managed competition…
Fletcher has also said the ballot measure to ban project-labor agreements that voters approved last year is the type of divisive initiative meant to stir up the electorate.
Nathan Fletcher now thinks that simply asking voters to preserve fair and open bid competition on taxpayer-funded construction contracts is “divisive” and “meant to stir up the electorate.” If only we could set aside our differences and come together for the common good under the benevolent leadership of Nathan Fletcher!
It isn’t surprising that occasionally people warn that Nathan Fletcher is “creepy” and “dangerous” because he lacks solid principles and runs for office under a cult of personality based on a distorted portrayal of his background. He seems to be popular among high-tech executives, bicycle advocates, and other who fit the demographic description of “bourgeois and bohemian” (see David Brooks’ excellent 2001 book Bobos in Paradise). Is that enough to win a special election in a city of 1.3 million people? It worked for Gavin Newsom in San Francisco, but San Diego is more diverse and more conservative.
All of this vindicates the warning in my May 7, 2013 commentary Know Thyself, Republican: You Could Be the Next Nathan Fletcher in www.FlashReport.org. I concluded that “Even the strongest among us on the Right are always only a few temptations away from second-guessing ourselves and going the same direction as Nathan Fletcher. The rewards of holding fast are few right now, and the relief and rewards of being acceptable are enticing.”
As the Republican Party on the national level, in the State of California, and at the California local level splits into factions based on the degree of willingness to compromise principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility for the sake of the alleged “common good,” I expect more Republicans will follow the path of Nathan Fletcher. Will voters buy it?
Yes, the rumor is true. In 2010 someone in Northern California (not I) carved an anti-Project Labor Agreement pumpkin and emailed a photo of it to a few people. Eventually the photo of the jack-o-lantern made its way to the national office of Associated Builders and Contractors, which circulated it widely. Feel free to use this photo with your social media.
Records Requested from City of Sacramento Office of the Mayor on Project Labor Agreement for New Sacramento Kings Arena
The City of Sacramento has still not given public access to the ballyhooed union Project Labor Agreement for the planned $448 million new Sacramento Kings arena (Entertainment and Sports Center). Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and other officials announced the backroom union deal with great fanfare and celebration via a press conference on September 4, 2013 at Downtown Plaza. That was 44 days ago.
Are the People satisfied with talking points and press releases? The standard for sports and entertainment journalism is insufficient for government and political journalism. The public must get access to primary source documents to confirm or refute the claims made on September 4, 2013 by public officials using public resources.
Here is a request for public records that I submitted to the Sacramento City Clerk this morning. This is going to irk some powerful people, but I’ve been vainly calling for a public copy of the Project Labor Agreement for 44 days. (See one example: Eight Steps to Possibly Alleviate Taxpayer and Contractor Outrage about the Backroom Deal for a Project Labor Agreement on Construction of the Sacramento Kings Arena.)
Obviously people want to hide the union deal from public scrutiny. They don’t want a line-by-line analysis floating around, like this analysis of the “Community Benefits Agreement” for the California High-Speed Rail.
From: Kevin Dayton
Subject: Sacramento City Clerk: Public Records Request
Date: October 17, 2013 9:10:07 AM PDT
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
October 16, 2013
Shirley Concolino, MMC
City Clerk, City of Sacramento
915 I Street
New City Hall
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Ms. Concolino:
Under the authority of the California Public Records Act, I am requesting the following records to determine the involvement of the Office of the Mayor of the City of Sacramento in the development and promotion of the Project Labor Agreement for the Entertainment and Sports Center, aka new Sacramento Kings Arena.
“Public records” include any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by the Office of the Mayor of the City of Sacramento regardless of physical form or characteristics. “Writing” means handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photocopying, photographing, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing, any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds or symbols or any combination thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.
“Public records” shall include writing from private email addresses used by the Office of the Mayor of the City of Sacramento for public business. For example, if a staff member sends electronic mail through a Google mail account to schedule a meeting or press conference involving the mayor, that email is a public record.
Please provide the following public records – in electronic form if possible – from the Office of the Mayor of the City of Sacramento:
- The final or latest version of the Project Labor Agreement for the Entertainment and Sports Center. (There is reported to be a version, dated at or around August 29, 2013, that includes signatures from representatives of most construction trade unions.)
- All public records dated March 1, 2013 through October 16, 2013 related to the development and implementation of the Project Labor Agreement for the Entertainment and Sports Center.
- All public records dated March 1, 2013 through September 5, 2013 related to the planning and execution of the press conference held on September 4, 2013 at Downtown Plaza to announce the Project Labor Agreement.
- All public records dated September 4, 2013 through September 30, 2013 related to the reporting and evaluation of the press conference held on September 4, 2013 at Downtown Plaza to announce the Project Labor Agreement.
- All public records dated October 14, 2013 through October 16, 2013 related to the press conference held by “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal” on October 15, 2013 at the old city hall building.
Upon receiving this request for a copy of records, please, within 10 days, determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the Office of the Mayor and promptly notify me of the determination and the reasons therefor.
In unusual circumstances, the time limit may be extended by written notice, setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched. No notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than 14 days, and the notice shall provide the estimated date and time when the records will be made available.
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC
Project Labor Agreement on Planned New Sacramento Kings Arena Comes Back to Bite: Contractors Fund “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal”
On October 15, 2013, a new organization called “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal” held a press conference at Sacramento City Hall to announce a new campaign to collect voter signatures on petitions to place a fiscal accountability ordinance on the ballot in the City of Sacramento.
The “Voter Approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act” states the following:
The City of Sacramento shall not use or redirect, undertake an obligation to pay, or bond or borrow against monies intended for or from the City general fund for the development and/or construction of a professional sports arena without the approval of a simple majority of voters.
Leaders of the organization are making a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from another organization called “Stop Arena Subsidy” (STOP), which qualified the petition but then made some poor strategic decisions about its name, message, and sources of funding.
Contractors opposed to the union deal to impose a Project Labor Agreement on construction of the proposed new Sacramento Kings arena (the “Entertainment and Sports Center”) are funding the signature-gathering efforts of “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal.”
Interesting test of political strategy: will mayor’s deal with unions for Project Labor Agreement pay off or be #NBAKings arena downfall?
— Kevin Dayton (@DaytonPubPolicy) October 15, 2013
If you are a registered voter within the boundaries of the City of Sacramento, you can obtain a petition and instructions to help place the Voter Approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act on the ballot:
On the “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal” web site: http://ourcityourvote.com/petition/
On the “Stop Arena Subsidy” web site: http://www.stoparenasubsidy.com/signature-petitions/
Documents from “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal”
New Group Forms to Combat Kings Arena Subsidy – Sacramento Bee – October 15, 2013
New Kings Arena Draws Fan Attention – and New Opponent – Sacramento Bee – October 16, 2013
Voters for a Fair Arena Deal Forms Today to Gather Initiative Signatures, Change Tone of Arena Discourse – Sacramento News & Review – October 15, 2013
New Group Emerges in Campaign for Public Vote on Arena Deal – Fox News 40 (KTXL) – October 15, 2013
New Sacramento Arena Group to Help Force Public Vote: Group Will Help STOP Gather Signatures – CBS News 3 (KCRA) – October 15, 2013
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Exposes CEQA Abuse and Union Deal on San Diego Convention Center Expansion to California Coastal Commission
Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, was the very last public speaker at the California Coastal Commission meeting today (October 10, 2013) concerning a staff recommendation to reject the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. This web site describes some of the unsavory aspects of moving this project, including extensive union interference: www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com.
Building this project is expected to cost $520 million (not including interest on bonds) and employ 3000 construction trade workers. Contractors will be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in order to work on this project, despite a ballot measure (Proposition A) enacted in June 2012 by 58% of voters in the City of San Diego. The “Fair and Open Competition” ordinance implemented by that ballot measure prohibits the city from entering into contracts requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.
After hours of public comments overwhelmingly in support of the expansion project, Eric Christen spoke. He commented on the union abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (aka “greenmail”), the backroom deal that gave unions monopoly control of construction and other privileges (including a specific political appointment), and the brazen circumvention of state and local laws. He submitted more than 700 pages of documents showing exactly what happened. (See the list of links to exhibits at the end of the press release below.)
People in the room were livid about his tainting of community consensus in support of the project. Union representatives booed and screamed insults at him after he finished his comments. One commissioner said he was new and inquired if the Coastal Commission had mandated the Project Labor Agreement.
Thank you @CFEC_CA for defying Establishment & trying to undermine costly union schemes to control San Diego Convention Center Expansion.
— Kevin Dayton (@DaytonPubPolicy) October 11, 2013
The Coastal Commission proceeded to ignore its staff recommendation and the objections of an attorney from the Briggs Law Corporation and unanimously certified the changes to allow the Convention Center Expansion to be built.
Here’s the press release sent by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.
October 10, 2013
Contact: Eric Christen
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Deliver Comments to Coastal Commission Concerning Use of Greenmail by Unions on San Diego Convention Center Expansion Project
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction will deliver documents showing the abuse of CEQA in order to attain a discriminatory Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center
SAN DIEGO – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction’s (CFEC) executive director, Eric Christen, will be attending today’s Coastal Commission meeting in which the approval of the San Diego Convention Center Expansion will be discussed. CFEC will educate the Coastal Commissioners on the exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which was used by labor to attain a discriminatory Project Labor Agreement (PLA) which now covers the project. View the letter that will be distributed below.
“The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” submitted 436 of the 536 pages of comments concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project and associated hotel development. The group identified itself as “an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions”. Less than six months later however, parties representing San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates finalized various settlements and a PLA was placed on the project. Once the ulterior objectives were attained, the environmental concerns were generally abandoned. This tactic known as “greenmail” was completed behind closed doors and discriminates against 85% of San Diego’s construction industry.
“This abuse of CEQA must be exposed”, said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. “This process is utterly corrupt through and through and is nothing more than a scam designed to enrich a few while sticking it to the vast majority of citizens, taxpayers, and workers of San Diego. It is shocking. The Coastal Commission works on behalf of the People of California, and they need to be informed about how environmental concerns are used as leverage to obtain labor agreements, economic concessions, and political appointments.”
The use of greenmail on this project exemplifies the abuse of CEQA and raises questions as to the legality of this PLA. To address this, CFEC is currently working with stakeholders to prevent this type of corruption and ensure that future San Diego projects cannot be held hostage by labor unions.
California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219
Re: Background on Request of the United Port of San Diego to Amend Its Master Plan to Include the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion and Hilton Bayfront Addition
Dear Coastal Commissioners:
Before you vote on October 10, 2013 for or against any resolutions concerning the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion, you should consider and publicly discuss the brazen exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by labor unions during the evaluation of the environmental impact of this project.
Start by examining the extensive and comprehensive comments and exhibits submitted by unions concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report and Final Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion, including concerns about sea level rise and view corridors:
- Union Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – June 29, 2012 (see Exhibit A) with exhibits (see Exhibit B)
- Union Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – September 19, 2012 (see Exhibit C)
Now examine the weak settlement agreements that allegedly resolved the environmental concerns:
- Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; SAN DIEGO COALITION FOR A BETTER CONVENTION CENTER; SAN DIEGO COUNTY BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL; UNITE HERE LOCAL 30; AND BILLIE JOHNSON) (See Exhibit E)
- Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY AND BETWEEN CITY OF SAN DIEGO; BRIGETTE BROWNING; SERGIO GONZALES; AND UNITE HERE LOCAL 30) (See Exhibit F)
- Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; CITY OF SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL; SAN DIEGO CONVENTION CENTER FACILITIES DISTRICT NO. 2012-1; COALITION FOR RESPONSIBLE CONVENTION CENTER PLANNING; TERRY LUTNICK; CINNA BROWN; AARON MICHAELSON; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRIC (sic) WORKERS LOCAL 569; UNITED ASSOCIATION OF PLUMBERS & STEAMFITTERS LOCAL 230; SHEETMETAL WORKERS LOCAL 206; AND IRONWORKERS LOCAL 229) (See Exhibit G)
Even as these settlement agreements were finalized, concerns were being raised elsewhere about the effect of rising sea levels because of global warming. This was an issue unions addressed in their DEIR comments but completely ignored in their settlement agreements. What happened?
Timeline: Intense Concern of Unions about Environmental Issues Dissipates
Below is a timeline of incidents related to CEQA concerns about the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion identified by unions and the alleged resolution of these concerns in the context of labor agreements, economic concerns, and political appointments.
- On February 22, 2011, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction held a press conference at the San Diego Convention Center to expose and condemn credible reports from reliable sources that labor unions were planning to use administrative and legal procedures under CEQA to block the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion project. Reportedly, unions would refrain from advancing their environmental objections if the city required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work.
- On June 29, 2012, a group called “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” submitted 436 of the 536 pages of comments concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project and associated hotel development. The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center identified itself as “an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions” including the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates. It was represented by the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo. The letter was 63 pages; exhibits comprised 374 pages.
- On September 19, 2012, an official of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 declared at the Board of Port Commissioners meeting that the Final Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. At that same meeting, an attorney from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted to the commissioners a 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) on behalf of “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” with 250 pages of referenced exhibits. She was given extra time to speak because Tom Lemmon – head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – submitted a speaker card and then transferred his speaking time to her. Later in the meeting, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed in to announce there were problems with the Environmental Impact Report for the convention center. She proposed that the Port Commissioners approve a “tolling agreement” that would extend the statute of limitations for the unions to file a lawsuit.
- On September 21, 2012, an email from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Chief of Staff Julie Dubick to Lorena Gonzalez and Steven Cushman outlined a deal for discussion at a meeting to be held at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon. Unions would drop or settle their environmental objections under CEQA to the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Unions would also drop their lawsuit challenging the structure of a tax assessment to pay back the principal and interest on bonds sold to borrow money for the expansion. Unions would openly and actively support the convention center expansion at the San Diego City Council and at the California Coastal Commission. In exchange, the San Diego Mayor’s Office would facilitate negotiations between the unions and the construction manager at-risk selected for the project (Clark Construction) for a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions. Also as part of the deal, the Mayor’s Office would initiate discussions with Marriott hotel management in support of a union position (apparently on behalf of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30) and appoint someone acceptable to the unions to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors. (See Exhibit D)
- On November 8, 2012, parties representing San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates finalized various settlement agreements related to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. The settlement agreements includes some provisions for minor environmental mitigation but ignored many of the key issues addressed in the comments about the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports, including the effects of rising sea levels because of global warming.
- Also on November 8, 2012, Mayor Jerry Sanders and Lorena Gonzalez participated in a press conference to announce the settlement agreements. In response to questions from the press following the announcements, participants acknowledged that contractors would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work.
- Also on November 8, 2012, Mayor Sanders appointed Laurie Coskey (the Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice) to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors. (See Exhibit H)
- On November 15, 2012, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council issued a press release formally revealing that contractors would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. (See Exhibit I)
- On April 23, 2013, the City of San Diego provided a copy of the Project Labor Agreement to the public, less than 24 hours after the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction filed a lawsuit against the city as a last resort after repeatedly failed under the authority of the California Public Records Act to obtain any records of substance about the suspected deal. (See Exhibit J)
- On July 2, 2013, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction finally succeeded in obtaining a document (the September 21, 2012 email referenced above) revealing that the office of former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders arranged a secret backroom deal with Lorena Gonzalez to end potential union-initiated legal obstacles to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Previous requests for public records were foiled because the Chief of Staff for the Mayor of San Diego was using a private Gmail address to facilitate meetings between top city officials and top union officials. (See Exhibit D)
- On September 12, 2013, a letter from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez read at a press conference supporting the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion depicts her as being a consistent supporter of the project, as if her CEQA concerns never happened. In addition, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council issues a letter of support claiming that the project provides “environmental sustainability” because of a few routine design provisions. (See Exhibit K)
As the Coastal Commission works on behalf of the People of California, you should be concerned about how environmental concerns are used as leverage to obtain labor agreements, economic concessions, and political appointments. Once the ulterior objectives were attained, the environmental concerns were generally abandoned.
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction
Exhibit J: Project Labor Agreement
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction – P.O. Box 1627 – Poway, California 92074
Tel: (858) 633-6523 – Fax: (760) 690-4471 – www.opencompca.com