Tag Archive for Susan Gorin

Sonoma County Will Get Its First Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreement: County Projects Over $10 Million

After hearing public comments from 71 speakers and spending hours deliberating on technical aspects of Project Labor Agreement provisions, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors agreed on January 14, 2014 to vote at their next meeting (January 28) on their own version of a policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for projects with construction costs over $10 million.

It’s the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in Sonoma County. Board chairman David Rabbitt said that the number of comment cards submitted at the meeting for the agenda item (90 total) was a record.

Back of T-shirts worn by union activists at Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Back of T-shirts worn by union activists at Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Union officials have been lobbying the Board of Supervisors for a Project Labor Agreement for two years. In September 2012, the board considered a policy but did not enact it because a 3-2 majority did not support it.

In the November 2012 election, retiring Supervisor Valerie Brown (who opposed a Project Labor Agreement) was replaced by Susan Gorin, a Santa Rosa City Councilmember who supports Project Labor Agreements. Unions backed her campaign. Gorin defeated Santa Rosa City Councilmember John Sawyer, who opposed Project Labor Agreements, 24,033 votes to 22,251 votes (51.8% to 47.9%). The Project Labor Agreement was then inevitable.

An ad-hoc committee was formed in 2013 to develop a Project Labor Agreement that could win consensus from the Board of Supervisors. After the final version was produced, a business coalition opposed to the Project Labor Agreement proposed their changes, and building trade unions proposed their changes. At the January 14 meeting, the board spent hours compromising and agreeing on various disputed provisions.

In more than 16 years fighting Project Labor Agreements in California, it was the first time I saw elected officials take their jobs seriously to create their own agreement, rather than simply approving a boilerplate model from the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO with a few variations negotiated by staff and union officials. Supervisors emphasized that the policy was for the county, not for special interest groups.

Nevertheless, the adoption of this policy gives unions a foothold to eventually expand it to almost all county construction, provided a solid union-backed majority continues to control the board. For example, Solano County adopted a Project Labor Agreement policy with a threshold of $10 million, but Supervisors approved special exceptions in which contractors were required to sign a Project Labor Agreement, even for a $957,000 project (321 Tuolumne remodel at the county’s Vallejo campus). In addition, the Santa Rosa City Council and the Santa Rosa Junior College board of trustees have voted in the past not to use Project Labor Agreements, and surely unions will again target these local governments. They now have a precedent in Sonoma County.

Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction speaks to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors against the proposed Project Labor Agreement policy.

Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction speaks to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors against the proposed Project Labor Agreement policy.

Background

January 14, 2014 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors – Agenda and Staff Report

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Ad-Hoc Committee Report and Project Labor Agreement

Sonoma County Past and Future Major Construction Projects

Sonoma-Mendocino-Lake Counties Building & Construction Trades Council Proposed Changes

The Coalition Against Sonoma County Project Labor Agreements Proposed Changes

Comparison of Three Versions of Project Labor Agreements

Sonoma County Taxpayers Association Opposes Project Labor Agreement

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Demands Environmental Impact Report for Proposed Policy Giving Unions Monopoly on County of Sonoma Construction Contracts

News Coverage

Push for Worker Benefits on Sonoma County Projects Returns – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – January 12, 2014

Sonoma County Project Labor Agreements Could Have Lower Cost Threshold – North Bay Business Journal – January 13, 2014

Bringing Blunt Force to Public Works Contracts – editorial – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – January 14, 2014

Sonoma County Supervisors Appear to Back Project Labor Agreements – North Bay Business Journal – January 14, 2014

County Supervisors Signal Support for Project Labor AgreementsSanta Rosa Press-Democrat – January 15, 2014

Prediction: Chick-fil-A Will Soon Become Acquainted with How the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Is Wielded for Purposes Unrelated to Environmental Protection

As someone who has spent 15 years tracking and exposing how labor unions exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block proposed projects in pursuit of objectives unrelated to environmental protection, I predict Chick-fil-A is about to join Wal-Mart and large solar power plant developers as a favorite California target of “greenmail,” or environmental permit extortion.

Based on the latest developments outlined below, one can conclude that the days are over of city planning staff in California quietly granting routine zoning variances for Chick-fil-A. Soon the company will be dealing with lawsuits demanding lengthy and costly Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), and after those reports are completed and the projects are approved, then there will be more lawsuits challenging the adequacy of the reports and the steps for environmental mitigation.

Obvious weak points for Chick-fil-A are traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles idling in drive-through lines. In-N-Out Burger has dealt with these issues in recent years (recent examples being neighborhood resistance in Studio City, Santa RosaPleasant Hill, and Seaside), but Chick-fil-A will surely provide ripe new opportunities for environmental law firms to test their theories and hone their skills in blocking proposed fast food restaurants.

Chick-fil-A and Wal-Mart: Two Southern-Based Corporations Destined to Face Resistance in California

The Chick-fil-A venture into California is similar to the experience of Wal-Mart as it expanded out of the South and began moving into the very different political, religious, and socio-economic culture of the major metropolitan areas of California and the Northeast. Wal-Mart entered California quietly in the 1990s, but as it began operating in the cities and seeking approval for “Supercenters” that sell groceries, it started to get hammered by a broad coalition of unions, environmental groups, academics, and activists who represented innumerable “progressive” interests. Underlying these interests were subtle class connotations: California’s elite recoiled from the values, priorities, and business practices of the South.

In the mid-2000s, Wal-Mart frequently dealt with environmental objections backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. For example, William D. Kopper, an attorney based in Davis, took various actions to block approval of Wal-Marts in several California cities, including in Oroville, Stockton, Galt, Santa Rosa, Redding, Ukiah, and Gilroy. (Kopper also did the same kind of work for construction unions seeking Project Labor Agreements from developers.) The UFCW found local allies among a variety of community groups and local activists determined to keep Wal-Mart out of their town.

Now Chick-fil-A has moved into the same regions and invited the same responses. Like Wal-Mart, it moved in quietly, opening its first Southern California locations (eight of them) in 2004 and its first Northern California location in Roseville (a suburb of Sacramento) in October 2005. Since then outlets have been popping up throughout the state. It is finally daring to move into the San Francisco Bay Area, and people are taking notice.

Chick-fil-A in the San Francisco Bay Area – It’s Going to Be a Tough Road Ahead

The Mayor of San Francisco – Ed Lee – received national news media attention last week for jumping on the Chick-fil-A commentary bandwagon with his back-to-back Tweets on July 26:

Edwin Lee @mayoredlee

Very disappointed #ChickFilA doesn’t share San Francisco’s values & strong commitment to equality for everyone.

Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.

This Chick-fil-A location 40 miles from San Francisco and referenced by Mayor Lee is the corporation’s current equivalent of Fort Ross, the southernmost frontier post of the Russian Empire in Alta California. Fort Ross was founded in 1812 as Russia penetrated deep into Spanish-claimed territory in what is now Sonoma County.

You can visit Fort Ross today (it’s a state park), and you can also visit the only operating San Francisco Bay Area Chick-fil-A in Fairfield, just off I-80 at the Travis Boulevard exit next to the Westfield Solano Mall.

This is the closest Chick-fil-A to San Francisco: 40 miles away, in Fairfield.

It opened in September 2011. San Francisco Bay Area TV news crews (such as Channel 7 and Channel 2) have showed up there recently for local visuals and interviews with customers.

According to the Chick-fil-A web site, an establishment will open in San Jose on August 16. There will be protests. Another one will open in Walnut Creek on September 20, and a protest is already being planned.

There is likely to be disruption if the planned Chick-fil-A ever opens in Santa Rosa, according to an article in the July 25 Santa Rosa Press-Democrat newspaper. That proposed restaurant had already generated controversy: the Santa Rosa City Council had voted 5-2 at its May 22 meeting to grant approval to build the Chick-fil-A at the site of a vacant Burger King after the Santa Rosa Planning Commission had rejected it on a 3-3-1 vote at its April 12 meeting. Opponents cited the greenhouse gas emissions of vehicles in the planned drive-through lane and general objections to fast food. (See the city staff report here.)

One Santa Rosa City Council member who voted against the Chick-fil-A was Susan Gorin, who is in a highly-competitive race for a seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. I’m guessing she’ll be trying to ride this high-profile issue to victory in November.

Note that the Chick-fil-A planned for Santa Rosa “is also proposing to incorporate Public Art in Private Development and is currently working with the City parks department to find an artist.” This may become another interesting angle: who will be the artist, and will a subversive message be expressed through the public art?

Meanwhile, in Mountain View (a suburb of San Jose), two citizens raised $1000 to challenge a “routine zoning variance” from city staff to allow a Chick-fil-A to build an outlet there. This article from the July 20 San Jose Mercury-News indicates that they intend to use traffic-related concerns to stop it:

“We need to make our city better – more sidewalk and bicycle friendly – not worse by increasing the number of cars driving up and over our sidewalks to speed in and get fast food,” the appeal states. “The convenience of drive-thru junk food is not worth the increased danger the traffic poses to our citizens.”

This campaign in Mountain View has a fundraising site and is reportedly receiving support from former city councilmember and State Senate candidate Sally Lieber, who is best known for introducing a bill to ban (child) spanking when she was in the California State Assembly. Lieber has a highly competitive race against another Democrat for this seat.

Chick-fil-A in Southern California: Potential for Trouble There, Too

A Chick-fil-A operating in West Hollywood was profiled in this article in the Los Angeles Times on July 28. Meanwhile, a Chick-fil-A opened in Laguna Hills (in Orange County) on July 26 and experienced an opening day protest, as reported here in the Los Angeles Times and here in the Orange County Register.

According to the Chick-fil-A web site, Chick-fil-A outlets will open in Westlake Village (in Los Angeles County) on August 30, Buena Park (in Orange County) on September 13, and Encinitas (in San Diego County) on September 20.

An Unexpected Opportunity for the Public to Learn About Misuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

One of the frustrations of trying to educate the public about CEQA abuse by labor unions is that many reporters completely miss how the fundamental issue at play has nothing to do with environmental concerns. They take the comments, data requests, and lawsuits at face value.

Of course, the legal arguments on the surface are simply a public charade, while the real underlying issue (pressuring the developer to sign a union agreement or trying to block non-union competition) stays hidden from the public. With the upcoming environmental objections to Chick-fil-A, the underlying issue will never be mentioned in the legal documents, but the objective will be apparent and understood by all observers.

Exclusive: Local Government Election Results in California Highly Relevant to Labor Issues

California’s primary election night was overshadowed by the support from Wisconsin voters for state elected officials who implemented a modest reform of collective bargaining for public employees. But here is an exclusive report on how the June 5, 2012 election also brought good results for advocates of fiscal responsibility and economic and personal freedom in California.

Some might say that voters are being hoodwinked by FOX News, conservative talk radio, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute. To me, it’s clear that a majority of Californians do not see tax increases, more government spending, and expanded government programs as the solution to the state’s economic struggles.

SAN DIEGO REGION

Similar to what’s taking place in numerous states throughout the country, voters in the San Diego region are actively responding to a challenging economy by calling for smaller and more efficient government. I will elaborate in a future post about the ten years of behind-the-scenes tedious work that led to this development in San Diego County, but for now I’ll outline the good news.

I’ve already posted on the easy 58% victory in the City of San Diego for Proposition A, which enacts a Fair and Open Competition ordinance prohibiting the city from requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on taxpayer-funded construction. I also reported already on the 57% victory in the City of El Cajon for Proposition D, a new charter that includes a Fair and Open Competition provision and also gives the city authority to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for city projects. (Boy, unions hate it when local governments take power away from the state!)

There will be a heated campaign up to November 5 for San Diego Mayor. Advocate of economic freedom (and San Diego City Councilman) Carl DeMaio will face leftist Congressman Bob Filner. This election will feature a passionate debate over the benefits of capitalism versus socialism! If DeMaio is elected as Mayor, there will be a dramatic change in political culture in the City of San Diego. I will write more about DeMaio in a future post.

(See Filner’s letter here telling the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce to oppose Proposition G in part because it would be a “fool’s errand” to seek federal funding for the city if Proposition G passed. It did pass, and somehow the federal money continues to be piped in, as shown by evidence of continued federal grants to the city’s Capital Improvement Program here.)

Also, Councilman DeMaio’s Proposition B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Diego won with 66% of the vote. And this was not the only successful urban public employee pension reform measure to win voter approval in California on June 5: Mayor Chuck Reed’s Measure B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Jose (a much more liberal city than San Diego) passed with 70% of the vote. Apparently Californians are a lot like people in Wisconsin: they understand that future economic growth and job creation cannot be anchored on excessive government payouts obtained by public employee unions through politically-manipulated collective bargaining.

Also in the City of San Diego, Scott Sherman won a city council seat. He supports economic freedom and fiscal responsibility. Ray Ellis – also an advocate of economic freedom – will face Sherri Lightner in November for another city council seat.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Even in much more liberal Northern California, there was good news beyond the win for public employee pension reform in the City of San Jose.

In Placer County, construction unions flushed $30,000 down the toilet in funding 92% of the campaign of Pam Tobin, who challenged incumbent Kirk Uhler for a seat on the Placer County Board of Supervisors but lost, 60% to 40%. I was at the Uhler election night victory party in Granite Bay and was pleased to see the result. See my exclusive investigative report revealing and analyzing the union sources of Tobin’s campaign contributions here.

But Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery won re-election. She voted in 2010 against the currently-in-effect Fair and Open Competition policy banning Project Labor Agreements on county construction projects.

Elsewhere in Placer County, 65% voters in the City of Auburn rejected Measure A, a proposed charter that would have given authority to the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) on city projects.

In an earlier post I compared the City of Auburn’s charter campaign to the charter campaign of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (in Los Angeles County) in 2011. In both cases, large and politically sophisticated construction unions used their well-funded labor-management cooperation committees, political action committees, and general budgets to steamroll over a home-grown local grassroots movement.

ADVICE to CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS and CITY STAFF seeking a CHARTER: contact Labor Issues Solutions, LLC for a free consultation and some honest assessments of what it takes to win against aggressive self-interested union opposition. You’re fighting a political machine, as city council members and community activists have recently learned through experience in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Redding, Paradise, South Lake Tahoe, Folsom, and Elk Grove. You CAN win like Oceanside did in 2010 and El Cajon just did on June 5, 2012 (see below).

There was a gratifying victory in Contra Costa County, where Danville Mayor Candace Andersen won 60% of the vote and easily defeated Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board member Tomi Van De Brooke for the open seat held by the late Supervisor Gayle Uilkema. Van De Brooke only received 28% despite receiving the “benefit” of nasty union-funded mailers about abortion sent to district voters. This is yet another case in which Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in California made a politician accountable to the voters for supporting costly union-backed policies in order to lock up union campaign support. Regrettably, the Project Labor Agreement imposed by Van De Brooke in December 2011 for community college district construction projects will remain as a legacy of this election.

In Sonoma County, there will be a clash between two ideologically opposite members of the Santa Rosa City Council for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The candidate for economic freedom, John Sawyer, will face off against pro-union candidate Susan Gorin.

In Solano County, pro-union challenger Skip Thomson defeated Mike Reagan, the one solid advocate for economic freedom on the Solano County Board of Supervisors. Reagan barely held onto the seat against Thomson four years ago. The Project Labor Agreement policy for Solano County construction projects will continue, now without an opposing view on the board.

In Yolo County, incumbent Duane Chamberlain survived a challenge from union-backed Woodland Mayor Art Pimentel for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

Voters rejected Measure J, a $59.5 million school bond measure to modernize a high school in the City of Antioch. That was a whopping target for a Project Labor Agreement, as shown by the construction union funding of the campaign to support Measure J.

Disappointing results were seen in the elections for Sacramento City Council, where candidates backed by business groups lost, as usual. The Sacramento City Council continues to be dominated by politicians lukewarm toward economic growth. I believe this results in part from voter distrust of candidates funded by housing tract developers, and NOT because voters love unions. In fact, I think union connections would be a liability for incumbents if campaigns chose to focus on them aggressively.

BACKYARD CHICKEN FREEDOM MOVEMENT CONTINUES TO ADVANCE!

Voters in the City of Yreka (near the Oregon border on I-5) voted 720-650 to approve possession of up to six backyard hens (no roosters) in residential areas of the city. As Yreka City Councilman Bryan Foster said to KDRV News Channel 12 (ABC) in Medford, Oregon: “The chicken issue, for me, it centers around private property rights and really, government interference.” Isn’t it refreshing to hear that kind of statement from a California elected official, even when it’s broadcast from an Oregon TV station? See my earlier post on this hotly-contested issue here.