Union Exploitation of CEQA to Coerce Project Labor Agreements from California Solar Energy Power Plant Developers Will Be EXPOSED at August 6 Kings County Planning Commission Meeting

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During the past ten years, public testimony at several specific government meetings has initiated exposure of “greenmail” to a wide audience. The general public learns how construction unions and their environmental lawyers exploit California’s environmental protection laws to squeeze union-only Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) out of private developers. Not surprisingly, the public reaction is overwhelmingly negative.

Here are some of the most prominent specific examples of these past meetings:

  • The July 24, 2007 meeting of the Fresno City Council
  • The July 21, 2004 and August 2, 2006 meetings of the Roseville City Council
  • The October 21, 2008 meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors
  • The November 4, 2008 meeting of the Placer County Board of Supervisors
  • The February 8, 2011 meeting of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors

Now it looks like August 6, 2012 will be added to this list.

The August 6, 2012 meeting agenda for the Kings County Planning Commission includes this item under New Business:

2. Conditional Use Permit No. 11-09 (RE Mustang LLC) – The applicant proposes to establish a 160 Megawatt solar photovoltaic energy facility located at 15866 25th Avenue, Lemoore, CA. The proposed project is located on Assessor’s Parcel Numbers 024-260-004, 010, 011, and 016; 024-270-001, 004, 006, 007, 008, 010, 015, 016, 018, 022, 023, 024, and 025.

The Mustang Solar Generation Project in Lemoore is proposed by Recurrent Energy, a solar power plant developer based in San Francisco. The proposal comes with a special deal for a union: see the Project Labor Agreement imposed on this project here.

Unions Exploit CEQA to Win Costly Monopolies on Solar Power Plant Construction

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local No. 100 in Fresno has retained the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo to block or threaten to block solar power plants in the San Joaquin Valley using CEQA – the California Environmental Quality Act (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.).

While there is no way of knowing the exact amount spent on this legal activity or who pays for it, the IBEW Local No. 100 LM-2 annual report for 2011 filed with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards indicates that the union spent $20,117 for legal services from Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

The union motivation is not to save Mother Earth (Gaia), but to coerce the developer into signing a Project Labor Agreement with the IBEW (and often other unions). Once this happens, union environmental concerns go away, and union officials start showing up at government meetings to support the project. See the minutes of the November 7, 2011 meeting of the Kings County Planning Commission for a brazen example of this racket:

Mr. [Sandy] Roper [Principal Planner for the Kings County Community Development Agency] reported that the applicant has entered into a written agreement with the commenter for the Union Group agreeing not to challenge the project…Kevin Cole, business manager for the electrician’s [sic] union organization, stated they are very pleased with Solar Projects Solutions and are in favor of the project.

And an article in the November 8, 2011 Hanford Sentinel newspaper entitled “Four Solar Projects Get County OK” also alluded to the union monopoly:

Also in attendance Tuesday night were representatives of electrical contractors and unions hit hard by the loss of construction jobs as a result of the recession. They praised the projects, saying they would provide badly needed work.

“We have been decimated by the economy,” said Kevin Cole, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union branch in Fresno. “This is an excellent opportunity to get my men and apprentices back to work.”

The electrical contractor representative was Matt Furrer, branch manager for Contra Costa Electric, Inc., a unionized contractor in a collective bargaining agreement with the IBEW.

On Behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted a Records Request to Kings County on the Mustang Solar Project

Click here to read the January 27, 2012 letter from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) requesting notification about any environmental documents or hearings concerning Recurrent Energy’s Mustang Solar Project. Could this be considered a shot across the bow?

Study the Project Labor Agreement for the Mustang Solar Project

All electrical contractors that work on the Recurrent Energy Mustang Solar Generation Project will be required to sign and abide by this Project Labor Agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100, based in Fresno. If Recurrent Energy sells the project or another developer gets the project after a bankruptcy proceeding, the Project Labor Agreement comes with the package. (See Section 12)

This Project Labor Agreement locks a broad swath of work under the jurisdiction of the IBEW, obviously to prevent unions representing other trades (such as the Laborers) from getting a piece of the action. (See Sections 3.1 and 3.2) It states that the union will be the sole source of all craft employees for work covered under the Project Labor Agreement. (See Section 6.3) It requires all contractor employees performing that work to be or become and remain members of the union in good standing – in other words, pay union dues and fees. (See Section 6.2)

According to the IBEW Local No. 100 LM-2 annual report for 2011 filed with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, regular dues and fees ranged between $15.30 and $29.30 per month, working dues ranged between 2.5% and 5.0% of gross pay per hour, and initiation fees ranged between $25.00 and $102.00.)

Who developed this Project Labor Agreement? Section 13.8 lists four interested parties to receive any notices related to it:

  1. Judith A. Hall, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the victim, Recurrent Energy.
  2. John S. (Rocky) Miller Jr., an attorney with the law firm of Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP in Los Angeles who often represents construction trade associations, contractors, and developers in negotiations for union agreements. It might be a good guess that he helped to negotiate the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of Recurrent Energy.
  3. Kevin Cole, Business Manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100, based in Fresno.
  4. Daniel Cardozo of the law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

The agreement was signed on April 9, 2012.

Local Workers Have Had Enough of the IBEW Environmental Scam

It’s expected that the August 6 meeting of the Kings County Planning Commission will be packed with local non-union electricians intent on deriding the IBEW union for its anti-competitive, monopoly-seeking CEQA abuse. Here are excerpts from an email now circulating among community leaders in Kings County:

Between the High Speed Rail Authority and the flood of solar energy power plant developers, you’re probably sick of outsiders intruding into Kings County.

You may have heard that a law firm out of South San Francisco called Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has been identifying alleged environmental problems with the proposed solar power plant projects in the San Joaquin Valley, including in Fresno, Tulare, Kern, and Kings counties.

And then all of a sudden, they don’t see anything wrong with the projects anymore.

Construction unions hire the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and block proposed solar projects until the developer surrenders and agrees to sign a “Project Labor Agreement” that gives unions monopoly control of building the project. See the Project Labor Agreement for the proposed Recurrent Energy Mustang Solar Generation Project in Lemoore here.

Once these union monopolies are secured, the proposed projects become the most wonderful, planet-saving, global warming-fighting projects ever seen. The projects suddenly have the power to save the Santa Cruz Boardwalk from drowning in the ocean, and snow will forever fall in the Sierras.

Of course, there are additional greenhouse gas emissions as union workers drive into Kings County from the Bay Area to work on the projects, but that is not a concern to the unions.

Now, there are some problems with this arrangement:

  1. How will these solar power developers in Kings County make a profit if they have to give unions the construction and maintenance work on their costly terms without any sort of legitimate competition?
  2. Will these power plants become rusting, weed-tangled eyesores after the state loses interest in the “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006” and the developers have to pay up on their loans?
  3. Will anyone from Kings County actually get a chance to build these projects, with hundreds of unemployed union workers in the big cities waiting for dispatch from the hiring hall “out-of-work” lists to distant jobs in the San Joaquin Valley?

On Monday, August 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Kings County Administration Building No. 1 (1400 West Lacey Boulevard in Hanford), the Kings County Planning Commission will consider approval of some of these solar energy projects.

Union officials will be there as usual to support the projects and talk about how wonderful they are for the planet. But this time, there will be a response to their cynical Public Relations campaign.

We will be there to distribute their Project Labor Agreement, expose their “greenmail,” and shame them and their San Francisco lawyers back to union headquarters, so they won’t return until they build the High Speed Rail through your communities. (Speaking of union-only construction projects under Project Labor Agreements that could become rusting, weed-entangled eyesores after the state loses interest in fighting global warming…)

Won’t you join us to watch or participate in the Kings County Extortion Exposure Party? Once again, it’s on Monday, August 6 at 7:00 p.m. at the Kings County Administration Building No. 1 (1400 West Lacey Boulevard in Hanford).

Public Exposure of Greenmail Can Be Very Embarassing for Unions and Their Lawyers

This will not be the first time that local businesses, business groups, and workers have publicly criticized the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100 in Fresno and their hired South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

On July 24, 2007, the Fresno City Council voted 7-0 to reject a baseless and absurd public appeal objecting on environmental grounds to the city council’s approval of a two-megawatt solar panel system to supply energy to Fresno International Airport. The appeal was filed by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of the Fresno-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 100.

Representatives of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction spoke before the city council and described how unions and this law firm exploit California’s environmental laws to delay projects and increase project costs in order to extort Project Labor Agreements and other commitments from developers to use union workers. Representatives of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce and the California Solar Energy Industries Association (Cal-SEIA) also expressed general concerns about the legitimacy of the appeal.

While some city council members appreciated ABC’s exposure of the “greenmail” racket, other city council members were furious about it. Councilman Mike Dages declared ABC’s statements to be “rude” (apparently he was referring to my blunt comments about reality), insulted the developer, and insinuated that the appeal was justified to force the developer to “work with the unions.” By the end of the hearing, it was obvious that everyone in the council chamber recognized that the appeal was about Project Labor Agreements and not about the potential environmental damage caused by solar panels. See the meeting minutes here.

The July 25, 2007 Fresno Bee newspaper article “Fresno Won’t Halt Airport Project” reported on the union appeal and the hostile response. And the developer successfully built the project in the end without a Project Labor Agreement.

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