Tag Archive for Rudolph & Sletten

Morning View Studios in Dixon: A Union Project Labor Agreement on an Imaginary Project?

Northern California was stunned last weekend when the Sacramento Bee published an extensive investigative report about the developer of Morning View Studios, a proposed $2.8 billion film studio planned for 300 acres, or maybe even 548 acres, in and near the City of Dixon, in Solano County, west of Sacramento. Reading the June 2, 2013 report (Hollywood Coming to Dixon? Executive’s Financial Troubles Raise Questions) is a painful experience if you empathize with the people who were apparently lured or duped into a scheme that was too good to be true.

The report and related news articles have inspired numerous reader comments referring to the plot of the musical The Music Man or to TV shows in which con artists routinely swoop into small towns to try to victimize the local citizenry. One June 2 armchair psychiatrist, going by the moniker WALLYSMOM, suggested the article evoked “a picture perfect example of someone with Histrionic Personality Disorder with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” (Refer to the DSM for more details.)

I’ve been watching this project because it has been aggressively promoted by officials with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local No. 180, which has jurisdiction in Solano and Napa Counties. Supposedly there was a Project Labor Agreement for the construction of Morning View Studios. (Who negotiated and signed it?)

This is not the first time the IBEW Local 180 has been caught in a large proposed project in Dixon that collapsed in the end. In November 2004, Mike Smith (Michael C. Smith), a business development official with the IBEW Local 180, was elected to the Dixon City Council. During his one term in office, a now-bankrupt Canadian company called Magna Entertainment Corporation proposed a horse racetrack with associated hotel and retail development in Dixon. Unions supported the development after the company committed to sign a Project Labor Agreement for the $250 million Dixon Downs development, and the city council approved the project 4-1. Dixon residents qualified a ballot referendum to stop the project, and in April 2007, 53% of the 5,340 voters overturned the city council votes and ended the dream.

See below for the two educational mailers sent from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction and what is now the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) to the residents of Dixon informing them about the Project Labor Agreement for Dixon Downs and encouraging them to start asking questions about the behind-the-scenes deal. A press release explains the mailers.

In the early 2010s, a woman claiming to represent big-money entertainment interests proposed building a film studio in Dixon, without need of public subsidies. The economic opportunities for this project obviously got local people very excited, including IBEW Local 180 officials. A major unionized California general contractor, Rudolph & Sletten, became involved as the chosen construction company for the massive project. At the heart of this effort was the aspiration of the IBEW Local 180 leadership that the union would get guaranteed construction work with a Project Labor Agreement and studio work with a Master Labor Agreement.

Here’s the union angle as Morning View Studios moved forward, with key points highlighted in red:

1. IBEW Local 180 Newsletter September-October 2012

Dan Broadwater, Business Manager: I have been working with Morning View Studios for over two years now to bring a facility to our jurisdiction…One of the concerns is the additional cost of a City Planner to process the documentation and follow through the entitlement process. Through our Market Recovery program and the buy in from our Nor Cal NECA partnership, we will assist the City of Dixon in funding the cost of a Planner with a wage and benefit package to get this done. This along with contributions from our Building Trades affiliates to assist with this cost will pay dividends for years to come on not only the new construction but the set work that will be on going at the studios.

It appears a Labor-Management Cooperation Committee was going to reimburse the City of Dixon for the staff costs of preparing this project. These union-affiliated committees are obscure; go to www.LaborManagementCooperationAct.com for an explanation. “Nor Cal NECA” refers to the Northern California Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, a trade association for unionized electrical contractors.

I submitted a public records request about this to the City of Dixon in September 2012 and received a response in February 2013 stating there weren’t any records concerning such a transaction.

2. IBEW Local 180 Newsletter November-December 2012

Morning View Studios in Dixon

Things were moving along great before this Measure N hit Morning View. Deals were struck with the landowners that covered 800 acres of land. The City provided a letter to fast track and streamline the process. Financing is in place, the PLA is done and we are ready to move forward. We were helping Morning View through the approval process so things did not get “hung up”. Then bam, we hit the wall and need your help like never before. This project is currently at a stand still due to Measure N. Measure N kills business and thus jobs; that is an understatement….

Our role currently is to support the No on Measure N campaign and we desperately need members’ support. We were asked to help walk precincts in Dixon, only two brothers helped. Folks, Morning View has signed a PLA to build AND operate this studio with 100% UNION people. We are talking about 1000 construction jobs short-term (2 years) and 300 full-time long-term jobs. Can we get you to help a brother out?

If we do not step up and show human support and kill Measure N, we lose big. Not only the project, but the fact our word of “support” is worthless. It pains me to be that direct but the Local’s reputation is on the line…

January 24, 2013 Morning View Film Studio Update – Mike Smith’s Blog – Dixon California Patch

Comment posted by Mike Smith in response to a critical comment about his blog post:

Both people with and without union membership will have an opportunity to work on the construction of the project. Many private businesses will be supportive vendors to the studio. But to work for the studio – you have to be union – that is what Morning View requires. We have had nonmembers working on PLA’s in the past – membership is not a requirement to get a job through the IBEW and many other unions. Building green requires sourcing materials and labor as close to a project as possible. To assure this, you use specifications for materials and a PLA for labor. A new blog on who will use the studio is coming soon. Mike Smith

The June 2, 2013 Sacramento Bee article exposing the background of the studio developer noted the heavy involvement of the IBEW Local 180:

Among the project’s most ardent supporters in Solano County have been officials with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. On local websites, and at public meetings, union leaders have extolled the virtues of the project and urged public support.

Robert W. Naylor, Carpenter’s Morning View attorney and a former state legislator, recently told The Bee that the IBEW is “prepared to make a major investment of their pension fund” into the movie studio project.

Dan Broadwater, business manager of IBEW Local 180, referred calls to Naylor.

Did the IBEW or NECA-IBEW invest anything in the end? Was there really a Project Labor Agreement? Will everything end up OK, as it did in The Music Man?

Mailers Informing the Residents of the City of Dixon about the Project Labor Agreement on the Proposed Dixon Downs Development of Magna Entertainment Corporation

Read the press release explaining the 2007 Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement mailers.

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #1 2007 Front

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #1 2007 Back

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #2 2007 Front

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #2 2007 Back

Construction Manager at-Risk Negotiating with Unions for a Project Labor Agreement on $600 Million San Diego County Central Courthouse

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction just issued a press release (on May 30, 2013) entitled “Unions and State Conspire to Exclude Local Workers from Massive Public Courthouse Project in San Diego.” Text is below.

May 31 is the deadline for prospective bidders to submit their pre-qualification questionnaires to Rudolph and Sletten. See Subcontractors to Bid on Work for New Downtown Central CourthouseSan Diego Daily Transcript – May 16, 2013


May 30, 2013
Contact: Eric Christen, (858) 431-6337 

Unions and State Conspire to Exclude Local Workers from Massive Public Courthouse Project in San Diego

Attempt to Place Union-Only Project Labor Agreement on $600+Million State Courthouse in City that Banned PLAs Less than a Year Ago

San Diego – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) has learned that local unions and the Administrative Office of the Courts for the State of California (AOC) have been “negotiating” a union-only Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the new $600+ million Superior Courthouse to be located in downtown San Diego. The AOC has hired the general contracting firm Rudolph & Sletten to build the courthouse. Rudolph & Sletten is therefore “negotiating” the PLA with local trade unions. These “negotiations” take place less than one year after voters in the City of San Diego overwhelming voted to ban PLAs 58%-42% with the passage of Proposition A in June of 2012.

“This is a remarkably tone-deaf and outrageous decision the sole intent of which is to exclude 90% of the local construction workforce who happen to be union-free,” said Eric Christen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. “The citizens of San Diego have expressed, twice now, their desire to keep San Diego discrimination-free and now we have the AOC forcing this ‘agreement’ on us?”

CFEC has submitted a Public Records Act request to the AOC that seeks to answer, among other things, the following:

  • Where and who did the idea of a PLA come from?
  • What are the justifications for a PLA?
  • Who is actually “negotiating” the PLA?
  • Did unions who run the legislature threaten to hold up funding on the project unless a PLA was placed on it?

The project is one of the AOC’s most expensive and at more than 700,000 sq. feet and 70 courtrooms, one of the largest. Ironies abound for such a project to be considered for a PLA.

On top of San Diego having banned PLAs there is the State publicly stating its desire to have “significant local, minority, women, and veteran owned businesses participate.” Yet with 90% of the local construction workforce union-free, that goal will be impossible to reach with a PLA.

Also, PLA proponents argue that PLAs are needed on “large and complex projects” yet two of the largest projects San Diego has ever undertaken (The San Diego International Airport expansion and the new downtown Federal Courthouse) were both built successfully without a PLA. The State and AOC have been facing years of funding cuts for its courthouse projects due to the economy and indeed this project has been reduced in both size and scope. Yet a PLA will add at least 20% to the cost of the project by cutting out local bidders who would otherwise add competitive pressure to the overall bid package. Finally Rudolph & Sletten is asking for companies interested in bidding this job to fill out a “Request for Qualification” (RFQ) that has no mention of a PLA. Thus, companies are being led to believe that this project will be open to all of them when in fact in may not be.

“This is a project that is going to be paid for with taxpayer dollars that come from union and non-union taxpayers.” added Christen “Yet the State of California through the AOC has just told the majority of those workers and apprentices that while their tax dollars are appreciated their ability to work is not. This is not going to go easily or well for the State, the AOC, or Rudolph and Sletten if a PLA is in fact required on this project. As we have shown time and time again, we will use any and all means to keep this project open for every worker and contractor. This decision, and we will find out exactly who made it, is offensive.”

Contractors who are interested in bidding this work have until tomorrow, May 31, to send in their pre-qualification packages. Rudolph and Sletten is scheduled to begin subcontractor bidding in July 2013. The bond sale for construction is expected in fall 2013, and construction is scheduled to begin before the end of 2013. Completion is scheduled for 2016.

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