Why Have Construction Unions Funded 92 Percent of the Campaign of Placer County Supervisor Candidate Pam Tobin? The Dayton Public Policy Institute Knows!

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People are confused in Placer County, California, which stretches from affluent northeastern Sacramento suburbs to North Lake Tahoe and has a population of 350,000.

Why have construction unions and their affiliates contributed $30,350 to a candidate (Pam Tobin) who is challenging an incumbent county supervisor, Kirk Uhler? Construction-related union entities have directly funded a whopping 92% of Tobin’s campaign! This is stunning!

Even a Teamsters union federally-registered PAC based in Washington, D.C. contributed $1500. Yes, the nation’s capital turns its eyes to the Board of Supervisors in Placer County, California.

The 4th district of the Placer County Board of Supervisors contains the wealthy Republican-leaning Sacramento suburbs of Granite Bay and Roseville. It’s not a friendly area for the union political agenda; in fact, many residents of this district might even be categorized by the head of the Sacramento-based Ironworkers Union Local No. 118 as the “septic sewage of affluence,” as he describes certain rich Americans in the Sacramento Labor Bulletin.

Incumbent Supervisor Kirk Uhler believes the public employee unions have targeted him. (See Challengers Emerging in Placer County Supervisor Races – Sacramento Bee – February 1, 2012 and Challenger Goes after Placer Supervisor for District 4 Seat – Sacramento Bee – April 27, 2012.) But Tobin has only received a $250 contribution from one purely public employee union to date. The Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO made direct contributions and sent a rather tame independent expenditure mailer to voters, but keep in mind that organization encompasses building trades unions as well as public employee unions.

As far as I can tell, not one newspaper article or blog post has identified what I believe to be the true reason for this massive construction union expenditure, although there is plenty of speculation. Let the speculation end: I’ll reveal the scheme of the construction unions.

First, let’s confirm that Tobin’s campaign is almost entirely funded by construction unions. See this link for the complete record of union contributions to Pam Tobin: Tobin 92% Union. (I circled the union contributions in red.) Also, see my compilation (below) of union contributions to Pam Tobin, in chart form. These records are obtained from Pam Tobin’s three electronically filed campaign reports: December 31, 2011, March 17, 2012, and May 19, 2012.

Tobin’s campaign web site doesn’t betray the reason for her extensive construction union support. She claims to be running on rather mundane issues that have nothing to do with construction: see http://www.pamtobin4supervisor.com/issues.html. So what’s the answer?

Almost certainly the silent #1 issue in the race for Placer County Board of Supervisors, 4th District is Project Labor Agreements, also known as PLAs.

Through the California State Legislature, with the support of Governor Jerry Brown, and at local governments throughout the state, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California is trying to nullify or repeal every charter provision, ordinance, and resolution that prohibits a government entity from requiring contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of working on taxpayer-funded construction.

On a 3-2 vote on August 24, 2010, the Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution adding a provision to its contracting policies that states “the County shall not require a contractor on a County public project to execute or otherwise become a party to a project labor agreement as a condition of bidding, negotiating, award, or performance of the public project.” The resolution cited three reasons to adopt the policy: “to promote competition in contracting, to reduce the risk of cost increases in public works projects in Placer County, and to protect the interests of the taxpayers of Placer County.”

Union representatives showed up in force to oppose the resolution, thus demonstrating to county taxpayers that the policy was relevant and needed. The executive director of the Roseville Chamber of Commerce spoke in support of the resolution as well as a representative of the Golden Gate Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Approval was along party lines, with the three Republicans (Rocky Rockholm, Kirk Uhler, and Robert Weygandt) voting for guaranteed fair and open bid competition, while Democrat Jennifer Montgomery and Decline-to-State Jim Holmes voted against it. Since that time, Jack Duran defeated Rocky Rockholm, but apparently Supervisor Duran has no immediate interest in advancing the construction union agenda.

In the past several years, Placer County has been vexed by “greenmail,” in which construction unions hire a law firm to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and block the permitting of proposed developments. When the developers agree to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the construction unions, the environmental objections fade away and the project moves forward.

The voters need to know why construction unions are so interested in this particular race. An enterprising reporter – or Supervisor Uhler himself – needs to put candidate Pam Tobin on the spot and ask her if she committed during her union interviews or in her union candidate questionnaires to repeal the county resolution banning Project Labor Agreements.

Pam Tobin’s Union Contributions (Almost All from Construction Unions)

Union Amount Date
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local No. 447

$5000

5/15/12
Sacramento Central Labor Council AFL-CIO

$5000

3/8/12
VOICE – Identity in report is elusive, but Sacramento Bee reports it’s a union entity. A search of the California Secretary of State’s list of campaign contributors shows the only active and related entity with VOICE in its name is “Members’ Voice of the State Building And Construction Trades Council of California.”

$5000

1/24/12
California-Nevada Conference of Operating Engineers

$5000

1/25/12
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local No. 447

$2500

12/8/11
Laborers Local No. 185

$2000

5/14/12
DRIVE Committee (Teamsters federal PAC out of Washington, DC)

$1500

2/24/12
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT)

$1500

3/28/12
Operating Engineers Local No. 3

$1000

2/27/12
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 340

$500

1/25/12
Northern California Regional Council of Carpenters

$500

2/17/12
Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 162

$500

3/2/12
Cement Masons Local No. 400

$250

3/13/12
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local No. 146

$250

4/11/12
Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local No. 3

$100

2/3/12
Total from All Unions $30,600.00  
Total from Construction Unions $30,350.00
Total Raised by Pam Tobin for Her Campaign for Placer County Supervisor $32,875.60

Once again, why have construction unions funded 92% of Pam Tobin’s Campaign for Placer County Supervisor? They want to repeal the county’s Fair and Open Competition resolution and open the floodgates to Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on taxpayer-funded county construction. Notice that Tobin refers to upcoming construction for the Middle Fork Project and a new water treatment plant in this article in the May 2012 union newspaper Sacramento Labor Bulletin: Pam Tobin Central Labor Council Endorsement. Project Labor Agreements appear to be the silent #1 issue in this campaign for Placer County Board of Supervisors.

2 comments

  1. Aaron F Park says:

    Outstanding. You are blogrolled and on my favorites, my friend! PLA’s are a resident evil to free-markets!

  2. Eric Christen says:

    Great post Kevin.

    Voters in Placer County beware of union bosses bearing gifts (as in bags of money) for Pam Tobin.