Tonight I spoke during public comment at the Auburn City Council meeting to encourage the five city council members after last week’s defeat of Measure A, a proposed charter for the City of Auburn. I’m sure it was frustrating for them to see 65% of city voters reject an ordinary, reasonable proposal to shift government authority from the state to the local level.
Measure A lost on a vote of 1409 to 748 in the June 5, 2012 election.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, construction unions derailed the proposed charter for the City of Auburn using the same methodology used to defeat the proposed charter for the City of Rancho Palos Verdes in an election on March 8, 2011. In both cases, professional, experienced, and well-funded regional union political operations overwhelmed a local grassroots movement. (In Rancho Palos Verdes, 69% of voters rejected the charter after the unions flooded the city’s voters with deceptive mailers.)
The campaign in support of Measure A scraped together $8,671.00, mostly in small contributions from Auburn residents and local businesses. They spent $2,200 on advertising in the Auburn Journal newspaper and printed some flyers and campaign signs. Nothing unusual for a local campaign in a city with a total population of 13,300.
Meanwhile, as seen in this campaign finance report and this campaign finance report, three union entities contributed a total of $75,000 (plus $4,463.83 in non-monetary contributions) to the campaign opposing Measure A, as a result spending $56.40 per NO vote to defeat the proposed charter. The ratio of union spending (in opposition to Measure A) to local spending (in support of Measure A) was 9 to 1.
The steamrolling was so bad in Auburn that the union opponents of the proposed charter spent more than twice as much on legal/accounting services ($17,618.20 billed by Olson, Hagel & Fishburn LLP) than the local Measure A supporters raised for their entire campaign ($8,671.00).
There were only three donations to the campaign against Measure A, which would have enacted a charter that included provisions allowing the city to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”) for municipal construction and permanently exempt the city from potential state requirements that volunteer labor be paid at state-mandated wage rates.
Here is an analysis of the three contributions to “Preserve Auburn, No on Measure A, sponsored by California Alliance for Jobs” campaign:
1. $25,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 3, which represents union workers who operate equipment such as excavators and cranes in Northern California.
This contribution appears to come from the union’s general fund. (It is classified in the campaign finance report as “Other” and not as a political committee.) According to its Form LM-2 for 2011 filed with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards, the multi-state Operating Engineers Local No. 3 had total receipts in 2011 of $41,851,469. It spent $630,837 on political activities and lobbying. This union spent more than twice as much in 2011 at Give Something Back Office Supplies ($62,285) than it did against Measure A in 2012.
So what is the typical state-mandated wage rate for an operating engineer in Auburn? The state sets the wage package for a bulldozer driver in the City of Auburn (Group 4, Area 1) at a straight time total rate of $62.00 per hour: $37.15 + $24.12 in fringe benefits + $0.73 for “Other.”
2. $25,000 from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Issues Political Action Committee (PAC). (The Carpenters also reported $4,463.83 in web site development expenditures against Measure A.)
According to its latest Form 460 filed with the California Secretary of State, this PAC started the year with $223,739.45 and collected another $72,340.12 in 2012, up to May 19. It had money to burn for a campaign in Auburn.
So what is the typical state-mandated wage rate for a carpenter in Auburn? The state sets the wage package for a basic carpenter in the City of Auburn (Area 3) at a straight time total rate of $56.60 per hour: $31.62 + $22.69 in fringe benefits + $2.29 for “Other.”
3. $25,000 from the California Alliance for Jobs, an example of an arcane type of union trust authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Inspired by the decline of unionized manufacturing in the Northeast, this federal law was meant to help industrial management and union officials build better personal relationships and cooperate against the threat of outside competition. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. (Another example of this kind of trust is the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, explained in my past blog posts here and here.)
Collective bargaining agreements for the Laborers and the Operating Engineers in Northern California include mandatory employer payments to the California Alliance for Jobs trust based on hours worked by trade workers represented by those unions. Those payments are incorporated into the state’s construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”) in the Other component established in 2003 through Senate Bill 868 (signed into law in 2003 by soon-to-be-recalled Governor Gray Davis) as California Labor Code Section 1773.1(a)(7-9).
The latest available IRS Form 990 for the California Alliance for Jobs (for 2010) indicates expenses of $2,391,938, including $685,000 in lobbying and political expenditures. So $25,000 sent to a campaign in the City of Auburn is peanuts to this group.
As a major participant in the California Alliance for Jobs, the Northern California District Council of Laborers must be included as the third construction trade union that opposed Measure A.
So what is the typical state-mandated wage rate for a laborer in Auburn? The state sets the wage package for someone holding a stop/slow sign at a road site in the City of Auburn (Group 3, Area 2) at a straight time total rate of $42.93 per hour: $25.89 + $16.91 in fringe benefits + $0.13 for “Other.”
Perhaps these wage rates accurately reflect the true prevailing wage rates in Auburn, and Auburn taxpayers are getting their money’s worth when they pay for purely municipal construction performed under these rates. Perhaps it is reasonable to require businesses to make their contractors pay these rates on private construction projects that receive any sort of city financial assistance.
But shouldn’t that be a decision for the Auburn City Council, rather than the California State Legislature and the Division of Labor Statistics and Research (DLSR) in San Francisco?
Tonight I urged the Auburn City Council to prepare another proposed charter, and this time don’t make it typical, ordinary, and reasonable. Develop a manifesto of local control against the power of the state government and the special interests that control it. Offend every group in Sacramento. And then bring it before the voters of Auburn.
I don’t think the people of Auburn will be fooled again, especially if the supporters of the charter abandon the low-key grassroots operation and fight fire with fire in Round Two.