Nativo Lopez Retires from Public Life, Nine Years After “I Became a Target of the Wrath of the ABC”

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Orange County professional political activist Nativo Lopez announced on April 30 that he is retiring from public life and resigning his leadership positions with groups such as Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana (formerly known as Hermandad Mexicana Nacional) and the Mexican American Political Association.

Best known for his work defending illegal immigrants and bilingual education, Lopez also dabbled in construction labor issues. As an elected board member for the Santa Ana Unified School District, he was part of the 4-1 majority that voted on March 14, 2000 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for construction funded by Measure C, a $145 million bond approved by 70% of Santa Ana voters in June 1998. In that election, voters had no inkling that the school board would subsequently give unions a monopoly on school construction funded by their taxes.

See the Santa Ana Unified School District Project Labor Agreement here. (It was not renewed by later school boards and terminated as of June 9, 2005.)

See news coverage of the Santa Ana Unified School District Project Labor Agreement and its consequences here, including the November 2003 admission of the district’s facilities director that the Project Labor Agreement increased the costs of construction.

In February 2003, almost three years after the school board mandated that its construction contractors sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions, 70% of voters recalled Lopez. Unions tried to keep their ally in office with a series of mailers to voters (see three of them here), but apparently the voters of Santa Ana were fed up with Lopez’s endless agitation over bilingual education and the failure of the Measure C construction program to build schools in a timely and cost-effective manner.

On January 7, 2004, Lopez was a guest on the Berkeley-based KPFA (Pacifica) weekly labor show, “David Bacon on Labor,” along with Victor Narro, director of the Downtown Labor Center in Los Angeles (an operation of the taxpayer-funded Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California, now absorbed into the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program). Lopez blamed my former employer Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in part for his recall. Below is a paraphrasing of the remarks, which you can hear starting at 48:10 of this podcast:

The Morning Show – January 7, 2004 at 7:00am

Click to listen (or download)


Bacon (to Narro) – Now your funding is being cut by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Your group received the wrath of ABC, Associated Builders and Contractors, the group for non-union contractors that got the governor to pull that out from the budget.

Narro – They’ve been targeting us for a few years now. We face elimination this month and the closing of the Downtown Labor Center. We’re fighting like crazy to save the program with a foundation like the California Endowment. We do research strengthening the labor movement.

Bacon (to Lopez) – Nativo Lopez, I understand you also were a target of the ABC.

Lopez – Oh yes, “a very nice group.” I was on the school board in Santa Ana and shepherded a proposal to create a PLA, signed between the school district and the building trades, much to the chagrin of ABC. (Explains a PLA.) It was the only agreement of that character in California. I became a target of the wrath of the ABC with the Republicans in Orange County and Ron Unz. They tried to recall me, ABC was a big contributor. They were successful. I thank the ABC and Ron Unz, “because they really freed me up” to do organizing work for immigrants.

Lopez appeared to be an exception to my axiom that “behind every Project Labor Agreement is a politician with ambition for higher office.” He truly seemed to believe in the causes of the anti-establishment Left and pursued them relentlessly. He was entangled in many controversies, including a guilty plea in 2011 for one felony count of voter registration fraud (by registering to vote using his business as his address), as he sought to advance his agenda.

Here’s some of his parting wisdom from his retirement announcement:

…What I have learned over close to half a century is that the capacity of capitalism to re-invent itself, to absorb its losses and re-adapt, but most importantly, to beguile, co-opt, and corrupt its opponents and the general citizenry, is truly astonishing. It utilizes its political parties (of differing persuasions), private foundations, tax code, public institutions, corporations of all categories, churches – traditional, new age, and evangelical, – its monopolized media, public and private education, its regulatory agencies, statutes and codes, lawyers, judges, and courts, and the public administrative bureaucracy, etc. to induce consent of the citizenry. And when consent is not secured by voluntary means, it has at its disposal the ever-ready repressive tentacles of the state apparatus to crush any and all opposition and dissent, however miniscule, to thus compel consent, and performance.

Never in the history of human-kind has an imperial power of planetary dimension had available to it the reserve of monetary and human capital resources to induce consent of the governed by voluntary and involuntary means, and even extra-legal measures, as does these United States of America…

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