Tag Archive for National University System Institute for Policy Research

Project Labor Agreement Activity in California Since the November 2012 Election – My Timeline on www.UnionWatch.org

My May 7, 2013 article Election Gains for California Unions in 2012 Drive Push for Project Labor Agreements is posted on the www.UnionWatch.org web site. It includes a timeline of Project Labor Agreement activity on government projects in California since November 6.

A complete list of Project Labor Agreements on government projects in California and links to the actual agreements can be found at Project Labor Agreements Imposed on California Government Projects (1993-2013), Listed by County and Year.

The best study done on the cost of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements is Measuring the Cost of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California, produced in 2011 by the National University System Institute for Policy Research, based in San Diego.

Concise Statement (With Citation Links) on How a Project Labor Agreement Would Increase the Cost of California High-Speed Rail Construction

Based on a December 6, 2012 statement made by the executive director of the HSR Authority to a Fresno Bee reporter, it seems that all five pre-qualified design-build construction consortiums have negotiated or agreed to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (an umbrella lobbying group for construction unions) for construction trades work on the first segment of the High-Speed Rail project.

Section 7.11.3 of the Request for Proposal for Design-Build Services for the first segment of the California High-Speed Rail project states that “Proposers are advised that, subject to FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] approval, the Authority intends to develop a Community Benefits Agreement consistent with the Community Benefits Policy adopted by the CHSRA [California High-Speed Rail Authority] Board at its December 6, 2012 meeting with which the Contractor will be required to comply.”

And Section 10.1 of the Request for Proposal states that  “The Authority [that is, the California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales] will not make a recommendation for award of the Contract [to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors] unless the successful selected Proposer has submitted the following: Escrowed Proposal Documents and corrected any deficiencies identified by the examination of the EPDs, and A letter of assent executed by the Proposer agreeing to be bound by the Community Benefits Agreement.” This indicates a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement!

In fact, a “draft” Project Labor Agreement is included as Addendum 8 in the High Speed Rail Authority’s bid documents for the Request for Proposal. This indicates that bidders that declare their intention to sign a Project Labor Agreement will boost their scores for “community benefit” in the somewhat-subjective best value procurement criteria.

Where this especially matters in terms of cost to taxpayers is the construction of the building structures, such as the stations in Merced and Fresno.

A 2011 study done by the National University System Institute for Policy Research determined that construction projects for which California school districts required contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions were 13-15% higher in final cost than similar California school construction projects built under fair and open competition. This matches anecdotal evidence collected over the past 15 years on California construction projects with government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.

Why are costs higher? The union provisions included in Project Labor Agreements discourage non-union contractors from bidding. As expected, the resulting reduction in bid competition results in higher costs.

Board Members of Silicon Valley’s West Valley-Mission Community College District Hear More Arguments For and Against Project Labor Agreements

According to reports from people at the scene, the usual cast of characters made the usual arguments in conjunction with the Project Labor Agreement staff report at the December 11, 2012 meeting of the board of trustees of the West Valley-Mission Community College District (in the South Bay/Silicon Valley region of the Bay Area).

First the board of trustees received a report from the district’s Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services about Project Labor Agreements, as the board had requested at its November 13 meeting. At that same November 13 meeting, the board had also directed district staff to develop a Project Labor Agreement/Project Stabilization Agreement for projects funded by bond sales authorized by Measure C. The board gave staff discretion to negotiate that agreement as it saw fit for the benefit of the district and to bring the agreement to the board for consideration by March 2013 or the soonest practicable date.

At the December 11 meeting, the Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services asked the board to define its policy objective and warned that a Project Labor Agreement could increase costs with unknown benefit to the district. He noted that construction funded from earlier bond sales (authorized by voters in 2004 as Measure H) was done successfully without a Project Labor Agreement. He also indicated his intent to negotiate a “fair” Project Labor Agreement and pick two similar projects to compare for a pilot project – bidding one with a Project Labor Agreement requirement and one without it.

Clearly the board is split on the issue, with board member Adrienne Grey pushing for the Project Labor Agreement. She complained that the Vice Chancellor’s report was inadequate and tried to rebut the 2011 study on the cost of Project Labor Agreements on California school construction from the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego.

The usual crowd spoke in support of the Project Labor Agreement:

Two among the group of contractors at the meeting to oppose the Project Labor Agreement dared to speak openly against it. Also speaking against the Project Labor Agreement were Eric Christen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, and Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Ms. Goehring refuted the Working Partnerships USA study, reviewed the recent dismal bid results under the new Project Labor Agreement at Contra Costa Community College District, and reported the latest contractor labor law violations at the San Mateo Union High School District, where contractors are required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

News Coverage:

Education Desk: Project Labor Agreements for Measure C Construction? West Valley-Mission Board Hears ArgumentsThe Santa Clara Weekly – January 2-8, 2013

“I have received voluminous, voluminous material on this topic,” Board President Nick Heimlich noted drily. But that didn’t deter several dozen people who had come out specifically to address the board on the subject from making their statements.

First Swipe at San Diego Unified School District’s Proposed $2.8 Billion Bond Measure Under a Project Labor Agreement: San Diego Union-Tribune Opinion Piece – A Bond Is Not Free Money

Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune (August 3, 2012) includes a sharp opinion piece from Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, entitled “School District’s Bond Measure Not ‘Free Money’.'”

He uses two arguments as a basis to oppose the proposed $2.8 billion bond measure for school construction that the San Diego Unified School District’s Board of Education placed on the November 6, 2012 ballot with a resolution at its July 24, 2012 meeting.

1. Bonds Are Not Free Money; They Are Borrowed Money. Property Owners Large and Small Pay Taxes So Investors Get Back the Principal Plus Interest and Transaction Fees.

Eric points out to uninformed and confused readers that voting for school bonds does NOT mean getting free money from the government. This is actually money obtained through arrangements with brokerage firms, borrowed from investment banks and insurance companies, and paid back through taxes assessed on property owners in the school district. People will pay back these bonds, along with the interest and transaction fees, when they pay their property tax bills to San Diego County.

Eric also points out that the dastardly “One Percent” invests in these bonds, and they want their money back, with interest and fees. They don’t do it for the children, either. They do it to get rich and stay rich.

How does this work in practice? As one example, the San Diego County Counsel’s Impartial Analysis of the $2.1 billion bond measure approved by voters as Proposition S in November 2008 for the San Diego Unified School District indicated that the interest rate for any bond authorized by Proposition S could be as high as 12 percent. In addition, the maturity period for any bond authorized by Proposition S could range from 25 years to 40 years.

In a future post, I will analyze the specific bond sales to date authorized by Proposition S.

Another interesting angle with the new proposed $2.8 billion bond is the possibility that the San Diego Unified School District may choose to sell Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs), in which the investors get the principal plus compound interest in one lump sum at the end of the maturity period, rather than getting a regular interest payment. Meanwhile, the tax burden with these bonds is often backloaded to the end of the maturity period.

In other words, babies born in 2012 could be socked with huge property taxes if they own a house in San Diego from 2050 to 2060. (The current school board will probably be deceased and not accountable to the voters at that time for their decision in 2012.) I write about the growing, dangerous popularity of Capital Appreciation Bonds among California school districts in some of my earlier posts (here and here).

Unions Will Control the Construction with a Project Labor Agreement

While it’s future generations that may end up paying the bulk of this proposed new $2.8 billion school bond (costing perhaps $5 billion total, including the interest and transaction fees), the current generation of parents and students will see their construction program compromised by a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement that cuts bid competition and increases costs for the benefit of construction unions.

The Board of Education has already passed a resolution (also on July 24, 2012) indicating that contractors working on projects over $1 million under the proposed new bond will indeed be required by the school district to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of work. It is titled “Resolution Regarding Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) for Future Local Bonds’ School Construction, Repairs, and Renovation and Addendum Three to PSA to Extend the PSA to Future Local Bonds.”

That can mean four schools for the price of five. For more information about measuring the cost of Project Labor Agreements, see the July 2011 study by the the National University System Institute for Policy Research about the costs of California school construction under Project Labor Agreements. By far the most comprehensive analysis of the cost of Project Labor Agreements on taxpayer-funded construction, the study had this conclusion:

Our research shows that PLAs are associated with higher construction costs. We found that costs are 13 to 15 percent higher when school districts construct a school under a PLA. In inflation-adjusted dollars, we found that the presence of a PLA is associated with costs that are $28.90 to $32.49 per square foot higher.

Will San Diego residents coming out to vote for President Barack Obama in the November election simply vote for another property tax increase for union-controlled construction at the San Diego Unified School District? The Board of Education is guessing they will.

Where the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust Spends Its Money: Now We See How Unions Spread It

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is an arcane entity authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

Since its founding in 2006, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has collected $5,110,095 in receipts, consisting of $2.6 million in seed money from another trust, about $1.7 million in “membership dues” (paid by power plant owners and contractors as a condition of Project Labor Agreements extracted by California Unions for Reliable Energy), and $450,000 in net investment returns. A chart of the organization’s finances is at the end of this post.

Where does the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust send its millions of dollars? I attempted to find out using the organization’s IRS Form 990s (2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008), state and local campaign finance reports, and other sources. See the list below.

1.  $1,095,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No on Measure A, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 5, 2012 election in City of San Diego)

As of May 25, 2012, the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust has contributed $1,095,000 to the campaign committee opposing Proposition A, a “Fair and Open Competition” measure on the June 5, 2012 ballot in the City of San Diego that would prohibit the city from requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on a taxpayer-funded project. The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust has provided 92% of all receipts for this campaign committee.

2.  $770,000 – UCLA Labor Center (aka UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education), part of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has contributed a cumulative total of $770,000 to the UCLA Labor Center, primarily or exclusively for the establishment and operation of the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy, a propaganda operation that issues biased studies and bogus reports about construction labor issues using the UCLA name and affiliation.

The UCLA Office of Research Administration’s Office of Contract and Grant Administration received $250,000 in 2010-11, $250,000 in 2009-10, and $150,000 in 2008-09 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. In 2007-08, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $120,000 for a “Workforce Development Leadership Academy Grant” sent to PO Box 951478 in Los Angeles, zip code 90095. (This is the address for the UCLA Labor Center.)

There seems to be confusion at the UCLA Labor Center about how much the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has contributed to the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy. The 2010-11 annual report for the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education recognizes a grant of $450,000 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, but a footnote added on April 4, 2012 indicates that the $450,000 is a cumulative amount for several years, with $180,000 as the actual amount for 2010-11. A press release from the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy tries to rebut a March 27, 2012 article from www.PublicCEO.com entitled Project Labor Agreement Debate is as Complex as It is Conflicted by stating that “according to the 2009 990 IRS Form, the UCLA Labor Center received $450,000. In fact, when clicking on the document, the amount the Labor Center received was $180,000.” (See this link: Correction on PublicCEO.com Post: CCA Advances Broad Construction Industry InterestsCalifornia Construction Academy: A Project of the UCLA Labor Center – March 27, 2012.) PublicCEO.com then countered with its own correction that stated “Editors note: Originally, the UCLA Annual Report showed a donation of $450,000, as was reported in this article. That was an incorrect total. The report, and this article, now accurately reflect a donation of $250,000. The $450,000 UCLA reported was a total of several years.”

This outfit of five professional staff promotes the political agenda of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, including government-mandated Project Labor Agreements and union control of so-called “green jobs” in the construction industry. The founding Academy Director and Senior Advisor is David Sickler, former Southern California Regional Director of the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The advisory board for the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education consists extensively of officials representing building trades unions. 

The UCLA Labor Center California Construction Academy was the organization used by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California to awkwardly and ineffectively challenge a study published in July 2011 by the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego indicating that schools built in California with Project Labor Agreements cost 13%-15% more than schools built under fair and open competition. As part of this response, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust mailed a letter to local elected officials throughout the state attacking the study, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson mailed a letter to county superintendents and other educational officials attacking the study and providing the report from the UCLA Labor Center California Construction Academy.

3.  $250,000 – No 98/Yes 99 – A Committee of City and County Associations, Taxpayers and Environmental Groups, League of California Cities, Californians for Neighborhood Protection, Coalition of Conservationists

On April 7, 2008, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $250,000 to this No on 98/Yes on 99 campaign committee to oppose a statewide ballot proposition on the June 2008 ballot that would have restricted the ability of governments to gain possession of private property through eminent domain. The proposition failed – it only received 39% of the vote.

4.  $164,550 – “Other” (?)

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports that it spent $164,550 on “Other” fees for services (non-employees) in 2010-11. No additional information is given, and these expenditures are not classified as administrative, accounting, or legal services. I’m unable to determine where this money went, but I’m guessing it was used for something political that promoted unions and socked it to California taxpayers. Any ideas?

Contrary to some rumors, “Other” does not appear to be the union front group Citizens Against Identity Theft and Ballot Fraud, sponsored by labor organizations, which funded a radio advertising scam in the summer of 2011 meant to discourage Sacramento and San Diego voters from signing petitions to place Fair and Open Competition measures and a Paycheck Protection initiative on the 2012 ballots. See my post thoroughly outlining this scheme here.

5.  $100,000 – Apollo Alliance

The Apollo Alliance received $75,000 in 2010-11 and $25,000 in 2009-10 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. This is currently a project of the Blue-Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental organizations and unions on a quest to stop global warming through government programs and a union workforce. President Obama’s former “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones was an influential founder and leader of this organization.

6.  $100,000 – Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop in San Joaquin County

In 2007-08, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $100,000 to the San Joaquin Office of Education’s Career and Technical Education Program to establish a Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop.

The story behind this contribution is a mystery. Public records provided by the San Joaquin Office of Education in October 2011 did not include any documents dated earlier than September 17, 2007, when the former County Superintendent sent a letter to Bob Balgenorth (chairman of the the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and chairman of California Unions for Reliable Energy – CURE) thanking him for the contribution. Surely there was something beforehand that led to a private contribution of $100,000 arriving at the office! Those kinds of checks usually don’t arrive in the mail without extensive solicitation.

In addition, the records did not indicate whether or not the Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop was ever built. Where are the two plaques celebrating Bob Balgenorth (as referenced in the letter)? When was the photo op? Where are the photos? How was the money spent?

In May 2007, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the county’s New Administration Building. (See my post here providing some background on that vote.) Is there a connection between the two incidents? 

7.  $50,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No On Measure G, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 8, 2010 election in City of Chula Vista)

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust contributed $50,000 to the campaign committee opposing Proposition G, a “Fair and Open Competition” measure on the June 8, 2010 ballot in the City of Chula Vista that would prohibit the city from requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on a taxpayer-funded project. The funding was in vain, as 56.37% of Chula Vista voters approved the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance is now Chula Vista Municipal Code Section 02-59. At the behest of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Governor Brown and the Democrat Party leadership in the California State Legislature tried to financially punish the citizens of Chula Vista for enacting this ballot measure with Senate Bill 922 (signed into law in 2011) and Senate Bill 829 (signed into law in 2012). See my blog posts about these laws here and here.

8.  $50,000 – Fresno Area Construction Team (F.A.C.T.)

A group called the Fresno Area Construction Team received $50,000 in 2010-11 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Trust to promote union contractors, union construction, and union apprenticeship programs in the Central Valley. It appears to have the involvement of the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 162, Plumbers Union Local No. 246, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100. This group advertises, spent $51,862 on “consulting,” and even spent $992 on “travel and entertainment for public officials,” according to this form.

Financials: California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust

Year Gross Receipts Contributions & Grants/Program Service Revenue/Other Investment Income Total Revenue
   $ 2,595,954 “Contribution from Prior Trust”
2007-08  $    593,950  $    283,670  $      97,150  $    380,820
2008-09  $    463,792  $    506,403  $    (42,611)  $    463,792
2009-10  $    522,782  $    274,437  $    200,583  $    475,020
2010-11  $    933,617  $    678,209  $    195,780  $    873,989
Total  $ 5,110,095  $ 1,742,719  $    450,902  $ 2,193,621

 

Year Grants & Similar Amounts Other Expenses Total Expenses
2007-08  $    220,000  $    290,859.  $    510,859
2008-09  $    150,000  $      21,143  $    171,143
2009-10  $    205,000  $      16,839  $    221,830
2010-11  $    375,000  $    234,319  $    609,319
Total  $    950,000  $    563,160  $ 1,513,151

 

Year Revenue Minus Expenses Total Assets
2007-08  $  (130,039)  $ 2,595,954
2008-09  $    292,649  $ 2,888,603
2009-10  $    253,181  $ 3,141,784
2010-11  $    264,670  $ 3,406,454

Author of Most Comprehensive Study on the Cost of Project Labor Agreements Speaks in Contra Costa County, California and Earns Inflatable Rat Balloon Greeting

UPDATE: see coverage of the meeting by Lisa Vorderbrueggen of the Contra Costa Times newspaper in “Political Blotter: Politics in the Bay Area and Beyond:”

Was that a Rat on Contra Costa Boulevard? – Contra Costa Times – May 18, 2012


This morning I went to a meeting of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association featuring a presentation by Erik Bruvold, the President and CEO of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, based in San Diego. This institute describes itself as “a groundbreaking economic think tank that promotes high quality economic, policy, and public-opinion research to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local governments.”

Bruvold is the lead author of “Measuring the Costs of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California.” Published in July 2011, this study is the most comprehensive statistical assessment ever done about the fiscal impact of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), with a sample size five times larger than any other study. The study takes into account several potential cost variables overlooked in earlier PLA studies, and it was reviewed for its credibility and accuracy by economists at The Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California.

It was appropriate for Bruvold to make a major public presentation in Contra Costa County, located in the San Francisco Bay Area with a population of 1.1 million. For 20 years, Contra Costa County has been a hotbed of political and legal battles over government-mandated Project Labor Agreements. In fact, in some ways Contra Costa County has been a national leader in the union strategic effort to use government-mandated Project Labor Agreements as a tool to gain market share of taxpayer-funded construction.

For example, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors was the first government in California to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for a public project (the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in 1994 – see background here). In 2001, the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council and the City of Richmond (in Contra Costa County) joined the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO in a court challenge to President George W. Bush’s Executive Order 13202 prohibiting federal funding on construction projects on which governments require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of work. (The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit in Building and Construction Trades Department AFL-CIO v. Allbaugh, No. 01-5436.)

The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to promoting accountable, cost-effective and efficient government and opposing unnecessary taxes and spending.” This organization has long opposed government-mandated Project Labor Agreements – not surprising when the study “Measuring the Costs of Project Labor Agreements on School Construction in California” indicates a 13-15% increased cost of construction when the bid specifications of school districts require contractors to sign a PLA.

Obviously this study irks union officials. Several dozen union picketers and an inflatable rat balloon were in front of the Hyatt House in Pleasant Hill to greet the 93 meeting attendees.

In addition, two union officials (Aram Hodess, who is a California Apprenticeship Council commissioner and business manager of UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 159, and Kevin VanBuskirk, who is a business representative of the Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 104) were handing out this double-sided flyer at the front door of the hotel.

I felt Bruvold did an excellent job in explaining the following: (1) his institute spent a year collecting and confirming data from school districts, state governments, and the McGraw-Hill publishing company, (2) his institute’s study is exceptional for its large sample size and its effort to account for numerous potential variables, (3) California has rigid school construction standards that minimize cost variables and allow for reasonable comparisons, and (4) a weakness of the study is that it’s impossible to completely disentangle the increased costs of Project Labor Agreements from the increased costs of construction at the Los Angeles Unified School District. Bruvold also rebutted the argument that cost differences were the result of different government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called prevailing wages).

A bunch of union people attended the meeting and asked questions afterwards. Bruvold remained calm and objective throughout his presentation. He declined to speculate much on why school construction costs more under a Project Labor Agreement and why school construction costs more at the Los Angeles Unified School District.

I’ll tell you what I think. School construction costs more under a Project Labor Agreement because non-union contractors generally refuse to bid on projects with a PLA, and subcontractors generally refuse to participate in bids. Less competition means higher costs.

This common sense observation is confirmed by studies done by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University on school construction in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, as well as anecdotal evidence from 15 projects across the country bid both with and without a PLA.

I contend that school construction costs more at the Los Angeles Unified School District because of what I call the “Urban Corruption Variable.” In fact, I encourage someone to commission the National University System Institute for Policy Research to perform the same research but try to isolate the Corruption Variable and rank the waste, fraud, and abuse at the state’s school districts from best to worst. Contact Erik Bruvold here to inquire about the cost of performing this study.