Tag Archive for City of San Diego

Unions Fail to Retain San Diego Mayor’s Office Despite Advantages – My www.UnionWatch.org Article Compiles Union Campaign Spending

Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer handily defeated Democrat City Councilman David Alvarez with 54.4% of the vote in a February 11, 2014 special election runoff for Mayor of San Diego. My February 14, 2014 www.UnionWatch.org article Unions Fail to Retain San Diego Mayor’s Office Despite Advantages builds on commentary since the election about how unions played a role in the defeat of Alvarez despite spending so much money.

It includes a compilation of campaign expenditures ranked by amount of money spent.

My Article “After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law” Published on www.UnionWatch.org

On July 30, I reported in www.UnionWatch.org on the 5-4 vote of the San Diego City Council to impose state prevailing wage rates on city construction contracts at After 33 Years, San Diego Submits to State Prevailing Wage Law.

News Coverage of the Vote

San Diego Passes Prevailing Wage Bill: Council votes 5-4 to expand policy to work contracts, following Filner’s lead – UT San Diego – July 31, 2013 – a follow-up to Council Approves Higher Wages for Projects: City already pays prevailing wages on big developmentUT San Diego – July 30, 2013

City Council Approves Prevailing Wage Proposal – City News Service, posted on several news web sites – July 30, 2013

City Council Passes Prevailing-Wage OrdinanceSan Diego Daily Transcript – July 30, 2013

City Costs Would Rise Under Prevailing Wage Plan: Rule would expand to all municipal projects UT San Diego – July 30, 2013

A Day to Remember, Not Fondly, at San Diego City HallUT San Diego (editorial) – August 1, 2013

Vote ‘No’ on Expanding ‘Prevailing Wage’ in San Diego – UT San Diego (editorial) – July 30, 2013

Prevailing Wage Will Force Out Small Guy; Prevailing Wage is All About Payback to Unions; Big Labor Dominates City Hall: UT San Diego (letters to the editor) – August 1, 2013

Simple List of Official Documents Relevant to July 30 San Diego City Council Vote to Require State Prevailing Wage on City Contracts

Tomorrow afternoon (July 30, 2013), the San Diego City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal from Mayor Bob Filner to abandon its own policy concerning government-mandated wage rates on city construction contracts and adopt union-backed state laws.

Here’s a collection of relevant documents.

Provided to the San Diego City Council from the Office of Mayor Bob Filner

May 8, 2013 memo from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner calling on the city council to impose state prevailing wage on city contracts

July 16, 2013 Report to the City Council from the Office of Mayor Bob Filner, coauthored by Jennifer Badgley, Office of the Mayor, Director of Special Projects and Labor Affairs, formerly Organizer/Political Director for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 569 in San Diego

July 22, 2013 request from San Diego Mayor Bob Filner to put the proposed prevailing wage ordinance on the city council meeting agenda for final approval

The ordinance proposed by Mayor Bob Filner imposing on the City of San Diego a requirement for contractors to pay state prevailing wage rates on city construction contracts

Provided by the City of San Diego Office of the Independent Budget Analyst

June 18, 2013 report from the Office of the City of San Diego Independent Budget Analyst “Review of Proposal to Require Compliance with the State’s Prevailing Wage Laws on all City Public Works Projects”

…the CIP Budget includes 190 construction contracts totaling $331 million anticipated to be awarded in FY 2014. About 21% or 16 of these contracts, totaling about $70 million, require payment of prevailing wages since they are funded with State or federal monies. If prevailing wages are required to be paid on the remaining $261 million construction contracts, a 5% or 10% increase would increase total costs by $13 million or $26 million respectively. Given tight financial constraints and competing budget priorities, this would likely reduce the number of capital projects that the city can implement.

July 26, 2013 report from the Office of the City of San Diego Independent Budget Analyst: “Key Issues Related to Requiring Payment of Prevailing Wages on all City Public Works Projects”

…our best judgment is that prevailing wages will increase total project costs for the City. The potential for increased total project costs is particularly important in light of the high priority the Council has assigned to addressing the City’s infrastructure challenges, including a backlog in deferred capital for buildings/facilities, streets, and storm drains currently estimated at $898 million.

Provided by the City Attorney for the City of San Diego

June 17, 2013 memo from City Attorney of San Diego noting that “The California Supreme Court also recently reaffirmed that charter cities like San Diego do not have to pay prevailing wages” and explaining various legal questions about Mayor Bob Filner’s proposed ordinance

Provided by Other Agencies of the City of San Diego

Chart #1 FY 2013 City of San Diego construction projects with and without state prevailing wage mandate

Chart #2 of recent City of San Diego construction projects with and without state prevailing wage mandate

June 20, 2013 Construction Industry Quarterly Meeting of City of San Diego Public Works Department where prevailing wage proposal was reportedly discussed. It included a presentation by Murtaza Baxamusa, City of San Diego, Office of the Mayor, Special Advisor for Public Policy, formerly with the San Diego County Building Trades Family Housing Corporation and the union-oriented Center on Policy Initiatives

Documents That Should Have Been Officially Provided to the San Diego City Council

Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions? – 92-page guidebook to status of prevailing wage policies in California’s 121 charter cities

State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO v. City of Vista et al. – California Supreme Court decision of July 2, 2012 upholding constitutional right of charter cities to establish their own policies concerning government-mandated wage rates for municipal construction contracts

Unions File Yet Another CEQA Lawsuit Against Proposed Hotel in San Diego: Fat City Hotel Is Latest Target

Excerpts from this article were included in my December 18, 2012 www.UnionWatch.org article UNITE HERE Becomes San Diego’s Leading Environmental Organization.

On behalf of San Diego-based UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30, the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on December 5, 2012 alleging that the City of San Diego, the San Diego Planning Commission, and the Centre City Development Corporation improperly approved the proposed Fat City Hotel Project.

First proposed publicly in March 2012, this project would be a two-tower, 364-room hotel in San Diego’s “Little Italy” district. Parties initially involved in this development were Frank Fat Properties LP and Jonathan Segal (an architect), but the parties now developing the project are FC Acquisition Company LLC, which includes T2 Development and GLJ Partners. (See Fat City Hotels Property Sold, New Developer Takes Over: T2 Development Reportedly Planning a Hilton HotelSan Diego Union-Tribune – August 28, 2012.)

As reported in the May 30, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotel Approved Over Labor Objections and in the July 26, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotels Project Wins Final OK: Planning Commission Denies Appeal from Hotel Workers, the hotel workers’ union has been pestering the hotel developers for a while:

The final opposition came from Unite Here Local 30, the local hotel workers union. There is no appeal from the commission vote.

Pamela N. Epstein, representing the union, said the project conflicted with city land-use plans, citing a maximum of hotel rooms that would be allowed in Little Italy where the site is located.

“Evidence does not support its designation as a resort hotel,” Epstein added.

But staff said the project complied with city rules and Commissioner Mary Lydon wondered why the union was involved, especially since new hotels mean new jobs.

“Why you brought this forward, to me, it’s a total miss,” Lydon said.

UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 claims that the project needs a project-specific Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Local agencies approved the project under the conclusion that the potential environmental impacts of this project were addressed in a 2006 “Program Environmental Impact Report” for future downtown redevelopment. See the San Diego Planning Commission staff report for the July 26, 2012 meeting concerning UNITE-HERE’s appeal of the Centre City Development Corporation’s approval of the project.

The appropriate question reporters and public officials need to ask UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30: will the union drop its lawsuit if the developers agree to a collective bargaining agreement with UNITE-HERE for hotel employees, along with some minor “environmental mitigation” to provide camouflage for the true purpose of the CEQA lawsuit?

In addition, is UNITE-HERE also asking the developers to require their contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council?

Where is the Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion? A Press Conference Outlining an Action Plan

Here’s the text of an email sent this afternoon (November 16, 2012) from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction outlining that group’s action plan in response to the Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III.

Dear Kevin,

Yesterday the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction made it quite clear at a press conference that the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) “agreed” to by Clark Construction and the San Diego County Building Trades Council will not stand. Held in front of the San Diego Convention Center more than 100 workers, apprentices, and owners powerfully stood up for the rights of the 90% of the local construction workforce who are union-free and the 58% of San Diego voters who banned PLAs by passing Prop A in June.

Protest Against San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

Protest Against San Diego Convention Center Expansion Project Labor Agreement – November 15, 2012

As you can see here from these pictures and this video of the event a large and diverse group of men and women made it clear that they will not sit quietly by while back room deals are cut that discriminate against them, rip off taxpayers, and reward union extortion. This is exactly what unions and their enablers at the City, Port, and Clark Construction have sanctioned by allowing for a PLA on the $600+ million Convention Center Expansion that is due to break ground next year.

The event was covered by TV and print media including the U-T San Diego, San Diego Daily Transcript, KUSI and NBC 7 San Diego. The unions were also forced to send out this press release in response to our press conference.

At this press conference a clear list of demands and promises were presented that will be aggressively followed through on. They were:

Demand the PLA be Released:

This back room deal “agreed” to by local union bosses and Clark Construction must be made public immediately. This PLA not only violates the expressed will of the voters of San Diego, who on two separate occasions voted to ban PLAs, but it may in fact violate the law. In June 2012 voters in San Diego passed with 58% of the vote Prop. A which forbids these types of agreements. Where is the PLA?

See the People Vote on any Tax Increase:

CFEC agrees with Mayor-elect Bob Filner that the vehicle agreed to by local hoteliers to raise the funds needed to build this project requires a vote of the people. We will make sure that those pursuing this case in court have the resources needed to prevail at every level.

Legal Remedies:

CFEC will pursue any and all legal avenues possible regarding both the PLA itself as well as the coercive manner by which it was “agreed” to. Does the PLA violate Prop A? Was the PLA “agreed” to in a manner that violates the National Labor Relations Act? We will find out.

Union Environmental Extortion:

Local union bosses have used greenmail for 13 years to extort owners into signing PLAs on both public and private projects. CFEC will employ a comprehensive and professional campaign that exposes what greenmail is, who is funding it, who is enabling it, and what taxpayers and businesses can do about it.

The Enablers:

CFEC will expose and hold accountable those elected officials, contractors, and project owners who have allowed the unions to continue this reign of environmental extortion.

Our Methods

A full scale public relations and legal effort will be undertaken to see that this PLA does not stand and that the workers and taxpayers of San Diego are protected.

If you would like to learn how you can be a part of this wide-ranging effort please contact us today. It’s going to be one wild and enjoyable ride.

Yours in the fight for freedom,

Eric Christen, Executive Director

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction

P.O. Box 1627, Poway, CA 92074

Phone (858) 633-6523, Fax (760) 690-4471

Email info@opencompca.com

Web www.opencompca.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/cfec_ca

Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion: CEQA Abuse Is Effective, Fair and Open Competition Ordinance Evaded

The Moment of LIE - San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

The Moment of LIE – San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

As announced at a press conference this afternoon (November 8, 2012) featuring San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and top San Diego union officials (including Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council), the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council have made “deals” with the City of San Diego and the prime contractor (a joint venture of Clark Construction Group and Hunt Construction Group) for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Phase 3.

Although Mayor Sanders twice said “no” in response to a question about a Project Labor Agreement, contractors will indeed be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement (with the joint venture firm of Clark/Hunt) in order to work on the project. Union officials are dropping their environmental objections and supporting the project now. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported clearly that “greenmail” motivated supporters of the project to make a deal giving unions control of the work:

Continued opposition from organized labor, both in the courtroom and at the Coastal Commission, clearly threatened to derail the expansion.

“Labor and labor’s lawyers are competent and well-financed and neutralizing that as a threat to this project is a very important milestone,” said Charles Black, the city’s project manager for the expansion.

This deal is also a consequence of pro-union Congressman Bob Filner winning the race for San Diego Mayor. Obviously outgoing Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders – who will become the next head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce – decided to surrender to the unions rather than let his successor get the credit for moving the project forward.

Clark/Hunt has signed a Project Labor Agreement directly with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, in order to evade the Fair and Open Competition ordinance (Measure A) approved by 58% of city voters in June 2012. That ordinance prohibits the city from entering into a contract requiring companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. (The National Labor Relations Act prohibits a city government from banning a Project Labor Agreement between an employer and unions.)

Clark Construction has a history in California of signing Project Labor Agreements to satisfy the unions and avoid trouble. For example, Clark signed a Project Labor Agreement in 2000 for San Diego’s Petco Park, in 2001 for the Fresno Community Health Systems Downtown Campus and in 2011 for the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach.

Union CEQA Documents Submitted to Port of San Diego - Convention Center Expansion

Document Dump: a lawyer for labor unions submitted hundreds of pages of CEQA objections at the very last minute against the proposed San Diego Convention Center expansion.

As a party to the CEQA complaints, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 obviously must have received economic concessions as well.

The triumphant news is coming out fast and furious from San Diego news media, surely to the surprise of most residents who didn’t know that unions (through the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo) had submitted hundreds of pages of documents claiming that the Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

One comment on the KPBS news article (linked below) suggests that perhaps San Diego will end up hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I wouldn’t be surprised.

News Coverage

Labor Drops Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – San Diego Union-Tribune – November 8, 2012

Organized labor has dropped its opposition to the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center after winning a number of concessions aimed at protecting workers, ensuring local hiring and guaranteeing defined benefits. The agreement to support the expansion, announced by Mayor Jerry Sanders, removes a major hurdle that threatened to derail the $520 million project…

With Labor Deal, Convention Center Expansion Clears Major Hurdle – Voice of San Diego – ‎November 8, 2012

San Diego’s $520 million proposed Convention Center expansion received a major boost Thursday, when Mayor Jerry Sanders announced a formal agreement with labor groups to support the project. Labor will drop its lawsuits against the project’s …

Labor Drops Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – North County Times – November 8, 2012

The planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center cleared a major hurdle Thursday, with the announcement that organized labor has dropped all opposition to the $520 million project. Mayor Jerry Sanders, joined by San Diego labor leader Lorena Gonzalez…

Labor Unions Drop Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – San Diego 6 – November 8, 2012

Organized labor will drop its opposition to a planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center due to a series of agreements reached with the city and the project contractor, the two sides announced Thursday. At a news conference…

San Diego, Unions Reach Agreement On Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – November 8, 2012

Labor groups have agreed to drop out of lawsuits against the Convention Center expansion after coming to agreements regarding worker safety, local hiring and other issues. This does not mean all litigation against the project is done. In February a judge will…

I wrote about the union “greenmail” extensively, but the San Diego civic leadership obviously wanted to avoid jeopardizing the project and kept the issue quiet. See these articles:

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders – October 10, 2012

www.UnionWatch.org Publishes My Comprehensive Analysis of the Union CEQA Greenmail Against the San Diego Convention Center Expansion – September 21, 2012

The Greenmail is Now Public: Union CEQA Extortion of San Diego Convention Center Featured on www.FlashReport.org – September 20, 2012

Brazen! Union Officials and Their Environmental Lawyers at Port Commissioners’ Meeting Threaten to Stop San Diego Convention Center Expansion Using California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – September 20, 2012

Unions Submit 436 Pages of Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report for Proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project: CEQA Abuse Run Rampant – August 8, 2012


My Report on www.UnionWatch.org: Tracking California’s November 2012 Elections Related to Labor Issues

See my article posted this morning (November 5, 2012) on www.UnionWatch.org called Tracking California’s November 2012 Elections Related to Labor Issues.

If you are a regular reader of the Dayton Public Policy Institute blog (a project of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC), you know a lot about the following races in California:

  • Proposition 32 – Stop Special Interests state ballot measure (includes “paycheck protection”)
  • Measure V – proposed charter in Costa Mesa
  • Proposition P – proposed charter in Escondido
  • Measure I-12 – proposed charter in Grover Beach
  • Measures Q and R – authorization to borrow $414 million through bond sales for construction at Sacramento City Unified School District (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)
  • Measure Q – authorization to borrow $348 million through bond sales for construction at Solano Community College District  (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)
  • Measure E – authorization to borrow $360 million through bond sales for construction at West Contra Costa Unified School District (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)
  • Proposition Z – authorization to borrow $2.8 billion through bond sales for construction at San Diego Unified School District (which imposes Project Labor Agreements)

There are also some elections for local government offices in California that have significance for people interested in labor policy issues.

City of San Diego

If Republican Ray Ellis defeats Democrat Councilwoman Sherri Lightner for the one undecided city council race (in La Jolla), Republicans will have a 5-4 majority on the city council. What a change from ten years ago, when Republicans almost disappeared from a city council they had long controlled. (I credit the Republican Party of San Diego County for this transformation: see my www.FlashReport.org article The Untold Story: Years of Challenging, Unglamorous Work Led to Big Republican Election Night in San Diego on June 5.

Republican Councilman Carl DeMaio stands a good chance of defeating Democrat Congressman Bob Filner and getting elected as Mayor of San Diego. A few weeks ago I wrote an article comparing DeMaio’s campaign to the 2010 campaign of Rob Ford, a libertarian-oriented city council member who unexpectedly won election as Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (See Carl DeMaio’s Campaign for Mayor of San Diego Echoes Rob Ford’s Successful Campaign for Mayor of Toronto.) Chris Reed wrote the following in a November 1, 2012 article for The American Spectator (Anger Mismanagement on the Ballot; linked at www.CalWatchdog.com as Will San Diego Elect a Gay Libertarian or a Snarling Misanthrope as Mayor?):

All this is remarkably good news for DeMaio and for libertarians who have long wondered what a government run by a Reason-blessed true believer would be like…If Filner has this [negative] effect on enough people, in five weeks time, America’s eighth-largest city will inaugurate as mayor a brash reformer bent on transforming the government status quo. Thanks to a June initiative primarily authored by DeMaio, San Diego is by far the largest U.S. city to have ended costly defined-benefit pensions for nearly all its new hires. As mayor, DeMaio would ramp up San Diego’s already-aggressive attempts to bid out a wide array of government services. He also wants to end automatic “step” pay increases given to public employees just for years on the job and to finally bring to government the productivity revolution that has fueled U.S. private-sector growth for two decades. The goal, DeMaio told me in April, is to set up a national model for downsized, efficient government. If elected, DeMaio appears likely to have a GOP majority on the City Council. If these more conventional Republicans back him up, San Diego could become Ground Zero for government experimentation – of a sort that many will call radical but that libertarians will call long-overdue.

City of Costa Mesa (Orange County)

In the City of Costa Mesa, three of the four city councilmembers (the 3Ms, Gary Monahan, Steve Mensinger, and Colin McCarthy) who voted in 2011 with Councilman Jim Righeimer to “outsource” government services and put the Measure V charter on the ballot in 2012 are running as a slate. They are challenged by a slate of three candidates associated with a group called Costa Mesans for Responsible Government who oppose outsourcing and the charter. Obviously this a battle based largely on labor issues.

City of Brentwood (San Francisco Bay Area, in Contra Costa County)

In the City of Brentwood, unions are trying to keep Mayor Bob Taylor in office. Taylor voted in 2009 and 2010 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to build the city’s civic center and associated parking garage. I wrote about this race in Electrical Workers Union Tries to Salvage Political Career of City of Brentwood Mayor Robert Taylor (Bob Taylor) and Contra Costa Times Recognizes Fiscally Responsible Candidates for Brentwood City Council: Endorsements EXCLUDE Project Labor Agreement Supporters.

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders

The San Diego Daily Transcript business newspaper today (October 10, 2012) published an opinion piece from Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction entitled Unions Manipulate City Leaders with CEQA Threats.

In the commentary about union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, Christen contends that business, political, and community leaders in San Diego have essentially surrendered to the organizing agenda of union leaders. Unions and their lawyers have effectively exploited the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block proposed projects until the developer signs a Project Labor Agreement for construction and a neutrality agreement leading to a collective bargaining agreement for the permanent workforce. Eric writes the following:

In San Diego, the city’s civic leaders regard union CEQA abuse as a customary part of doing business. Instead of exposing it and shaming the perpetrators, they say nothing publicly and surrender to it privately. Then they pass the costs to the taxpayers and consumers.

Why aren’t San Diego business, community and political leaders — other than Councilman Carl DeMaio — holding these union officials accountable for their CEQA extortion on the proposed Convention Center expansion? Why aren’t they highlighting this incident as an outrageous example of CEQA abuse?

Apparently America’s Finest City is fine with this “cost of doing business in San Diego.” What an outrage.

I’m guessing that civic leaders and big developers closely observed how Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment exposed and resisted the union environmental extortion in 2007 and 2008 against the proposed $1.2 billion Chula Vista Bayfront Hotel and Convention Center. The San Diego news media covered the story extensively, and ultimately it led to voters in the City of Chula Vista approving a ballot measure (Measure G) that prohibits the city from entering into contracts that require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements.

Apparently, San Diego union leaders strategically determined that either Gaylord Entertainment would succumb to their demands to build and operate its facility exclusively with union workers, or Gaylord would never build it. After Gaylord Entertainment finally abandoned its plan to build the Chula Vista project and instead began construction of a facility in Mesa, Arizona, the Political Director/Organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 was proud, as she acknowledged to the now-defunct San Diego News Network in the July 6, 2009 profile Union Leader Badgley Shares Her Journey with IBEW 569:

Q: What accomplishment are you proud of?

A: Gaylord. We put a lot of resources into organizing the bay front in Chula Vista. It’s one of the last pieces of undeveloped land on the water, and we wanted something that was good for the environment and good for the workers. We worked with the environmental community, the trade show unions, the hotel and restaurant workers, and we tried to make sure that the project would be good for the environment and the workers. In some ways, I’ll take the blame. You have to respect the workers and the environment. We were asked, “Isn’t something better than nothing?” Our feeling is that if we build it right, we can build more.

(Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment wanted to build a 1,500 room hotel and convention center on the Chula Vista bay front. In 2007, the company pulled out allegedly because it could not reach an agreement with labor unions. It then continued negotiating, and pulled out again a year later because it could not get financing.)

I believe we sent a strong message about the power and commitment of San Diego’s electrical workforce with the Gaylord campaign. We are committed to continue to make sure that whatever is built on the bayfront must create good, green, local careers.

Now we see San Diego developers and their community allies waving white flags, even as San Diego is close to having a free market-oriented mayor and a Republican city council majority, and even as voters in the County of San Diego and in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside, and El Cajon have expressed their views on union monopolies by prohibiting government-mandated Project Labor Agreements through ballot measures.

For example, an article today in the October 10, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune (Lane Field Hotels Approved by Port) reported that the Lane Field developers (Rob Lankford, architect John Portman & Associates and contractor Hensel Phelps) surrendered to union demands in order to get two proposed hotels approved and finally under construction:

Developers also avoided opposition from labor groups by agreeing to require union construction labor and welcome unionized workers at the finished hotels…But Trammer said underground parking could add nearly $18 million to the $115 million construction cost, roughly the same it will cost to use union labor.

So this is another Project Labor Agreement won by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council (costing the developers an extra $18 million), and another neutrality agreement won by UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 to be imposed on a hotel operator who hasn’t even been identified yet. Again outraged by another surrender to extortion, Eric Christen posted a comment in response to the article:

Once again we see that threats of environmental lawsuits filed by labor unions would have been used had not the owner of this project not agreed to use union labor. And this is not laid out by the writer more explicitly why? This same writer just covered the Port Commission meeting two weeks ago where the unions dropped 150 pages of comments via their lawyers on the Convention Center Expansion yet these two striking similar projects but totally different union responses are not connected here.

This of course follows a decade of unions pulling this greenmail starting with Petco Park to this current project, and of course chasing Gaylord out of the state was their crowning achievement.

This extortion that unions use on projects that do not agree to use union labor is astounding. The silence form (sic) developers and the press on this is equally astounding.

As outlined in the www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com article Lane Field in San Diego: UNITE-HERE Local 30 Doesn’t Like a Proposed Hotel, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 had hired the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to identify and submit substantial environmental objections to the project under CEQA.

And here is a THIRD example of union greenmail working its magic. A September 28, 2012 article in Voice of San Diego (U-T CEO Denies Threatening Port; New Email Emerges) revealed that developers who want to convert the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal into a new sports/entertainment complex are seeking input and advice from Tom Lemmon, the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. The email was released by Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

These three examples from just the last three weeks show that labor unions have been able to use CEQA to control anything having to do with downtown project development in the City of San Diego, particularly within the Port of San Diego‘s jurisdiction. Giving into union CEQA extortion is indeed a “cost of doing business” in San Diego (and throughout California).

Is this surprising, knowing the nature of humanity? After all, paying people off to avoid unwanted artificially-placed obstacles has probably been a standard way of doing business in most places in most times throughout human history. This country is not particularly clean: the United States is only ranked 24th in 2011 on the Transparency International annual Corruption Perceptions Index, with corruption defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

California’s urban local governments near the coast are generally fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged, unaccountable, and governed by pragmatists (at best) or compulsive criminals (at worst). These are ripe conditions for unions, corporate entities, and other self-interested organizations to infect and pervert government and commerce. The republican (lower case “r”) structure of checks and balances in American government works haphazardly in these cities; in particular, citizens fail to fulfill their necessary duty of educated and informed democratic participation in the process of choosing representatives and setting policies.

Nevertheless, Eric Christen is committed to fighting this urban corruption as reflected in union CEQA greenmail, according to an email he sent on October 10, 2012:

What is frustrating for myself as someone who deals with this locally and statewide every day is that I get what unions are doing and why they are doing it. What I do not get is how on earth they can keep getting away with doing it without being held accountable by an inquisitive press that asks simple questions after seeing the obvious staring them in the face.

I can fight unions and their shameless abuse of the California environmental law. I can continue to educate and inform the public about this and get them to ban PLAs when we put it on the ballot. I can continue to educate the media about this abuse. But what I cannot do is write the stories or pose the questions that help educate taxpayers, voters and citizens about exactly what is going on.

Sorry Eric, looks like few people want to join you in exposing this racket. You’re putting abstract principles ahead of tangible financial self-gain. That’s not a popular proposition.

But here is some consolation: this appeasement to union extortion recalls a well-known quotation attributed to Vladimir Lenin (but probably spurious): “the capitalists will sell us the rope from which we’ll hang them.”

Some of the capitalists to be hung will die rich. A few courageous ones to be hung will die right.

Carl DeMaio’s Campaign for Mayor of San Diego Echoes Rob Ford’s Successful Campaign for Mayor of Toronto

In October 2010, voters in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Canada elected a fiscally conservative city council member – Rob Ford – as mayor. Ford campaigned on the idea that “city hall has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.” He vowed to cut the costs of city government to save money for taxpayers, without cutting services.

His campaign platform included reducing the size of the city bureaucracy, reducing the cost of government by cutting waste and privatizing government services such as garbage collection, and creating an incentive program to identify areas for cost savings. Ford emphasized his credibility by noting he was the “strongest voice” on the city council for better fiscal management and cost efficiency.

There are some similarities between Rob Ford’s campaign for Mayor of Toronto (campaign web site not operating at this time) and Carl DeMaio’s campaign for Mayor of San Diego:

  • Both Ford and DeMaio served as the most vocal leaders on their city councils for lower taxes, less spending, and more government efficiency.
  • Both candidates based their campaigns on a need for dramatic change in the fiscal management of their respective cities: Ford had a “Saving Our City Plan,” while DeMaio has his “Roadmap to Recovery Plan.”
  • Both Ford and DeMaio are policy-oriented, bold, and committed, with brash, colorful personalities.
  • Both Toronto and San Diego are sprawling cities with a liberal urban core and more conservative suburban areas, although Toronto has a higher population and a bigger government. Toronto has a population of 2.6 million; San Diego has a population of 1.3 million. Toronto has a $9.4 billion budget; San Diego has a $2.75 billion budget.
  • Both Toronto and San Diego have suffered from long-term budget deficits and other fiscal problems that have wearied taxpayers.

It’s not wise to make election predictions, but I suspect that the campaign message that worked for Rob Ford in Toronto will also work for Carl DeMaio in San Diego.

Feds Need Better Oversight of Labor-Management Cooperation Committees, Such as the Union Slush Fund that Spent $1.1 Million in the June 2012 Election in the City of San Diego

An August 27, 2012 article on the Investigative Newsource – Southern California web site contains the latest fleeting news reference to the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Trust. The last two paragraphs of “Outside Donors Fuel Prop. Opponents, Fund Mayoral Hopefuls” states the following about Proposition A campaign in the City of San Diego for the June 6, 2012 election:

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust, a nonprofit located in Sacramento that promotes and protects project labor agreements around the state, donated more than $1 million to try unsuccessfully to defeat Prop. A, which banned project labor agreements. The agreements set some of the terms of employment, such as wage rates, on construction projects.

The Trust gets much of its money from laborers themselves. Clauses in some project labor agreements dictate that a portion of money per hour worked goes to the Trust.

The same Investigative Newsource was alone among news media groups in highlighting the extensive campaign involvement of this obscure organization before the June 6, 2012 election. From the May 25, 2012 article “Business Groups, Builders and Labor Battle over Propositions:”

All of the money for the one of the committees opposing Proposition A has come from the same donor.

Since March 18, the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust donated $675,000 to Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs.

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust is a tax-exempt Sacramento-based organization, which says its mission is, among other things, to “improve public awareness of the benefit of using organized labor contractors and workers.” The group is not required by the IRS to list specific sources of funding, but in general, it reported on its 2010 tax returns collecting $678,000 in membership dues. It reported more than $3 million in assets.

And the trust fund is also cited in the June 1, 2012 Investigative Newsource article “Fundraising Amps Up for Proposition A, B Committees:”

In the past week, a union trust gave an additional $320,000 into defeating Proposition A, a ballot measure that would ban project labor agreements for San Diego city projects if passed.

That brings to $1.18 million the amount raised by the anti-Prop. A forces, far outpacing the business interests pushing Proposition A. That committee, Fair and Open Competition, has raised $755,000 so far.

Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs — an anti-Prop. A committee — has benefited mainly from the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust. The trust is responsible for more than 90 percent of its donations.

The labor trust is “heavily involved” with promoting and protecting project labor agreements (PLAs) around the state, according to secretary/treasurer Scott Strawbridge. A PLA is a type of collective bargaining agreement that a city can enter into with workers for city projects.

“We think (PLAs) are good business for our contractors and union members,” Strawbridge said.

A big part of the money in the trust comes from laborers themselves, he said. Clauses in certain PLAs specify that a small amount of money per hour worked goes into the trust.

The San Diego Union-Tribune briefly and generally mentioned the fund after the election, in the June 7, 2012 article “Impact of Proposition A on State Funds in Dispute:”

The major backer of the No on A campaign was a Sacramento-based group headed by Robert Balgenorth, the president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, a statewide union, which donated $1.1 million to stop it from passing.

This brief public reference was enough to provoke Scott Strawbridge (cited in the Investigative Newsource article above) to defend the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust publicly with an opinion piece in the Union-Tribune. (“In Response: Prop. A Put San Diego Citizens in Difficult Position,” June 22, 2012)

In doing so, he provided a public service in highlighting the unregulated slush fund that spent $1,095,000 to oppose Proposition A, a fair and open competition ordinance approved by 58% of San Diego voters on June 5.

This mysterious, Sacramento-based California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter.

The law lists specific purposes for these trusts: “improving labor-management relationships, job security, organizational effectiveness, enhancing economic development or involving workers in decisions affecting their jobs including improving communication with respect to subjects of mutual interest and concern.” And many trusts operating under this law do just that.

Nevertheless, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust circumvents these purposes without consequence.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service hasn’t implemented regulations to monitor or limit how such trusts operate. And these trusts don’t have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Management Standards.

Who wouldn’t enjoy having a slush fund with minimal oversight and controls?

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust recently gave $100,000 to the Apollo Alliance, $250,000 to a campaign committee opposing reforms to state eminent domain laws, and $770,000 to the biased California Construction Academy of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program. It also gave $164,550 to “Other.”

How does the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust get its money? Do people contribute to it through the goodness of their hearts?

Actually, owners of proposed power plants (and their construction contractors) fund it when they sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) that require payments to it.

Power plant owners don’t sign these union agreements because they want union monopolies on construction or appreciate the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust.

Instead, they sign them to discourage California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) from exploiting environmental laws to interfere with approval of their proposed power plants at the California Energy Commission and other government agencies.

It’s a tangled conspiracy. Especially intriguing is that one union official is the head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, and California Unions for Reliable Energy.

Another interesting angle: when publicly-owned utilities sign these Project Labor Agreements, their electric customers ultimately fund the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust through their bills.

Senate Bill 790 – signed into law by Governor Jerrry Brown in 2011 – allows publicly-owned utilities to pass through to ratepayers the cost of payments to trusts authorized by the Labor Management Cooperation Act of 1978.

In its annual Form 990 statements to the IRS, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust classifies its receipts as “membership dues.” How do “members” such as the Northern California Power Agency and the Southern California Public Power Authority decide to contribute $1,095,000 to the No on A campaign in the City of San Diego?

It’s time to stop these abuses. If Mitt Romney is elected President, his appointees to oversee the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and the Office of Labor Management Standards need to implement reasonable regulations for trusts authorized under the Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978.