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-Herald, Vallejo 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.