Tag Archive for Tom Lemmon

Unions Earn Growing Reputation as Bob Filner Apologists – Will Voters Make Them Accountable?

In my August 6, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article entitled Take the Filner Challenge: Advance the Union Political Agenda, I explain why an August 3, 2013 article in the UT San Diego newspaper can reasonably claim that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s “list of supporters has shrunk to just one major group – organized labor and its allies.” This UT San Diego article includes an ill-advised and now-notorious remark from Tom Lemmon, head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council:

It’s an awkward situation, but we have a lot invested in him. We believe in due process, so let it take its course.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Tom Lemmon is hesitant to castigate Mayor Bob Filner, considering that Congressman Bob Filner inserted a very nice statement about him in the September 10, 2012 Congressional Record.

We need to congratulate Tom Lemmon for his many years of dedicated service to the organized labor movement in San Diego and to working men and women all across this great nation!

Looking at the larger perspective, union leaders know that San Diego will one day forget Bob Filner the sexually harassing mayor, but the legacy of Bob Filner the union mayor may persist for generations. Union leaders have chosen to be politically pragmatic rather than make a public judgment about what kind of person should serve the people of San Diego as the city’s chief executive.

Nevertheless, unions are being called out on their amoral stance. An August 4 post on www.Breibart.com cited the UT San Diego article: “Unions Stand By Filthy Filner, ‘Have a lot Invested in Him.‘” As of August 13, there were 131 comments about the article – many expressing the idea that birds of a feather flock together. The article was also circulated widely via social media, tainting the reputation of labor unions across the country.

By sticking with Filner, union leaders have given San Diego Republican leaders an opportunity to highlight the shortcomings of the region’s most politically powerful leftist coalition.

Double standards are apparent. I have noted on Twitter that the North Bay Labor Council and the Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino Building and Construction Trades Council are calling for the resignation of Sonoma County Supervisor and Democrat Efren Carrillo, who has been arrested twice in the past year under strange circumstances and apparently has a drinking problem. See the July 31, 2013 press release North Bay Labor Council & Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Building Trades Council Call For Supervisor Efren Carrillo to Resign.

Of course, a cynic would point out that union leaders in Sonoma County have detested Supervisor Carrillo since he refused to advance a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for county projects. See my September 19, 2012 article Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Abandons Project Labor Agreement Policy; Instead Directs Staff to Negotiate Project Labor Agreement for Sonoma County Airport Expansion, which includes a series of heated tweets from Lisa Maldonado, the head of the North Bay Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Maldonado has actually been relatively restrained on Twitter after Carrillo’s second arrest.

Shame on Unions! Put Women Ahead of Your "Investment!"- San Diego Mayor Bob FilnerNow flyers are circulating in San Diego to make union leaders accountable for their decision to stick by Mayor Bob Filner. Considering how leaders of these labor organizations have no shame in blocking high-profile construction projects using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to get Project Labor Agreements, I doubt they’ll change their position because of public outrage. It’s up to the Republican Party of San Diego County to remind voters where unions stand on Filner and urge voters to make a statement via their ballots in the 2014 and 2016 elections. In fact, the time may be right to qualify dramatic county and city ballot initiatives to end costly government policies and practices that benefit unions at the expense of everyone else.

San Diego Political Celebrity Nathan Fletcher Now Supports Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates

UPDATE – August 9, 2013: This morning Nathan Fletcher “chimed in” and spoke to Fox News 5 KSWB in San Diego about the Filner scandals. An excerpt from Fletcher May Run for Mayor if Filner Resigns:

Fletcher even told Fox5 that he’d consider throwing his hat in the ring if the mayor’s seat opens up.

“I’d have to consider it. I’ve been humbled by the number of folks that have reached out for the last few weeks and provided a lot of encouragement,” Fletcher said. “But as of right now, the office isn’t open. If it becomes open than that’s a decision that I’ll have to make.”

Until that happens, Fletcher can be found teaching at University of California, San Diego, working for Qualcomm and with his family.


Unexpectedly, former California State Assemblyman and once-and-future San Diego mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher (R) (I) (D) declared his new position in support of state-mandated wage rates (“prevailing wages”) for contracts on public works construction projects. See the July 26, 2013 San Diego Daily Transcript commentary Prevailing Wage: Good for Local Economy, Local Workers.

He claims his position is a “no-brainer” that resulted from approaching the issue in a “thoughtful, open-minded way.” But why did he approach the issue in the first place? Mr. Fletcher has never before exhibited extraordinary interest or unusual expertise in arcane construction labor issues, including as a state legislator voting on such issues.

Tom Lemmon – the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – would have had credibility in submitting this professionally-written piece under his name. But few people would have read it. In contrast, Nathan Fletcher has a cult following in San Diego, apparently because many people can relate to his lack of principles – a condition that I warned Republicans to avoid in my www.FlashReport.org article Know Thyself, Republican: You Could Be the Next Nathan Fletcher.

Some people are suspicious of Fletcher’s authorship of his prevailing wage manifesto. On July 30, 2013, campaign consultant Duane Dichiara posted an article on San Diego Rostra – Notes on Fletcher’s Pro-Prevailing Wage Article – speculating that Fletcher didn’t write it because of the obvious rhetorical skill of the writer. Richard Rider of San Diego Tax Fighters then commented that “it’s TOO well written. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Nathan didn’t pen it. Doubtless it was written by labor union professionals (or their PR contractors), with Nathan dutifully signing it as the author.”

Regardless of who actually wrote it, representatives of www.SmartCitiesPrevail.org were quick to post comments in support of Mr. Fletcher and his position, and he received some impressive tweets of support.

I responded to Fletcher’s piece with a rebuttal published on July 29, 2013 entitled Did Nathan Fletcher Lose His Mind on Prevailing Wage? A representative of the union-oriented public policy organization Working Partnerships USA and a Colorado State University economics professor commented in response to defend their work as cited by Fletcher. I have commented in response to their comments. Meanwhile, Nathan Fletcher has not given the public any additional insight into his understanding or views on prevailing wage policies.

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders

The San Diego Daily Transcript business newspaper today (October 10, 2012) published an opinion piece from Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction entitled Unions Manipulate City Leaders with CEQA Threats.

In the commentary about union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, Christen contends that business, political, and community leaders in San Diego have essentially surrendered to the organizing agenda of union leaders. Unions and their lawyers have effectively exploited the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block proposed projects until the developer signs a Project Labor Agreement for construction and a neutrality agreement leading to a collective bargaining agreement for the permanent workforce. Eric writes the following:

In San Diego, the city’s civic leaders regard union CEQA abuse as a customary part of doing business. Instead of exposing it and shaming the perpetrators, they say nothing publicly and surrender to it privately. Then they pass the costs to the taxpayers and consumers.

Why aren’t San Diego business, community and political leaders — other than Councilman Carl DeMaio — holding these union officials accountable for their CEQA extortion on the proposed Convention Center expansion? Why aren’t they highlighting this incident as an outrageous example of CEQA abuse?

Apparently America’s Finest City is fine with this “cost of doing business in San Diego.” What an outrage.

I’m guessing that civic leaders and big developers closely observed how Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment exposed and resisted the union environmental extortion in 2007 and 2008 against the proposed $1.2 billion Chula Vista Bayfront Hotel and Convention Center. The San Diego news media covered the story extensively, and ultimately it led to voters in the City of Chula Vista approving a ballot measure (Measure G) that prohibits the city from entering into contracts that require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements.

Apparently, San Diego union leaders strategically determined that either Gaylord Entertainment would succumb to their demands to build and operate its facility exclusively with union workers, or Gaylord would never build it. After Gaylord Entertainment finally abandoned its plan to build the Chula Vista project and instead began construction of a facility in Mesa, Arizona, the Political Director/Organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 was proud, as she acknowledged to the now-defunct San Diego News Network in the July 6, 2009 profile Union Leader Badgley Shares Her Journey with IBEW 569:

Q: What accomplishment are you proud of?

A: Gaylord. We put a lot of resources into organizing the bay front in Chula Vista. It’s one of the last pieces of undeveloped land on the water, and we wanted something that was good for the environment and good for the workers. We worked with the environmental community, the trade show unions, the hotel and restaurant workers, and we tried to make sure that the project would be good for the environment and the workers. In some ways, I’ll take the blame. You have to respect the workers and the environment. We were asked, “Isn’t something better than nothing?” Our feeling is that if we build it right, we can build more.

(Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment wanted to build a 1,500 room hotel and convention center on the Chula Vista bay front. In 2007, the company pulled out allegedly because it could not reach an agreement with labor unions. It then continued negotiating, and pulled out again a year later because it could not get financing.)

I believe we sent a strong message about the power and commitment of San Diego’s electrical workforce with the Gaylord campaign. We are committed to continue to make sure that whatever is built on the bayfront must create good, green, local careers.

Now we see San Diego developers and their community allies waving white flags, even as San Diego is close to having a free market-oriented mayor and a Republican city council majority, and even as voters in the County of San Diego and in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside, and El Cajon have expressed their views on union monopolies by prohibiting government-mandated Project Labor Agreements through ballot measures.

For example, an article today in the October 10, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune (Lane Field Hotels Approved by Port) reported that the Lane Field developers (Rob Lankford, architect John Portman & Associates and contractor Hensel Phelps) surrendered to union demands in order to get two proposed hotels approved and finally under construction:

Developers also avoided opposition from labor groups by agreeing to require union construction labor and welcome unionized workers at the finished hotels…But Trammer said underground parking could add nearly $18 million to the $115 million construction cost, roughly the same it will cost to use union labor.

So this is another Project Labor Agreement won by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council (costing the developers an extra $18 million), and another neutrality agreement won by UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 to be imposed on a hotel operator who hasn’t even been identified yet. Again outraged by another surrender to extortion, Eric Christen posted a comment in response to the article:

Once again we see that threats of environmental lawsuits filed by labor unions would have been used had not the owner of this project not agreed to use union labor. And this is not laid out by the writer more explicitly why? This same writer just covered the Port Commission meeting two weeks ago where the unions dropped 150 pages of comments via their lawyers on the Convention Center Expansion yet these two striking similar projects but totally different union responses are not connected here.

This of course follows a decade of unions pulling this greenmail starting with Petco Park to this current project, and of course chasing Gaylord out of the state was their crowning achievement.

This extortion that unions use on projects that do not agree to use union labor is astounding. The silence form (sic) developers and the press on this is equally astounding.

As outlined in the www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com article Lane Field in San Diego: UNITE-HERE Local 30 Doesn’t Like a Proposed Hotel, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 had hired the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to identify and submit substantial environmental objections to the project under CEQA.

And here is a THIRD example of union greenmail working its magic. A September 28, 2012 article in Voice of San Diego (U-T CEO Denies Threatening Port; New Email Emerges) revealed that developers who want to convert the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal into a new sports/entertainment complex are seeking input and advice from Tom Lemmon, the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. The email was released by Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

These three examples from just the last three weeks show that labor unions have been able to use CEQA to control anything having to do with downtown project development in the City of San Diego, particularly within the Port of San Diego‘s jurisdiction. Giving into union CEQA extortion is indeed a “cost of doing business” in San Diego (and throughout California).

Is this surprising, knowing the nature of humanity? After all, paying people off to avoid unwanted artificially-placed obstacles has probably been a standard way of doing business in most places in most times throughout human history. This country is not particularly clean: the United States is only ranked 24th in 2011 on the Transparency International annual Corruption Perceptions Index, with corruption defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

California’s urban local governments near the coast are generally fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged, unaccountable, and governed by pragmatists (at best) or compulsive criminals (at worst). These are ripe conditions for unions, corporate entities, and other self-interested organizations to infect and pervert government and commerce. The republican (lower case “r”) structure of checks and balances in American government works haphazardly in these cities; in particular, citizens fail to fulfill their necessary duty of educated and informed democratic participation in the process of choosing representatives and setting policies.

Nevertheless, Eric Christen is committed to fighting this urban corruption as reflected in union CEQA greenmail, according to an email he sent on October 10, 2012:

What is frustrating for myself as someone who deals with this locally and statewide every day is that I get what unions are doing and why they are doing it. What I do not get is how on earth they can keep getting away with doing it without being held accountable by an inquisitive press that asks simple questions after seeing the obvious staring them in the face.

I can fight unions and their shameless abuse of the California environmental law. I can continue to educate and inform the public about this and get them to ban PLAs when we put it on the ballot. I can continue to educate the media about this abuse. But what I cannot do is write the stories or pose the questions that help educate taxpayers, voters and citizens about exactly what is going on.

Sorry Eric, looks like few people want to join you in exposing this racket. You’re putting abstract principles ahead of tangible financial self-gain. That’s not a popular proposition.

But here is some consolation: this appeasement to union extortion recalls a well-known quotation attributed to Vladimir Lenin (but probably spurious): “the capitalists will sell us the rope from which we’ll hang them.”

Some of the capitalists to be hung will die rich. A few courageous ones to be hung will die right.

Brazen! Union Officials and Their Environmental Lawyers at Port Commissioners’ Meeting Threaten to Stop San Diego Convention Center Expansion Using California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

The September 19, 2012 meeting of the United Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners was packed with the San Diego region’s civic leadership, including the Mayor of San Diego, Jerry Sanders. They were at the meeting to see and celebrate the Port taking the next steps in approving the proposed $520 million San Diego Convention Center expansion, as well as an expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. Representatives were there from numerous major business groups in the region, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

United Port of San Diego Headquarters Building on Pacific Highway

United Port of San Diego Headquarters Building, where union officials and their lawyer brazenly abused CEQA on September 19, 2012 in front of San Diego’s civic leadership.

Also there was Kevin Dayton, President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC. No one there knew or cared, and I finally found a seat in the back corner. I suspected that the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo was going to pull a stunt at the meeting on behalf of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30. Knowing their modus operendi, I figured a lawyer was going to make a huge last-minute document dump at the meeting under the authority of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). I was right!

The party-poopers promptly rained on the parade when the commissioners opened the agenda item to public comment. An official of the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 led off the attack by declaring that the 1400-page final Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. Then someone from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted to the commissioners a 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) on behalf of the phony union front group called “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.

CEQA Objections to San Diego Convention Center Expansion

The cover page of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) “document dump” of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of unions against the Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project.

Never to be left out of a militant union action in San Diego, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed into the meeting late 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. This would give unions more time to squeeze their demands out of the developers and the convention center’s public and private partners.

A representative of the leftist San Diego-based Center for Policy Initiatives attended the meeting but did not speak. This group has not been involved in CEQA issues, but it is very involved in labor issues.

I also spoke, as a representative of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC. I noted there was an underlying story and then revealed the whole scheme. Of course, most people in the room knew about it already but do not want to acknowledge it in public.

After these antics, the Port Commissioners recessed the meeting for about 20 minutes so Port staff could scan the document dump by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and make a preliminary determination of whether or not the unions introduced new and valid CEQA objections to the proposed convention center and hotel expansion. If the comments were serious threats, the Port Commissioners would need to table the approval of the Environmental Impact Report.

Staff ultimately identified four potential areas vulnerable to lawsuits or appeals, but also indicated how the issues would be addressed. In the end, the Port Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Environmental Impact Report, while noting that they expected litigation and appeals unless relevant parties were able to make a deal with the unions.

What is the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council seeking with its CEQA objections? As I documented in my March 11, 2011 www.thetruthaboutPLAs.com article entitled It’s Out in the Open: Project Labor Agreement a Costly Possibility for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, construction union officials want a requirement for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the projects. Presumably UNITE HERE wants some sort of neutrality agreement for union organizing.

It’s nothing new in California and nothing new in San Diego. It’s “greenmail.”

NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE

Convention Center Project Takes a Major Step Forward – San Diego Union-Tribune – September 20, 2012

Port Approves Environmental Report For Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – September 19, 2012

Letter in San Diego Union-Tribune Reveals Insider Perspective on How Union Official Sabotaged City of Santee’s Local Charter Authority

A resident of the City of Santee – a man named Bill Howell (whom I do not know) – had the guts to write a letter to the editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune about how San Diego County’s top construction union official Tom Lemmon used “bullying” (in 2008) to intimidate and manipulate the decisions of the Citizens’ Charter Advisory Committee of the City of Santee. Published on Sunday, May 19, the letter stated the following:

…Mr. Lemmon, whom if you have never seen him, cuts an imposing figure. He is a large person and without much imagination, the picture of a “union boss.”

When Mr. Till, our city manager, opened the discussion on PLA-related ordinances for our charter and mentioned that we could advise not to have PLA, Mr. Lemmon immediately and in a forceful voice said, “If you pass that, we’ll sue you!” Just like that.

At that time, he and his organization were locked in a lawsuit against the city of Vista because it passed a charter without the PLA provision.

I am not used to being intimidated, having spent 30 years as a policeman, yet I felt a quiver in my gut.

After a very quick deliberation, in my opinion, the committee voted not to recommend an ordinance prohibiting the PLA.

See the letter to the editor “Prop. A Would Give City Some Muscle” in the May 19, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune.

I was not aware of that exchange, but I will note that the union intimidation of the Citizens’ Charter Advisory Committee of the City of Santee (and the Santee City Council) was not limited to the city’s proposed policy on whether or not to prohibit any city requirement for contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions. In fact, the reference in the Bill Howell letter to a union lawsuit against the City of Vista (State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista) alludes to another right of charter cities detested by unions: the authority to establish their own policies for government-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”) on purely municipal projects.

While most city councils of charter cities in San Diego County have the freedom to choose their own contractor wage rates for purely municipal projects, the Santee City Council presented a proposed charter to voters in November 2008 with this weak, compromised provision:

Section 302. Prevailing Wages.

The City shall require the payment of prevailing wages on City public works projects in the same manner as is required of general law cities in the State of California; provided, however, that the City Council may, by a resolution or ordinance adopted by a four-fifths (4/5) vote of the City Council, increase or decrease the minimum thresholds which trigger the requirement to pay prevailing wages for individual projects, categories of projects or all City public works projects.

In other words, the city is stuck requiring its construction contractors to abide by the costly, burdensome prevailing wage laws of the State of California, and the phony, inflated rates set by the Department of Industrial Relations (using collective bargaining agreements), unless four of the five city council members vote to “increase or decrease the minimum thresholds.”

This language does not indicate whether or not the city council can exempt certain types of construction, set a percentage of the state prevailing wage as the local prevailing wage, conduct its own surveys to determine local wage rates, permanently exempt volunteers, or exclude payments incorporated in the “Other” category of prevailing wage rates that are not related to employee compensation. Local control is limited and inflexible.

What’s the point of being a charter city if the provisions in the charter deprive the city of the local governing authority it sought in the first place? Obviously the presence of the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council on the Citizens’ Charter Advisory Committee greatly compromised the effectiveness of the charter presented to voters in the City of Santee.

By the way, voters approved the charter as Proposition P in November 2008 on a vote of 14,465 votes in favor and 6,371 votes in opposition – an easy 69% victory.

And the Santee language on prevailing wage was later adopted into the charter approved by voters for the City of El Centro (in Imperial County, to the east of San Diego, within the territory of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council).