Tag Archive for Associated Builders and Contractors – Southern California Chapter

California Public Agencies Revert to Closed Session When Construction Unions Have a Spat Over Who Gets Taxpayers’ Money

UPDATE (November 13, 2013): At its November 12, 2013 meeting, the board of trustees for Rancho Santiago Community College District voted unanimously to continue a practice adopted in August 2013 not to discuss its Measure Q Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session until the college chancellor gets legal clarification from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. An opinion from the Attorney General is not likely to be produced for several months.

Speaking in support of having the discussions in open session was Dave Everett, Government Affairs Director for the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, and Craig Alexander of the Pacific Justice Institute. On behalf of trustee Phil Yarbrough, Alexander wrote a November 5, 2013 memo to the board explaining why discussing Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session was not legal.

The head of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council was at the meeting but didn’t speak. Also silent was board member José Solorio, who is running for California State Senate in 2014 and appears to be the impetus for the Project Labor Agreement.

During his public comments, Dave Everett asked the college to identify its source for the list of local governments that have discussed Project Labor Agreements in closed session. The chancellor responded that staff obtained the list, but Mr. Everett then asked if those governments had indicated their closed session discussions on public meeting agendas. The chancellor did not know. Mr. Everett then expressed concern that the list was provided by a union lawyer based on personal experience and knowledge – not a reliable source of information for making decisions concerning a $198 million bond measure.

In addition, when the board president asked Mr. Everett if he assumed the construction plan would not move forward while the college and unions were negotiating a Project Labor Agreement, Mr. Everett responded by asking “Are they planning the projects with or without a PLA?” The board president replied “I’m not going to tell you that”  and then the Chancellor declared the exchange to be out of order.

Thank you to elected trustee Phil Yarbrough for being a champion of the people on this issue.

There are always a few “people on the fringe” who stubbornly fight for what is right after most people choose to acquiesce to the prevailing culture for their own good and the alleged “common good.” I’m told that a few aggressive opponents of the construction union political agenda are spoiling negotiations for “peace in our time” and making California’s political, corporate, and union leaders very angry.

Construction trade union lobbyists and lawyers are continuing to advance legislative strategies that will neutralize these people, described as “radicals” by one union official. These union strategies eliminate or circumvent structural checks and balances that advocates of fair and open competition use to expose and derail Project Labor Agreements and other union initiatives.

In my September 17, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org (California Construction Unions Circumvent Public Scrutiny of Project Labor Agreements), I reported on “the end of public deliberation and votes for Project Labor Agreements in the legislative branch of state and local governments. Instead, backroom deals are made in the executive branch to give unions control of the work.”

Now, in my November 9, 2013 article in www.FlashReport.org entitled Smoothing Over Project Labor Agreement Disputes in Closed Session: The Latest Union Scheme for “Progress” in California, I report that “In order to evade public scrutiny of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for construction contracts, union officials are implementing a strategy to redirect certain discussions of this controversial issue into ‘closed session’ at board meetings of government agencies.” The board of trustees for the Rancho Santiago Community College District will discuss the legality of the practice at its November 12, 2013 meeting.

The public learned about this abuse of “closed session” through my July 23, 2013 article in www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com entitled Project Labor Agreement Negotiations Fail, Government Transparency Is Restored, Ferry Agency Resumes Fair and Open Bid Competition, followed by a July 27, 2013 article in the Vallejo Times-HeraldVallejo Ferry Hub Accord in Jeopardy.

It’s not hard to figure out what’s happening. Ultimately, the negotiation and execution of Project Labor Agreements for government projects will always occur administratively through backroom deals, without unpleasant and embarrassing public discussions and votes. The perspectives of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, Associated Builders and Contractors, certain districts and chapters of Associated General Contractors, the Western Electrical Contractors Association, and local business and taxpayer groups will be moot.

Will California Voters Punish School Board Members in the November 6 Election for Requiring Construction Companies to Sign Project Labor Agreements with Unions?

Internal polling and the election results for recent ballot measures in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside, and El Cajon and in the County of San Diego show that a majority of California voters want their local governments to solicit bids for construction contracts under fair and open competition. They don’t want their local governments to require their contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for taxpayer-funded construction.

But elected officials keep voting for government-mandated Project Labor Agreements. Why?

  1. Local elected officials are fed by their political ambitions. In 1990, California voters imposed term limits on state legislators. This resulted in a constant churning of state legislators, with frequent opportunities for local elected officials to advance and extend their political careers with a few terms as full-time state legislators.
  2. In addition, in 2000 a bipartisan gerrymandering deal resulted in ten years of state legislative districts that were generally not competitive between the two major political parties. This means that local candidates with ambitions for higher office looked for initiatives to distinguish themselves from other candidates in the same political party. Getting the organizational and financial campaign support of unions often led to victory in a Democrat legislative primary.
  3. Finally, local elected officials often push for Project Labor Agreements assuming that voters will not make them accountable for their votes. At many local governments, elected officials feel they can vote for just about anything with impunity. No one is paying attention. There is no accountability.

It takes a solid commitment of local activists and organizations to send an effective message to voters that certain elected officials are putting special interest groups ahead of prudent fiscal management. As the serious campaigns get underway for the November 6, 2012 elections, there are several movements afoot in California to make local elected officials accountable to voters for using the government to give unions a monopoly on taxpayer-funded construction.

Riverside Community College District’s Elected Board of Trustees

For example, a September 6, 2012 article by Dave Everett of the Southern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors in www.FlashReport.org (Cost Revealed for Takano & Medina Choosing Their Special Interest Friends Over Our Kids) reports on a plan to inform voters that two board members of the Riverside Community College District voted in March 2010 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the San Bernardino and Riverside County Building and Construction Trades Council. The labor agreement applied to subsequent construction funded by Measure C, a $350 bond measure approved by voters six years earlier.

That government-mandated Project Labor Agreement was approved in a 3-2 vote – board members Jose Medina, Mark Takano, and Mary Figueroa in support, and Janet Green and Virginia Blumenthal opposed. Before the vote at the March 16 meeting, the three board members in support of the Project Labor Agreement made defiant speeches in support of unionism and their vision of social justice – a vision that excluded half of the 300 construction workers packing the auditorium. As you might guess, this was about upcoming elections.

Democrat Jose Medina ran for California State Assembly in 2010 and lost to the Republican incumbent. He has left the community college board and is again running for California State Assembly, in the open District 61 seat. Medina is endorsed by numerous labor unions.

Democrat Mark Takano is running for the open 41st Congressional District seat against Riverside County Supervisor and Republican John Tavaglione. The Riverside Press-Enterprise endorsed Tavaglione in the June 2012 primary and criticized Takano’s vote for the Project Labor Agreement in a May 2, 2010 editorial (INLAND: 1 for Congress):

Mark Takano, the other well-known candidate in this race, has a long tenure on the Riverside Community College District board. But Takano’s record and approach are more partisan and less collaborative than Tavaglione’s. And Takano in 2010 was one of three college board trustees who socked area taxpayers with an egregious project labor agreement. This needless giveaway inflated college district construction costs to curry favor with a special interest — hardly a compelling qualification for congressional service.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction sponsored a full-page advertisement in the Riverside Press-Enterprise on June 4, 2012 informing readers about Takano’s vote.

Riverside County voters can make Mark Takano accountable for his fiscal irresponsibility by voting for Bill Batey for Assembly. Riverside County voters can also make Jose Medina accountable for his fiscal irresponsibility by voting for John Tavaglione for Congress.

Bond Measures in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, the Sacramento City Unified School District, and the San Diego Unified School District

The upcoming November 6, 2012 election brings a parade of California local school districts and community college districts asking the Victimized California Taxpayer to approve borrowing millions (or billions) of dollars through bond sales to pay for construction projects.

Some of the construction funded by these proposed bond measures will be managed by elected school board members who recognize their responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money wisely. They will ensure that their school districts seek reasonable interest rates for bonds and award construction contracts to companies under fair and open bid competition, without favoritism.

But three school districts proposing new bond measures to voters in November are notorious for fiscal irresponsibility and mismanagement. School boards in these three districts continually implement the costly demands of union officials, including the requirement that construction contractors sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with unions as a condition of work. These school districts are the West Contra Costa Unified School District, the Sacramento City Unified School District, and the San Diego Unified School District.

Local taxpayer organizations – allied with grassroots community groups and local activists – have submitted ballot arguments and rebuttal arguments against these three proposed bond measures. I expect fierce campaigns in the next two months over these very costly proposals to borrow money for school construction by selling bonds to investors.