My Email to Orange County’s Coast Community College District Board of Trustees on Their Sneaky Project Labor Agreement for $1 Billion of Taxpayer-Funded Construction

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Here is the complete official record of consideration of a Project Labor Agreement by the elected board of trustees for the Coast Community College District. It includes an agenda, staff report, draft Project Labor Agreement, and minutes of the January 24, 2013 “special” meeting and the agenda and minutes of the February 6, 2013 meeting.

Complete Official Record: Project Labor Agreement Proposed for Coast Community College District – Measure M – 2013

Here is information about Measure M provided by the Coast Community College District and included in the official voting guide to citizens in the district:

Text of Coast Community College District Measure M – authorizing borrowing $698 million through bond sales – November 2012

Information on Coast Community College District web site about Measure M

From: Kevin Dayton [mailto:xxxx]
Sent: Tuesday, March 05, 2013 10:12 AM
To: xxxxxxxx
Subject: Comments on Proposed Project Labor Agreement for $698 Million Measure M at Coast Community College District

Dear Board Secretary Julie Frazier-Mathews and the Coast Community College District Board of Trustees:

Below, I explain why the voters in your district are justified in being outraged at the governance of their community college, especially concerning the proposed requirement for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on your $698+ million taxpayer-funded Measure M construction program. (Total cost of program estimated at $957 million.)

1. No one expected a Project Labor Agreement to be considered because it was not referenced in the ballot statement for Measure M. Even in the staff presentation on January 16 during your Measure M study session, nothing about a Project Labor Agreement was included. Sneaky.

2. This issue was first placed on the college board agenda as a “Special Meeting” scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on January 24, 2013. Why so special? At least it was pulled from the agenda at the meeting.

3. The proposed public policy was disguised as a “Continuity of Work Agreement” rather than being called by its customary and traditional name, a Project Labor Agreement. Hiding it from the public?

4. There was not one reference to consideration of a Project Labor Agreement in the district president’s news briefs, a press release, or any other official material from the district. Was this an attempt to avoid public attention to a highly controversial proposal?

5. I could not find out what happened at the February 6 meeting until draft minutes were included in the March 6 agenda packet. What’s the big secret? Apparently staff isn’t even authorized to orally provide the public with the results of votes, let alone draft meeting minutes?

6. You’re considering a union monopoly on a $698 million construction program (not including state matching grants, interest on money borrowed through bond sales, and financial transaction fees). Your district is in a geographical region that cares about government fiscal responsibility and generally is not supportive of government-mandated union agreements for publicly-funded construction. (The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to ban them in 2009.) But no one bothered to inquire with any groups well-known for presenting an opposing view on Project Labor Agreements. Why? Didn’t you want to fully consider the pros and cons, such as the likely 10-15% cost increase in construction as shown in this report? Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California.

7. Your Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration (Andy Dunn) is very familiar with Project Labor Agreements – he was immersed in fights over proposed Project Labor Agreements at the Foothill-De Anza Community College District (where a PLA was adopted in the end, 3-2 vote) and at the San Joaquin Delta Community College District (where a PLA was never implemented in the end). Surely he was aware that this proposal was highly controversial.

The Orange County Taxpayers Association must feel a little sheepish, getting hoodwinked by the college district into endorsing Measure M even though they specifically won’t endorse bond measures for which a Project Labor Agreement is planned. I bet Measure M would have failed without their endorsement – Measure M only passed with 57% of the vote.

Considering that one of the Coast Community College District board members is apparently running for Orange County Board of Supervisors and needs to get financial and organizational campaign support from the Los Angeles-Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council, I doubt the public uproar now being instigated about the proposed Project Labor Agreement will stop it. One of my axioms is “behind every push for a Project Labor Agreement is a politician with ambition for higher office.”

Nevertheless, the secrecy is over and the Coast Community College District is going to be in the news in Orange County as a local government eager to give unions a costly $698 million taxpayer-funded monopoly. In fact, this email will be the basis for a good op-ed. (“Sunshine Week” is next week, for which newspapers report on lack of transparency at local governments.)

No need to respond to me – I just happened to be the person who discovered the plot. You will be hearing from people who live, work, and pay property taxes in your district. You’re also going to hear from responsible and capable companies that worked on projects funded by your last bond measure but whose employees chose not to belong to a union.

Please make the wise decision to abandon this union deal.

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC