Tag Archive for Western Electrical Contractors Association

“Uncancel the Meeting!” First California Bill to Mandate Project Labor Agreement Was Backroom Deal: Public Discussion Needed

Here’s an email I sent this morning (June 23, 2014) to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors about the need for openness and transparency concerning the state-mandated Project Labor Agreement provision in Assembly Bill 155, which authorizes the Monterey County Water Resources Authority to use design-build procurement for the interlake pipeline project. I propose that the board’s Legislative Committee “uncancel” its June 30 meeting to discuss AB 155.


From: Kevin Dayton
Subject: Board of Supervisors: Request to “Uncancel” and Convene 6/30 Legislative Committee Meeting – AB 155 and Project Labor Agreement
Date: June 23, 2014 at 12:19:22 PM PDT
To: Monterey County Board of Supervisors

Dear Monterey County Board of Supervisors:

Assemblyman Luis Alejo has gutted and amended Assembly Bill 155 to become an “urgency” bill to authorize the Monterey County Water Resources Agency to use the design-build procurement procedure in bidding the interlake pipeline project. That bill includes a provision never-before included in a design-build authorization bill that requires the design-build entity to enter into a project labor agreement with construction trade unions that will “bind all of the contractors performing work on the project.”

See June 19, 2014 report: Monterey County Water Resources Agency: Target of First State-Mandated Project Labor Agreement

A Project Labor Agreement requires a construction company to pay employee fringe benefits into union-affiliated trust funds, obtain most or all journeymen and apprentice workers through the applicable union hiring hall dispatching system, and requires workers to pay union dues and initiation fees. Government-mandated Project Labor Agreements institute favoritism for unions and unionized contractors. Project Labor Agreements are an unnecessary bid specification that discourages bid competition and increases costs of public works construction for taxpayers.

Your Legislative Committee has not discussed design-build authorization for the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, nor Assembly Bill 155, nor the government-mandated Project Labor Agreement. And inexplicably, the next meeting of the Legislative Committee scheduled for June 30 is now cancelled!

June 30 Legislative Committee Cancellation Notice

May 19 Legislative Committee Agenda (no reference to design-build authorization for MCWRA)

On behalf of the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) and other construction companies and trade associations, I ask you to convene a Legislative Committee meeting on June 30 with AB 155 on the agenda for discussion.

Do you believe your constituents should have the opportunity to comment on AB 155 in a public forum in Monterey County? Surely representatives of construction trade associations, unions, and water customers should be able to provide remarks on this highly-controversial issue in a public forum, so that the Board of Supervisors is able to deliberate adequately and make an informed decision on AB 155 and a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement.

Right now the People of Monterey County have no idea what led to the inclusion of the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in a California legislative bill meant to benefit them. Shouldn’t the justification be out in the open?

See Monterey County Legislative Committee Role, Responsibilities & Policies

Let’s bring this state government mandate out into the open, so the People and their representatives on the Board of Supervisors can evaluate whether or not it provides the best quality work at the best price. Please convene your Legislative Committee on June 30 to discuss the Project Labor Agreement mandate in AB 155

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC

Project Labor Agreement Negotiations Fail, Government Transparency Is Restored, Ferry Agency Resumes Fair and Open Bid Competition

Fair and open bid competition on a $22 million ferry project funded by California taxpayers was preserved after unions would not agree to provisions proposed by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority for a Project Labor Agreement. Background about the failed union negotiations was revealed when a government affairs representative for non-union construction trade associations pointed out how the agency board planned to discuss the negotiations out of public view in closed session, in violation of state law.

A short time schedule contributed to the failure of Project Labor Agreement negotiations. On May 1, 2013, the City of Vallejo, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, and the private developer Lennar Mare Island (LMI) issued a joint press release announcing a new $22-million maintenance, administration, and passenger facility to be built on Mare Island, a part of the City of Vallejo that was the Mare Island Naval Shipyard until 1996.

Despite its potential for prosperity based on a beautiful Bay Area water location and climate, its historic and heritage districts, and its Mare Island redevelopment, the City of Vallejo has been troubled. It filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in 2008, primarily because of excessive commitments to its public employee unions. The city’s political leadership is notorious for catering to the interests of labor unions. Construction trade union officials have lobbied elected officials to ensure that contractors must sign Project Labor Agreements as a condition of working on major public works construction in Vallejo, whether the projects are built by Solano County, the City of Vallejo, the Vallejo City Unified School District, or the Solano Community College District.

This new project – now known as the North Bay Maintenance and Operations Facility – was an obvious union target. At the May 23, 2013 meeting of the WETA board of directors, the agency’s executive director informed the board that Ben Espinoza, president of the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, had contacted her about the upcoming contractor bidding for the ferry facility. Union officials wanted the WETA board to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council as a condition of working on it.

According to the May 23, 2013 WETA board meeting minutes, the executive director told the board that the unions’ “preferred language was currently under review and that she would keep the Board informed on the status of the item.” In response to a question from one board member asking how the agency would implement the Project Labor Agreement, the executive director said that the agency would meet with union officials to negotiate an agreement for the board to approve at its June 2013 meeting. If a final agreement was not ready when the agency released bidding information for the project, the agency would subsequently add it through an addendum.

Agency negotiations with the unions had to be completed quickly. The project would be funded in part by State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds obtained for the City of Vallejo through the Solano Transportation Authority. In order to use the STIP funds allocated to this project, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority would have to award the contract no later than August 31, 2013.

At the June 27, 2013 meeting, despite the opposition of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, the WETA board unanimously voted for a resolution requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement. The resolution authorized the agency to modify a draft Project Labor Agreement within 24 hours for inclusion in the bid specifications.

Following the meeting, the executive director of the agency added a modified draft Project Labor Agreement to the July 3, 2013 bid specifications for the project. The Request for Proposals noted that “The final PLA will be released in an addendum to this RFP upon execution by the parties, which we anticipate will occur no later than 10 days prior to the date that proposals are due. A PLA acknowledgement form is also included in this RFP as a form required for submission.”

Here is the text of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority – North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility – Draft Project Labor Agreement as included in the July 3, 2013 bid specifications. Figuring this would be a done deal, I dutifully added it to the list of Copies of All Project Labor Agreements on California Government Projects (1993-2013) on the www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com web site. I would ultimately have to remove it.

A few weeks later, the first posted July 18, 2013 meeting agenda for the board of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (created on July 12, 2013) did not refer to any Project Labor Agreement negotiations. But a revised meeting agenda (created on July 15, 2013) included a closed session item to discuss the agency’s Project Labor Agreement negotiations with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council.

A July 15, 2013 letter from the WETA executive director to the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council president explains the negotiating difficulties leading to this item. Here are some key excerpts:

We have a funding deadline that requires us to be in contract no later than the end of August or we lose significant funding for the North Bay Maintenance and Operations Facility project. We released an RFP for the Phase 1 work two weeks ago that includes the PLA in unexecuted format. However, we cannot go to award of a contract without having finalized the agreement and having it fully executed.

Based on your legal counsel’s representation, it would appear that I have no alternative other than to go to my board at its meeting this Thursday and advise them we will have to pull the PLA from the procurement set. If you think further discussions would be productive, given that I have a limited ability to make further changes, please get back to me immediately. We need to resolve open issues no later than the end of the day on Wednesday…

Please get back to me immediately if you see value in further discussions. Otherwise I have no option other than to advise the WETA board to delete the PLA from the North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility project procurement.

On behalf of Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA), and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California (CAPHCC), Richard Markuson submitted a July 16, 2013 letter to WETA pointing out that discussion of the Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session was a violation of the California Ralph M. Brown Act, a law meant to insure government transparency and accountability.

The agency changed its plans. Created on July 16, the revised July 18, 2013 meeting agenda was “corrected” to place the Project Labor Agreement in open session as an “urgency item for consideration.”

At the July 18 WETA board meeting, representatives of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) called for the agency to negotiate certain provisions into the Project Labor Agreement so that Merit Shop contractors would not be discouraged from bidding. But more stunning was the infighting among representatives of various trade unions, which revealed why the discussion was originally intended for closed session.

A representative of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council spoke against the Project Labor Agreement in its current draft form. The Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104 and the Teamsters union also opposed the draft language.

WETA’s executive director recommended that the board dismiss the Project Labor Agreement. After a month of negotiations, the agency could not reach an agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council. The attorney with Thompson Coburn law firm negotiating the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of WETA was resisting inclusion of off-site hauling (to and from the job site) and off-site fabrication in the Project Labor Agreement because he believed including these activities would violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Meanwhile, the law firm of Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld, negotiating the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, has historically upheld a strict model of a Project Labor Agreement that includes off-site work and militantly rejects any provisions that acknowledge the existence of a non-union construction sector. Speaking on behalf of the unions, Sharon Seidenstein of Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld even objected to WETA changing a provision to allow apprentices to be dispatched from any state-approved apprenticeship program (including programs operated by companies or non-union Unilateral Apprenticeship Committees), rather than exclusively from a program operated by a union-affiliated Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC).

WETA’s legal counsel asked the union lawyer for case studies to back her position, which she was unable to do because reportedly no party has yet challenged the inclusion of off-site hauling (to and from a job site) or inclusion of off-site fabrication in a Project Labor Agreement. WETA board members tried to convince union representatives to accept the draft Project Labor Agreement and even recommended limiting apprentices on the project to those from union programs. In the end, the WETA board voted that if the unions did not sign the draft Project Labor Agreement by close of business on July 19, 2013, contractors would not be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on Phase 1 of the project.

On July 19, 2013, unions informed the agency that it would not sign the Project Labor Agreement, and the agency removed the requirement from the bid specifications through an addendum. State taxpayers will now benefit from fair and open competition on this project.

News Media Coverage:

Labor Agreement Could Be in Place for New Ferry Facility on Mare IslandVallejo Times-Herald – June 27, 2013

WETA Adopts Disputed Labor Agreement for Vallejo Ferry Facility – Vallejo Times-Herald – June 28, 2013

Vallejo Ferry Hub Accord in Jeopardy – Vallejo Times-Herald – July 27, 2013

Opponents of Project Labor Agreement for Solano Community College District Will Make Formal Presentation to Governing Board

The Vice President of Finance & Administration for the Solano Community College District has asked Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), to make a 15-minute presentation about Project Labor Agreements during the March 6 meeting of the Solano College Governing Board in Fairfield.

The board wants more in-depth background about the ramifications of a proposal to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. This would be a condition of working on projects funded by borrowed money obtained through bond sales authorized by the $348 million Measure Q, approved by voters in November 2012.

(Union officials and lawyers: in keeping with your consistent views on appropriate limits of freedom of speech, be sure to contact this person and the superintendent-president and demand their withdrawal of the invitation. How dare this college give opponents of Project Labor Agreements a public forum to present their viewpoints?)

Voters were not provided with any indication from the district that unions would have a monopoly on construction work funded by these bond proceeds, although Associated Builders and Contractors, the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), and the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) tried to alert the public to the district’s history of requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the district’s projects funded by Measure G, approved by voters in November 2002. (See A Thoroughly Documented History of How Solano Community College Requires Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement with Unions for the full details of that history.)

There was a small effort by the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group to warn voters that Measure Q bond proceeds would be squandered on Project Labor Agreements and other wasteful ventures. But a couple hundred yard signs and letters to the editor could not overcome the $227,600 Yes on Q campaign funded by special interests that feed off the college and its construction projects. (See complete list of contributors below.)

Here are my writings on Project Labor Agreements at Solano Community College District:

Governing Board for Solano Community College District in California Hears Debate Over Project Labor Agreement on $348 Million Bond Measure Q – February 6, 2013

Waste Once, Then Do It Again! Project Labor Agreement on Solano Community College District Board Meeting Agenda – February 5, 2013

Updated Chart! Who’s Paying to Convince Solano County Voters to Take On $348 Million of Additional Debt – Plus Interest – with Measure Q? – October 30, 2012

$348 Million Measure Q for Solano Community College: Yes on Q Campaign Fails to Submit Latest Legally-Required Campaign Finance Report – October 27, 2012

A Thoroughly Documented History of How Solano Community College Requires Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement with Unions – October 21, 2012

Solano County’s Measure Q Looks Vulnerable to Defeat: Will Voters Refuse to Authorize Solano County Community College to Borrow $348 Million Through Bond Sales? – October 20, 2012

California Local Election Report: Construction Bond Measures for School Districts and Community College Districts – Four That Obviously Deserve a NO Vote – October 13, 2012

Contributors to Campaign to Convince Solano County Voters to Approve Measure Q

Total Monetary Contributions: $227,600

DONOR INTEREST AMOUNT
Piper Jaffray Investment Bank/Bond Broker $25,000
Kitchell Construction Construction Manager for Solano College Measure G $25,000
RBC Capital Markets Investment Bank/Bond Broker $18,000
Swinerton Construction Management $15,000
Steve M. Nielsen, MuniBond Solar Bond consultant $10,000
Steinberg Architects Architect $10,000
VBN Architects Architect $10,000
tBP Architecture Architect $7,500
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Construction trade union $5,000
Sonoma/Napa Counties Electrical Contractors Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
[Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104] Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104 Issues Account Construction trade union $5,000
Robert A. Bothman Construction Construction contractor $5,000
Solano Community College Educational Foundation Construction contractor $5,000
Jelly Belly Candy Company Candy company based in Fairfield $5,000
Stradling , Yocca, Carlson and Rauth Law firm $3,500
WRNS Studio Architect $3,500
Barnes & Noble corporate headquarters Operates Solano College bookstore $3,000
Zampi Determan & Erickson Law firm for community college districts $3,000
United Association Plumbers & Steamfitters Local No. 343 Labor-Management Cooperation Committee Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $2,500
Keenan and Associates Insurance broker for school districts $2,500
Timothy B. Kelly Executive with elabra: bond transaction management $2,500
CSDA Architects Architect $2,500
Alfa Tech Engineering $2,500
Sandis Civil Engineers Engineering $2,500
Northern California Mechanical Contractors Association Unionized construction trade association $2,500
Lionakis Architect $2,500
Ratcliff Architect $2,500
B&L Properties Property holding company in Fairfield $2,500
Dannis Woliver Kelley Law firm for school & college districts $2,500
Vanir Construction Management, Inc. Construction management $2,000
Hensel Phelps Construction Company Construction contractor $2,000
Dougherty & Dougherty Architect $2,000
Henley Architects & Associates Architect $1,600
CSW/Stuber-Stroeh Engineering Group Engineering $1,100
Cement Masons Local Union No. 400 Construction trade union $1,000
BCA Architects Architect $1,000
Leland Saylor Associates Construction management $1,000
BRJ & Associates Construction management $1,000
William (Bill) T. Kelly, executive with SunPower Solar contractor $1,000
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo Law firm for school & college districts $1,000
Stafford King Wiese Architects Architects $1,000
The Lew Edwards Group Political consulting firm in Oakland, works to pass bond measures $1,000
LPAS Architect $1,000
Roy Stutzman Consulting Financial consulting for school & college districts $1,000
Student Insurance Insurance company for school districts $1,000
Daniel Iacofano CEO of MIG – campus planning & design $1,000
KPW Structural Engineers Engineering $750
Creegan + D’Angelo Infrastructure Engineers Engineering $500
MatriScope Engineering Laboratories Engineering $500
PAE Consulting Engineers Engineering $500
TLDC Architecture Architect $500
Devin Conway, engineer for Verde Design, Inc. Landscape architect, engineering, construction management $500
Turley & Associates Mechanical Engineering Group Engineering $500
Noll & Tam Architect $500
Optimal Inspections Inspector $500
Kurt Forsgren, executive with Webcor Builders Construction contractor $500
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin Metz & Associates Polling firm for political campaigns $500
Denis Honeychurch Solano College Board Member $500
Dovetail Decision Consultants Furniture, fixtures and equipment for educational districts $500
Sylvia Kwan Principal with Kwan Henmi Architecture Planning $500
Andre Stewart, The Doctors Company Candidate for Benicia School Board $250
Gary Moriarty, executive with Kitchell Construction management $250
Teresa Ryland, executive, TRR School Business Consulting Consultant for education administrators $250
Thorton Tomasetti Engineering $250
International Union of Elevator Constructors Local No. 8 Construction trade union $200
Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local Union No. 3 Construction trade union $200
Blach Construction Construction contractor $200
Marsha Perry Park, executive with Vanir Group Construction management $100
Jason Reiser, engineer with Miyamoto International Engineering $100
Law Offices of Larry Frierson Lawyer for community college districts $100
Elñora Tena Webb, President, Laney College Peralta Community College administrator $100
Yulian Lisioso Solano College Administrator $100
Sarah Chapman Solano College Board Member $100
Rosemary Thurston Solano College Board Member $100
Anne Marie Young Solano College Board Member $100
James Dekloe Solano College Faculty Member $100
Dee Alarcon President, Solano Community College Educational Foundation $100
Unitemized $50
TOTAL $227,600

Governing Board for Solano Community College District in California Hears Debate Over Project Labor Agreement on $348 Million Bond Measure Q

UPDATE: News Coverage

Solano College Board Weighs Construction OptionsFairfield Daily Republic – February 7, 2013

How Will Solano Community College Spend Bond Funds? – Vacaville Reporter – February 7, 2013 and Interest High in How Solano Community College Will Spend Bond MoneyVallejo Times-Herald – February 7, 2013


George Guynn, Jr., President of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group, speaks against the proposed Project Labor Agreement for $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013

George Guynn, Jr., President of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group, speaks against the proposed Project Labor Agreement for the $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013.

Representatives of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group and various construction organizations, including the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC), the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), and the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) spoke out at the February 6, 2013 meeting of the Governing Board of the Solano Community College District against a proposed Project Labor Agreement.

Under the proposal, construction companies would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on projects funded by proceeds from $348 million in bond sales authorized by 63.52% of Solano County voters on November 5, 2012 as Measure Q.

A union official from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council (Frank Crim) and a union official from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 180 (Dan Broadwater) spoke in support of the Project Labor Agreement. Greg Armstrong of the Northern California Chapter of the unionized National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) claimed that construction under Project Labor Agreements never goes over budget and never garners any complaints or litigation.

John Takeuchi of Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group speaks against proposed Project Labor Agreement for $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013

John Takeuchi of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group speaks against the proposed Project Labor Agreement for the $348 milllion Measure Q at Solano Community College District, February 6, 2013.

Following public comment, the Solano College Vice President of Finance & Administration – Yulian Ligioso – made a presentation about Project Labor Agreements that Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction described afterwards as “the worst, most dishonest report I have ever seen, with many outright fabrications…a horrid report.” Clearly it was based on material provided by union lobbyists, and it ignored material provided by opponents. He indicated that a proposed document may be brought to the governing board for their March meeting. Here’s a copy of the staff report outline: Solano Community College District Staff Report on Project Labor Agreements – February 6, 2013.

The official ballot information provided to Solano County voters for the November 5, 2012 election did not indicate that the college district would consider a Project Labor Agreement. Here’s what was on the ballot:

SOLANO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT MEASURE Q “SOLANO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT STUDENT / VETERANS’ AFFORDABLE EDUCATION, JOB TRAINING, CLASSROOM REPAIR MEASURE.
“To prepare Solano / Yolo County students / veterans for universities / jobs by: Expanding student, military, disabled veteran access to affordable education; Meeting earthquake / fire safety codes; upgrading employer job placement facilities; Upgrading engineering, welding, nursing / firefighter training centers; Acquiring, constructing / repairing facilities, sites / equipment, shall Solano Community College District issue $348,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, with citizens’ oversight, annual audits / no money for pensions / administrators’ salaries?”

The Union Quest for a Project Labor Agreement on a New Sacramento Kings Basketball Arena: Part One – 2006

Looks like the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team is on its way to Seattle, ending the union dream in Sacramento of a monopoly on building a $500 million taxpayer-funded sports and entertainment complex. Here’s Part One of a two-part series on the history of labor issues concerning the construction of a proposed new arena for the Sacramento Kings.

In August 2006, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California, the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), and the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction learned from multiple sources that top construction union officials in Sacramento were anticipating a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) if Sacramento County voters approved a proposed $1.2 billion sales tax increase in the November 2006 election to pay for construction of a new $470 million arena for the Sacramento Kings basketball team, as well as other projects. A Joint Powers Authority comprised of elected officials from Sacramento County local governments would make sure the Project Labor Agreement was imposed, and arena supporters asked Sacramento union officials to keep their costly plan quiet until after voters approved the sales tax.

Supporters of fair and open competition didn’t keep it quiet. In October 2006, my former employer Associated Builders and Contractors of California and the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction sent a mailer to 27,000 households in Sacramento County asking them to contact the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and Maloof Sports and Entertainment in opposition to a Project Labor Agreement that unions wanted on the project.

Front of 2006 mailer urging Sacramento County residents to tell the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and Maloof Sports and Entertainment to reject a union-only Project Labor Agreement for a new Sacramento Kings basketball arena.

Front of 2006 mailer urging Sacramento County residents to tell the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and Maloof Sports and Entertainment to reject a union-only Project Labor Agreement for a new Sacramento Kings basketball arena.

Sacramento Kings New Arena - Project Labor Agreement Mailer Back 2006

In the end, a whopping 80.38% of voters rejected Measure R to pay additional taxes to fund a new $470 million arena for the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team. And 71.43% of voters rejected Measure Q, an advisory vote on authorizing the use of the new tax revenue in part for building a new arena.

Union leaders and their political allies weren’t done yet. A second chance for a Project Labor Agreement would come in 2011, but this time the opposition would go on the offense.

Part 2 to come…

###

The Plot Develops to Require Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement with Unions to Build California’s High Speed Rail

UPDATE: News Coverage of the Project Labor Agreement for California High-Speed Rail

‘Needy’ Workers Will Get Jobs on High-Speed Rail – Fresno Bee – December 7, 2012 (reveals that all five prequalified bidders for the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail project have signed a Project Labor Agreement with unions)

High-Speed Rail in Bed with Unionswww.CalWatchdog.com – December 7, 2012 (provides a thorough background on union officials seeking a monopoly on construction of the California High-Speed Rail project and cites the Dayton Public Policy Institute as a source)


The agenda for today’s (December 6, 2012) meeting of the California High Speed Rail Authority included an item to approve a policy concerning “enhanced community benefits” for construction of the high speed rail system. Construction industry observers believe the High Speed Rail Authority will use this policy as justification for contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for construction of the rail system (including related structures such as stations).

The policy, approved unanimously by the board this morning, is here: California High Speed Rail Authority – Community Benefits Policy for Construction – December 6, 2012. The approved resolution to approve the policy is here: California High Speed Rail Authority – Community Benefits Policy for Construction – Resolution – December 6, 2012.

This “community benefits” policy seems innocuous on the surface. It is supposed to enhance employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged and low-income workers, veterans, youth, unemployed, homeless, single parents, people with criminal records, etc. and “ensure that California benefits as much as possible,” according to staff. During discussion of this policy at today’s meeting, staff emphasized that it would help with the hiring of veterans and the adoption of pre-apprenticeship programs. (These are customary union talking points in support of Project Labor Agreements).

Staff also reported at the meeting that the policy would be implemented in various ways with “different stakeholders.” I’ve long predicted that the politically powerful stakeholder known as the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California would use a scheme like this to get a monopoly on High Speed Rail construction through a Project Labor Agreement.

The High Speed Rail Authority will be awarding construction contracts using a “design-build” bidding procedure, which means it can use somewhat subjective criteria, in addition to price, as the basis for selecting its construction contractors. This approach to implementing a Project Labor Agreement will allow the board and union officials to avoid controversial and high-profile votes for the High Speed Rail Authority to negotiate and implement a Project Labor Agreement directly with union officials. In addition, the public will remain generally unaware of the Project Labor Agreement, because reporters will have difficulty researching and explaining this complicated procedure.

The High Speed Rail Authority will also avoid accountability for the Project Labor Agreement. It can portray the agreement as a private and voluntary business decision that originates internally with the design-build contractor. There are recent precedents for this approach on large government projects in California.

As I reported last month, Clark Construction has signed Project Labor Agreements for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III and the new Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach. The City of San Diego and the California Administrative Office of the Courts even claim that the Project Labor Agreements are not a matter of public record, and Clark Construction declines to provide them to the public.

Staff told the board that prospective contractors will indicate in their bids how they will fulfill the policy. There will be a monitoring program handled through the High Speed Rail Authority’s auditing committee, and contractors will be penalized for failing to comply.

Marvin Dean calls for fairness and opportunities for all at California High Speed Rail Authority Board Meeting - December 6, 2012.

Marvin Dean calls for fairness and opportunities for all at California High Speed Rail Authority Board Meeting – December 6, 2012.

Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction spoke at the meeting today during public comment against a Project Labor Agreement, along with Nicole Goehring of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors and Richard Markuson, representing the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California (PHCC), and the Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA). In addition, Marvin Dean of the Kern Minority Contractors Association spoke during public comment and asked that both union and non-union contractors have the opportunity to work on the High Speed Rail.

Chairman Dan Richard (a former board member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District – BART) concluded discussion of the proposed policy by remarking on the public comments against a Project Labor Agreement. Richard declared that while no decision has been made about how this policy will be implemented, he attended a meeting yesterday with the minority community, which expressed very strongly that a Project Labor Agreement was the way to achieve the policy objectives. He also claimed that Project Labor Agreements are effective in improving the efficiency of project delivery, reducing the number of conflicts, and providing a way for minority contractors to get work.

Mr. Richard also took a moment after public comment to recognize two important people in the audience: Bob Balgenorth, outgoing head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and former High Speed Rail Authority board member, and Robbie Hunter, the head of the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council, who is the incoming head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

This Project Labor Agreement Scheme Has Long Been Expected…

See California’s Top Construction Union Officials Love the State’s $100 Billion High-Speed Rail Project, my January 12, 2011 blog post on www.TheTruthaboutPLAs.com that provides a history of union involvement with the High Speed Rail.

I’m not the only observer who sees what’s going on. Here’s the text of a notice sent this morning by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction:

PLA ALERT!: CA High Speed Rail Authority to Vote on Union-Only Project Labor Agreement TODAY!

Today at 10:00am at City Hall in Sacramento, the California High Speed Rail Authority will be doing something we have warned about ever since this ill conceived, deceitfully presented plan to create a slower and more expensive way to travel verses flying was concocted: Have this 19th Century choo-choo train built with union-only labor by way of a Project Labor Agreement or “PLA”.  That should help keep this projects runaway costs down.

Because of CFEC’s pointed questioning of Authority staff and board members at previous meetings regarding a PLA, they have been forced to state there would’t be a PLA.  So what they have done now is give this PLA the euphemism “Community Benefit Agreement.”

You can watch the proceedings live by going here.

CFEC and others have been warning taxpayers, owners, and workers for years about the fact that the California High Speed Rail Authority is a prime target for a union-only Project Labor Agreement (PLA).

With Senate Bill 1029 having passed the State is set to spend $5.85 billion to acquire land and build the “initial operating segment” of the California High-Speed Rail. This month the California High-Speed Rail Authority is scheduled to award several contracts for this first segment through an alternative bidding procedure called design-build. Five entities that are conglomerates of major engineering and heavy construction infrastructure corporations have qualified to bid under this procedure with “a goal” to have 30 percent of the work go to small businesses.

Instead of awarding contracts to design the project and then awarding contracts to the lowest responsible bidder to build it, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is authorized to award contracts to qualified corporate entities that combine project design AND construction work.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority will select the design-build entities using a somewhat subjective list of “best value criteria” that could result in design-build entities winning contracts without being the lowest price. The State Public Works Board, which will oversee the awarding of the project, and the California Department of Finance, will approve the criteria to award the design-build contract.

As required by SB 1029, by October 1, 2012, prior to awarding a contract to start construction of the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail, and prior to advertising additional contracts to be awarded in September 2013 and October 2013, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will provide a comprehensive staff management report that includes a list of “proposed steps and procedures that will be employed to ensure adequate oversight and management of contractors involved in the construction contracts funded in this act.” The California High-Speed Rail Authority will also need to submit a report with the same content requirements before additional contracts are awarded in March 2017.

With the eight-member Board of Directors of the California High-Speed Rail Authority including or having included union bosses like Bob Balgenorth, recent head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, this was pretty easy to see coming.  But we will continue to expose it to California taxpayers and fight it.

At today’s meeting CFEC’s Eric Christen, among others, will be asking tough questions about the CBA. The meeting will be held at 10:00am at Sacramento City Hall located at 915 I Street in downtown Sacramento.

Contact Eric Christen at (858) 431-6337 for more information.

News Media Coverage:

Approved Policy Targets Disadvantaged People for High-Speed Rail Jobs – Fresno Bee – December 6, 2012

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Abandons Project Labor Agreement Policy; Instead Directs Staff to Negotiate Project Labor Agreement for Sonoma County Airport Expansion

UPDATE: This article was reprinted in www.theTruthaboutPLAs.com on September 21, 2012 as Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Abandons Project Labor Agreement Policy; Instead Directs Staff to Negotiate Project Labor Agreement for Sonoma County Airport Expansion.

Opponents of a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for Sonoma County rally on September 18, 2012.

Opponents of a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for Sonoma County rally on September 18, 2012. The signs say “WHY? WHY are you trying to solve a problem that your staff says doesn’t exist?”

Without a vote, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors directed county staff on September 18, 2012 to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions and with the input of contractors for the planned $54 million expansion of the runways at the Charles M. Schultz Sonoma County Airport. Supervisors listed numerous items to be addressed in the negotiations and asked staff to present an agreement to the board for consideration within two months.The original agenda item was to approve a policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of winning Sonoma County contracts for projects of $25 million or more.

After almost five hours of staff presentations, public comment, and board deliberations, the county board chairwoman Shirlee Zane (the primary advocate for the Project Labor Agreement) concluded that other board members had too many concerns about the content and meaning of the policy to reach a consensus. Supervisors Valerie Brown, David Rabbitt, and Efren Carrillo all had multiple concerns about how the policy would be implemented. Supervisor Mike McGuire stated his support for a policy with a threshold not less than $25 million, but didn’t show much interest in joining Supervisor Zane to push the proposed policy.

Government meetings to deliberate proposed Project Labor Agreements have taken an increasing amount of time over the years as supporters and opponents have become more sophisticated in their arguments and political strategies. This deliberation was the longest I’ve experienced in 15 years of fighting Project Labor Agreements in California, even exceeding the length of the March 2010 deliberation of the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees for its Project Labor Agreement.

At this meeting, 23 people spoke in support of the union policy and 29 people spoke against the union policy. Besides construction trade union officials and apprentices, supporters of the Project Labor Agreement included San Rafael City Council member (and former College of Marin Board of Trustees member) Greg Brockbank, Santa Rosa School Board member Laura Gonzalez (read her thank you note to Supervisor Zane), and Marty Bennett, a professor at Santa Rosa Junior College. Lisa Maldonado – executive director of the North Bay Labor Council – tried to frame the debate as class warfare between “wealthy families” and “workers who pay most of the taxes” and accused opponents of the Project Labor Agreement of exploiting illegal immigrants. She also Tweeted these comments:

Lisa Maldonado @LaMujerObrera

  • Wont Get Fooled Again! Special Shout Out to Supervisor Carrillo!: http://youtu.be/Rp6-wG5LLqE 
  • Spanks to Supervisors Brown, Rabbit & Carrillo for turning your backs on working families and supporting those who exploit workers!
  • Thanks to Supervisors McGuire & Zane for their tireless support of working families and local hire!
  • Supervisor Rabbit continues to back up North Bay Builders exchange anti worker supporters who got him elected. #scabsupervisor!
  • Why are the Associated Builders threatening our Board of Supervisors if they don’t vote their way? Talk about THUGS! pic.twitter.com/h3dZnhGI
  • Press Democrat’s new low: helping Scab Builders (aka their advertisers) threaten our Supervisors to Vote their way! (& they call us THUGS!?)
  • Scab builders can afford expensive advertising in the Press Democrat because they cheat & exploit workers #scablies pic.twitter.com/lHs0oSBM
  • Check out the ad that scabbuilders placed in the PD today. It’s expensive but it comes with an editorial of UR choice pic.twitter.com/jIKvTk02
  • Well now we know why the press Democrat did editorial on PLA while the middle east is on fire! I guess it really PAYS to advertise #noethics

And subsequently from the top labor official in the North Bay:

  • I thought@EfrenCarrillo’s public brawling was embarrassing. Then I saw his behavior in betraying working families & pandering to Keith Woods
  • Well Money still talks in Sonoma County. The interests of tChamber, theNCBE & the uber rich Soiland family are first with Rabbit, Carrillo !
  • @EfrenCarrillo: re: ur betrayal of workers last night-Now We know how the guy you knocked out in a bar feels. did u hit him from behind too?
  • It’s a sad thing when crazy Tea Partiers are your only defenders! #Carrillodoesntfightfair
  • Last night we saw Big Business owns Sonoma BOS. Xcept for McGuire & Zane We need Susan Gorin, NOT John Sawyer another tool of Asphalt Money!
  • @EfrenCarrillo Too bad there were no “rowdies” at the PLA vote, perhaps then you would have ‘defended’ working people?!
  • Dime Con Quien Andas y Te Dire’ Quien Eres! ( Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are) .#thingsmyabuelasaid #Efrenimies
  • Muchisimas Gracias to Supervisors McGuire & Zane for supporting PLA’s workers & apprentices & good middle class jobs!

Opposing the Project Labor Agreement policy as proposed were representatives of several construction trade associations (the North Coast Builders Exchange, the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Western Electrical Contractors Association), the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, and the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association. I also spoke as a follow up to my September 17, 2012 email to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors about the Project Labor Agreement policy.

Below is a compilation of news media coverage.

NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE

Supervisors Stick Up for the 85 Percent – North Bay Business Journal (editorial) – October 5, 2012

Supervisors Divided Over PLA Details: Staff to Answer Board Concerns in Two Months – North Bay Business Journal – September 24, 2012

Sonoma County Spurns Blanket Union Plan for Big Public Projects – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – September 19, 2012

Sonoma County Supervisors Want More Study on Project Labor Agreements – North Bay Business Journal – September 19, 2012

Sonoma County Supervisors to Consider Project Labor Agreement: Strong Public Input Expected on Tuesday – North Bay Business Journal – September 17, 2012

County Fails to Make Case for Favoring Unions – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat (editorial) – September 16, 2012

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

PLA Proponents Must Prove Benefits – North Bay Business Journal – October 8, 2012 

September 18, 2012 Unions Rally to Support Project Labor Agreement Policy for Sonoma County

Unions rally to support a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for Sonoma County on September 18, 2012. The portable electronic road sign in the background says “No PLA.”

Workers’ Compensation Reform Bill Sent to Governor Jerry Brown Has One Change to Union-Exclusive Alternative Dispute Resolution Carve-Out Program

On August 31, 2012 (the last day of the 2012 California legislative session), the California State Assembly voted 72-5 and the California State Senate voted 34-4 for Senate Bill 863, a bill making various changes to California’s workers compensation system.

As is customary in the California State Legislature, the bill was created as a gut-and-amend at the last minute (amended on August 24, August 27, and August 30) and whipped through the legislative process to Governor Jerry Brown on August 31 without adequate review.

As Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote in his September 2, 2012 column entitled The Legislative Process Does Count:

A 170-page overhaul of California’s multi-billion-dollar workers’ compensation system – hammered out during months of secret negotiations between business and labor union lobbyists – was dumped on the desks of 80 Assembly members late Friday after being whisked through two perfunctory committee hearings…

So is SB 863 good public policy or not?

One can’t really answer that question, and the same ambiguity envelops almost everything else that was done, and left undone, in the final days of the session.

SB 863 was one of countless measures that popped up during those days, entirely new bills that were hustled through the process with little or no detailed knowledge of what they really do, or whose interests they serve.

I looked at the final version of Senate Bill 863 to see if the bill changed the obscure alternative dispute resolution “carve-out” program authorized exclusively for the unionized construction industry. It does. For some reason (innocuous or sinister?), Senate Bill 863 eliminates this reporting requirement, which was part of the original 1993 authorization:

By June 30, 1996, and annually thereafter, the Administrative Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation shall prepare and notify Members of the Legislature that a report authorized by this section is available upon request. The report based upon aggregate data shall include the following:

(1) Person hours and payroll covered by agreements filed.

(2) The number of claims filed.

(3) The average cost per claim shall be reported by cost components whenever practicable.

(4) The number of litigated claims, including the number of claims submitted to mediation, the appeals board, or the court of appeal.

(5) The number of contested claims resolved prior to arbitration.

(6) The projected incurred costs and actual costs of claims.

(7) Safety history.

(8) The number of workers participating in vocational rehabilitation.

(9) The number of workers participating in light-duty programs.

The division shall have the authority to require those employers and groups of employers listed in subdivision (c) to provide the data listed above.

Why was this language eliminated? The legislative analyses for the bill don’t say.

Background on Alternative Dispute Resolution in Carve-Outs for Unionized Companies

This program was established as California Labor Code Section 3201.5. It was part of a workers compensation reform enacted by Governor Pete Wilson in 1993. The program was expanded by reform legislation signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004. (Section 3201.7 allows unionized employers in other industries to set up similar programs.)

An article in the March 10, 2006 Sacramento Business Journal (“Unionized Firms Save in Workers’ Comp Plan“) gave rare news media attention to this program, which is only available to construction companies in a collective bargaining agreement with unions or signatory to a Project Labor Agreement. I’m quoted in the article:

Too bad this kind of program is only allowed in the construction industry when companies and employees are part of a collective bargaining agreement, said Kevin Dayton, state government affairs director for Associated Builders and Contractors of California, a merit-shop group.

The California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a list of what are now 34 carve-out programs established to date. Unions have promoted this program as a benefit of unionization. For example, the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) – then (and now) chaired by California Labor Federation lobbyist Angie Wei – was able to commission what is now the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program to produce a 2006 report entitled How To Create a Workers’ Compensation Carve-Out in California: Practical Advice for Unions and Employers. The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation has also hosted at least one conference on Workers’ Compensation Carve-Outs and Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Although I never hear carve-outs cited nowadays as a reason to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement, unions and pro-union construction management firms such as Parsons Constructors used the existence of this alternative dispute resolution carve-out program as an argument in support of Project Labor Agreements for large infrastructure projects during the early years of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements in California (1993-2000). One example was the Project Labor Agreement for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California. It was negotiated in 1997 between construction manager Parsons Constructors and officials of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County.

Seeking Access to Alternative Dispute Resolution for Non-Union Contractors

In 1998, then-Senator Dick Mountjoy introduced Senate Bill 2019, sponsored by the California Business Properties Association (the contract lobbying firm at the time for three California chapters of Associated Builders and Contractors), which would have eliminated the requirement that alternative dispute resolution programs for workers compensation in the construction industry be part of a collective bargaining agreement. Opposed by unions and trial lawyers, the bill did not get out of committee, and since then there have been no attempts to expand alternative dispute resolution in the construction industry outside of the unionized arena.

Before the 2011 legislative session, I attempted on behalf of my former employer (Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California) to develop language that would allow non-union contractors to reduce workers compensation costs through participation in an alternative dispute resolution program. I was unable to figure out a way to graft such a program onto the existing law, which is dependent on the models of union collective bargaining agreements and labor-management cooperation committees.

Trying to Eliminate Favoritism in California State Law for Bidders in the Union-Exclusive Alternative Dispute Resolution System

Various laws authorize state agencies and local governments in California to award contracts for construction projects with subjective “best value criteria” under the “design-build” alternative bidding procedure. Unionized contractors that are part of alternative dispute resolution carve-out programs get a special exemption from safety requirements.

Design-build authorization language throughout California law includes the following:

A bidder’s safety record shall be deemed acceptable if their experience modification rate for the most recent three-year period is an average of 1.00 or less, and their average Total Recordable Injury/Illness rate and average lost work rate for the most recent three-year period does not exceed the applicable statistical standards for its business category, or if the bidder is a party to an alternative dispute resolution system, as provided for in Section 3201.5 of the Labor Code.

So a bidder in an alternative dispute resolution system (under California Labor Code Section 3201.5) does not have to worry about the experience modification rate or injury/illness/loss rate. As noted above, Section 3201.5 only applies to contractors in either a collective bargaining agreement or a Project Labor Agreement. Non-union contractors cannot use this method of alternative dispute resolution.

On January 11, 2010, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee considered Assembly Bill 1063, introduced by Assemblyman Martin Garrick and sponsored by my former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California. It would have removed language that allows a contractor with a poor safety record to be “acceptable” if it is part of an alternative dispute resolution program that by law is restricted to contractors in a collective bargaining agreement or project labor agreement.

ABC of California argued that all design-build entities should have a decent safety record, without exceptions. The Western Electrical Contractors Association stated that “A safety record should be based on safety – not the existence of a side-agreement over dispute resolution – the two have nothing to do with each other! There is simply no valid public policy served by this requirement.” But the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO opposed AB 1063 by praising unions and their activities, which was sufficient for the bill to fail on a party-line vote (Democrats opposed, Republicans in support.)


Update, October 31, 2013: The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) issued a bulletin on October 28, 2013 announcing The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) Approves Carve-Out Agreement Covering 22,000 Workers in Southern California between seven Southern California United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local unions, Vons and Super A Foods. I sent this tweet in response:

A labor attorney representing management emailed me a response:

But Kevin this can only work under a union contract because the health plan workers comp plan and grievance process are combined. A good idea. Still, few unions have implemented as it is a lot of work to make it work…Impossible to do in a non-union setting as the grievance process side of things would be cost prohibitive and disruptive – only works in union setting as the grievance process is already in place, as is the trust health plan administration system which does double duty – that is reason for efficiencies. Maybe some giant corporation might try it non-union but doubt it – frankly most unions see the benefits but it is so much work and can cause employee dissatisfaction if a comp case goes wrong that not worth it. And then what do you do with claimants’s lawyers? – nice idea, but generally a no-go.

Fresno Bee Calls for CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) Reform That Includes Stopping Union “Greenmail” for the Purpose of Coercing Developers to Sign Project Labor Agreements

The Fresno Bee published an editorial on Sunday, August 5, 2012 calling for Governor Jerry Brown to take a leadership role in reforming the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.) so that unions can’t exploit it to block proposed projects until the owner signs a Project Labor Agreement giving unions monopoly control of the construction work.

See “EDITORIAL: Governor Again Moves Toward Needed CEQA Reform Steps – Changes to the State Law Should Be Vetted and Discussed by All Parties” – Fresno Bee – August 5, 2012.

Like other counties in the San Joaquin Valley (such as Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties), Fresno County has received numerous environmental comments on behalf of construction trade unions from the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo concerning proposed solar energy power plants. The ultimate objective is not saving the planet, but coercing the developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

The editorial states the following:

Brown recently has been dropping hints he is open to a significant reform of the law. It’s clearly needed, and we hope this isn’t another instance of him shooting off his mouth. California needs significant CEQA reform.

CEQA is being abused, and defenders of the law get defensive whenever anyone suggests it. The most pernicious abuse is known as “greenmail,” with groups threatening CEQA lawsuits to get labor concessions or other side deals.

See a Sacramento Bee article about Governor Brown’s comments: “California Gov. Jerry Brown Upsets Environmentalist Friends with His CEQA Critique” – Sacramento Bee – July 31, 2012.

Also, read the opinion piece from former California governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson, and Gray Davis calling for “modernization” of CEQA: “Keep California Green and Golden with CEQA Reforms” – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 12, 2012.

Real Reform of CEQA Will Be an Uphill Battle

The California State Legislature has considered one bill this year to significantly reform CEQA. On January 9, 2012, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee considered Assemblywoman Shannon Grove’s Assembly Bill 598, which would have given the California Attorney General the exclusive authority to file or maintain a lawsuit alleging that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), negative declaration, or mitigated negative declaration does not comply with CEQA.

The committee rejected the bill on a 6-3 party-line vote, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. The hearing was an opportunity for the committee to discuss how certain parties, particularly labor unions, exploit public participation in the CEQA process to achieve objectives unrelated to environmental protection.

Assemblywoman Grove cited four specific examples of different unions (the Teamsters, the California Nurses Association, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Service Employees International Union) filing CEQA lawsuits to delay projects as leverage to extract labor concessions from businesses. She also noted that some businesses use CEQA to try to block potential competition.

Testifying on behalf of my former employer (Associated Builders and Contractors of California), I discussed how certain construction trade unions abuse CEQA as a weapon to delay projects until the owner agrees to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. The Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) and the Chambers of Commerce Alliance of Ventura & Santa Barbara were the other public supporters of the bill.

Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) cited a specific example of a union using CEQA to try to force a contractor to sign a Project Labor Agreement to install solar panels at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport. Assemblyman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) adeptly exposed the Attorney General’s double standard of opposing the additional responsibilities assigned in AB 598 while remaining silent about adopting additional responsibilities through other legislation.

Legitimate environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League opposed the bill. The Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union opposed the bill in writing but did not speak at the hearing. Democrats on the committee opposed the bill, but some of them (along with the Attorney General’s office) acknowledged that some parties abuse CEQA. Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Santa Cruz) said nothing about how the Carpenters union used CEQA in a recent high-profile campaign to delay and ultimately derail the proposed La Bahia Hotel in Santa Cruz.

Unions Get Greedy at the Port of Long Beach: $1.1 Billion of Monopoly Work Not Enough

UPDATE: News Media Coverage of Board Meeting:

Port of Long Beach Discusses Using Union-Supported Labor Deals – Long Beach Press-Telegram – June 7, 2012


On June 7, 2012, the Board of Harbor Commissioners for the Port of Long Beach held a special study session to discuss Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on specific projects and a proposed Project Labor Agreement that construction contractors would have to sign with unions for almost all future Port of Long Beach work.

Representatives of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council and two of the five Port commissioners are intent on requiring contractors to sign a standard PLA for all future Port work. The main presenter for the unions called for a PLA to apply to general projects costing $125,000 or more and specialty contracts costing $25,000 or more. This is the typical threshold sought by the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council for PLA policies at local governments.

Non-union workers showed up for the meeting in force and outnumbered union representatives at the meeting. 

 

 

Douglas Thiessen, the Port’s Managing Director of Engineering, reported that the Port signed its first Project Labor Agreement in 2010 for the $123 million Middle Harbor Project Phase 1, Stage 1 (now 50% complete after about 18 months), with an additional PLA signed for the $52 million Stage 2 of this project (now 25% complete). The Port is also in negotiations (anticipated final meeting today) with the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council for a PLA to cover six projects related to the North Middle Harbor Redevelopment project and a PLA expected in final form by July 2012 to cover three projects related to the Gerald Desmond Bridge: $30 million demolition of the old bridge, $40 million for work on a storm drain, and the $600 million erection of its replacement.

This means 11 projects under four PLAs at a total cost of about $1.1 billion.

Thiessen also reported that the cost of The Solis Group (a labor compliance contracting firm) administering the four Project Labor Agreements would run about $2.4-$2.9 million for the Port. According to a slide shown during the presentation, the Port is paying $371,659 on the Middle Harbor Project Phase 1, Stage 1; $307,565 on the Middle Harbor Project Phase 1, Stage 2; $781,033 for the North Middle Harbor Redevelopment Project; and $1-$1.5 million for the Gerlad Desmond Bridge project.

Thiessen also reported that the Federal Highway Administration and CalTrans are involved with the development of the Gerald Desmond Bridge PLA, and their particular concerns have resulted in a lot of back-and-forth discussions.

As a key point of their argument, the unions had Councilman Patrick O’Donnell express his support for the PLA and had staff for four other councilmembers and Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal read letters in support of a PLA for all future Port construction. It’s amazing how much these city council members know about obscure facets of construction management and labor relations! A bureaucrat for Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the owner of a public relations firm also spoke in support.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) made the formal presentation in opposition. Representatives of the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) and Associated General Contractors (AGC) of California expressed their misgivings. A Helix Electric representative pointed out his company recently won a contract at the Port and should not be cut out of future projects with a PLA. I spoke on behalf of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC and the Dayton Public Policy Institute.

Port commissioners Rich Dines (president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Southern California District Council) and Doug Drummond announced their full support for PLAs. Port commisioners Susan E. Anderson Wise and Thomas Fields had some valid questions about how PLAs are implemented and their effects on small businesses. Commissioner Nick Sramek did not comment.

News Media Coverage:

Long Beach Harbor Commission Looking At ‘Port-Wide’ Project Labor Agreement – Long Beach Business Journal – May 22, 2012

Long Beach Harbor Commissioners to Examine Port Labor Agreements – Long Beach Press-Telegram – June 6, 2012