Tag Archive for North County Times

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

 
 

News Coverage So Far: City of Vista Wins California Supreme Court Ruling – Charter Cities Can Set Their Own Policies Concerning Prevailing Wage

Updated as of September 14, 2012.

Articles: Traditional California Newspapers

State High Court Supports Charter Cities’ Exemptions from Prevailing Wage Law – Sacramento Bee – July 9, 2012

Vista Wins Prevailing-Wage Ruling – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 3, 2012

Court Ruling Lifts Union Wage Mandate for Charter Cities – Orange County Register – July 3, 2012

Court Lets Cities Set Wages on Public-Works Pacts – San Francisco Chronicle – July 2, 2012

VISTA: Supreme Court Says Some Cities Can Pay Less than Prevailing Wages – North County Times – July 3, 2012

Ruling Could Mean End of Prevailing Wages – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – ‎July 3, 2012

Court Lifts Prevailing Wage Mandate for Charter Cities, Redding Quiet on Charter City Efforts – Redding Record-Searchlight – July 7, 2012

Columnists: Traditional California Newspapers

Dan Walters: City-State Relations Take a Turn – Sacramento Bee (columnist) – July 9, 2012 (also published in other newspapers throughout the state, including the Fresno Bee)

Editorials: Traditional California Newspapers

State: Wage-Law Sanity – Riverside Press-Enterprise – July 19, 2012

Editorial: Will Cities Seize the Opportunity of Wage Ruling? – Sacramento Bee – July 11, 2012

EDITORIAL: A Big Win for Charter Cities – North County Times – July 3, 2012‎

Editorial: Union-Backed Lawmakers Seek to Thwart Pension Reform Votes (includes two paragraphs at end praising court decision) – Orange County Register – July 5, 2012 (also published as Our View: Lawmakers Thwart Pension Reform Votes – Marysville Appeal-Democrat – July 9, 2012 and Union-Controlled Lawmakers Resist Pension Reform Votes – Victorville Daily Press – July 10, 2012)

Moment of Truth for Local Democrats (includes a paragraph praising court decision) – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 5, 202

Articles: Traditional California Business Newspapers

State’s High Court Rules Charter Cities Don’t Have to Use Prevailing Wages – San Diego Daily Transcript – July 3, 2012

Articles: California Web Publications

State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Charter City Authoritywww.PublicCEO.com – July 6, 2012

Court Backs Cities on Prevailing Wagewww.CalWatchdog.com – July 6, 2012

Stockton Skipped Chance to Save on Prevailing Wagewww.PublicSectorInc.com – July 11, 2012

Articles: National Traditional News Sources

Big California Cities Exempt From Prevailing-Pay Law  – Business Week magazine, from Bloomberg News – July 3, 2012

Dayton Public Policy Institute (your most complete source on this issue!)

Prediction: An Explosion of California Cities Freeing Themselves from Costly State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate Laws – Dayton Public Policy Institute – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court Declares that the State’s 121 Charter Cities Have a Constitutional Right to Circumvent the Union-Controlled State Legislature and Establish Their Own Policies Concerning Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rates for Taxpayer-Funded Construction (by Kevin Dayton) – www.unionwatch.org – July 3, 2012

Commentary: Vista Ruling Benefits Local Governments, Residents (by Kevin Dayton) – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – July 13, 2012

Viewpoints from Local Elected Officials and Candidates

Jerry Kern: Taxpayers Win with California Supreme Court Decision (by Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern) – www.sdrostra.com – July 3, 2012

Finally Victory for Local Control (by Escondido City Councilwoman Marie Waldron) www.sdrostra.com – July 2, 2012

Commentary: Candidate Is Wrong about Charter Cities (support of the city’s proposed charter with its prevailing wage exemption by Colin McCarthy, candidate for Costa Mesa City Council) – Newport Beach/Costa Mesa Daily Pilot – July 10, 2012

Articles: California Legal Publications and Blogs

California Supreme Court Holds That California Prevailing Wage Law Must Yield to Constitutional Provisions Protecting the Rights of Charter Cities to Local Autonomy in Developing and Managing Construction Projects – Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (law firm of Robert Fried, who wrote the amicus brief for Associated Builders and Contractors of California) – July 2, 2012

Charter Cities Exempt From Prevailing Wage Law, S.C. Rules – Metropolitan News-Enterprise (a Los Angeles legal newspaper) – July 3, 2012

Calif. SC: Charter Cities Can Set Policies on Prevailing Wageswww.LegalNewsline.com – July 3, 2012

Over Sharp Dissents, State Justices OK Side-Step of Prevailing Wage Law – The Recorder (a San Francisco legal newspaper) – July 2, 2012

Calif. High Court’s Wage Ruling May Spur More Charter Citieswww.Law360.com (a LexisNexis company) – July 3, 2012

State Bldg. and Trades Council v. Vista: Supreme Court Holds that State’s Prevailing Wage Law Does Not Apply to Charter Cities – The California Employment Law Blog (by Steve Pearl) – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court: Charter Cities Need Not Pay Prevailing Wages to Private Construction Workers on Locally Funded Municipal Public Works – www.Lexology.com – July 10, 2012

Prevailing Wage Update: Charter City Public Works Projects Are Not Subject to Prevailing Wage Requirements – Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP law firm  – July 9, 2012

California Charter Cities Do Not Have to Pay Prevailing Wages on Local Public Projects Involving Local Public FundsNixon Peabody LLP law firm – July 10, 2012

Charter Cities Are Exempt from Prevailing Wage LawsCalifornia Land Use & Development Law Report from the Perkins Coie LLP law firm – July 14, 2012

California Supreme Court Rules That State’s Prevailing Wage Law Is Not Quite So Prevailing: Charter Cities Need Not Require Prevailing Wages On Publicly Funded Municipal Construction ProjectsLittler Mendelson law firm – July 16, 2012

UPDATE: Charter City Not Required To Pay Prevailing Wage On Municipal Construction ProjectsKronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard law firm – July 18, 2012

California Supreme Court Restricts Application of Prevailing Wage Law in City of Vista Decision – Rogers Joseph O’Donnell law firm – July 2012

Charter Cities Can Exempt Themselves From Prevailing Wage Requirements For Locally Funded ProjectsAbbott & Kindermann Land Use Law Blog – August 6, 2012

Charter Cities Can Opt-Out of State Prevailing Wage Requirements on Locally-Funded ProjectsBest Best & Krieger law firm – July 5, 2012

Supreme Court Confirms Prevailing Wage Laws Are Not Mandatory For Charter CitiesRichards, Watson & Gershon law firm – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court Rules that Prevailing Wage Laws Do Not Apply to Charter CitiesAllen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP law firm – July 6, 2012

Prevailing Wage Laws: Are Cities Exempt?Ahlers & Cressman Construction Law Blog (Seattle, Washington) – September 7, 2012 (How will this decision have an effect on Washington’s prevailing wage statue? Do the same arguments apply to the Washington State Constitution?)

Ahlers & Cressman law firm

Opinion Pieces: Web

State Supreme Court Stands Up for Charter Cities, Taxpayerswww.FlashReport.org (by Jodi Nagel, chairwoman of Associated Builders and Contractors of California) – July 5, 2012

Labor Unions Suffer Defeat on Taxpayer Revoltwww.TownHall.com (by talk show host Gina Loudon) – July 3, 2012

CA Supreme Court Says Cities Can Determine Their Own Construction Wage – Right on SCV blog (by Kevin Korenthal) – July 3, 2012

California Supreme Court Affirms State Prevailing Wage Requirements Do Not Apply to Charter Cities – California Political News and Views blog (by Stephen Frank) – July 3, 2012

Opinion: Court Issues Charter Cities a Break on Prevailing Wage – Lake Tahoe News – July 13, 2012

Press Releases and Bulletins from California Organizations

California Supreme Court Affirms State Prevailing Wage Requirements Do Not Apply to Charter Cities – League of California Cities – July 2, 2012. Also, see the League of California Cities amicus brief submitted to the California Supreme Court in support of the City of Vista here.

California Supreme Court Rules in Favor of City of Vista – City of Vista Press Release – July 2, 2012

California Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Local Control for California Charter CitiesAssociated Builders and Contractors of California – July 3, 2012

Prevailing Wage Laws Do Not Apply to Charter CitiesHR Watchdog: California Labor Law UpdatesCalifornia Chamber of Commerce – July 5, 2012

Charter Cities are Exempt from the Prevailing Wage LawCalifornia Building Industry Association (BIA) – July 9, 2012

California Supreme Court Confirms the Right of California Charter Cities to Set Their Own Policies on Government-Mandated Prevailing Wage for Taxpayer-Funded Projects – MarketWatch (press release from Associated Builders and Contractors – California Cooperation Committee) – July 2, 2012

Escondido City Council Votes 4-1 to Approve Proposed Charter for Voters to Consider on November Ballot

Tonight (June 13, 2012), the Escondido City Council voted 4-1 to place a proposed charter on the November 6, 2012 ballot for consideration by citizens of the city. It includes the following:

  • A Fair and Open Competition provision that prohibits the city from entering into contracts that require construction companies to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions.
  • A provision that allows the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”) on purely municipal projects.
  • A provision that establishes “paycheck protection” for city employees so they can proactively authorize union dues deductions used for political purposes.

Unions have been fighting this proposed charter aggressively. As I reported in an earlier post (California’s Voting Rights Act of 2001: A Weapon for Unions), the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was among the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the City of Escondido in December 2011 alleging that the city violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by not having city council districts designed to elect more Latinos to the city council. (Demetrio Gomez v. City of Escondido, Case #37-2011-00060480-CU-CR-NC). Excerpts from union publications strongly suggest that this lawsuit was meant to serve as political leverage to change or derail the proposed charter.

In response, the City of Escondido asked the San Diego County Superior Court to dismiss the State Building Trades as a plaintiff because it obviously lacked standing to sue: see here. A judge ruled on March 16, 2012 (Superior Court Decision – Gomez v. City of Escondido) that the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California did NOT have standing to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit. The lawsuit carried on with the other plaintiffs.

Notice that Article 3 of the final version of the proposed charter now contains language establishing district elections. Section 305 would return the city to at-large elections if the California Voting Rights Act is repealed by the legislature or invalidated by a court. Section 303 requires members of the city council to be citizens of the United States. (This was cynical, but shrewd – I predict that one day a court or the California State Legislature will allow non-citizens to vote in some California elections and hold some state and local offices.)

Tonight, the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council was not at the Escondido City Council meeting – he’s at the Governing Board meeting for the Southwestern Community College District, where a pro-union majority will be voting on a resolution to authorize negotiations with the unions for a Project Labor Agreement. I’m expecting some additional creative actions from the unions to try to derail this proposed charter, though.

ATTENTION Anti-Charter Conspiracy Theorists: I made a scheduled presentation before the Escondido City Council on September 28, 2011 regarding provisions concerning state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”). See my September 29, 2011 blog post here on www.theTruthaboutPLAs.com and “Charter City Forum Features Name-Calling, Emotional Outbursts” – North County Times – September 29, 2011.) At that meeting, I also responded to allegations made during the scheduled union presentation about government-mandated Project Labor Agreements that construction contractors must sign with unions.

California’s Voting Rights Act of 2001: A Weapon for Unions

It’s not just the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that construction unions exploit for their own ulterior purposes. The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (a Sacramento-based umbrella group for construction unions) has apparently found inspiration from an organized campaign to use lawsuits under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (Election Code Section 14025 et seq.) to force California local governments to abandon at-large voting and instead adopt districts that are deliberately drawn to increase Latino representation on elected boards.

An article published by www.CaliforniaWatch.org on March 9, 2012 (White-Dominated Boards Face Legal Threats Over Racial Makeup) reports on how the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California was among the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit against the City of Escondido in December 2011 alleging that the city violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by not having city council districts designed to elect more Latinos to the city council. (Demetrio Gomez v. City of Escondido, Case #37-2011-00060480-CU-CR-NC). Compared to the naïveté or timidity seen in much of the mainstream news coverage of the case, this article is surprisingly blunt about the true motivation for the union involvement in the lawsuit:

But labor unions and other groups also could use the law as a weapon in disputes with cities and school boards. 

The first such case came in December, when the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California sued the city of Escondido, in San Diego County, alleging that at-large elections leave Latinos without fair representation. The union targeted Escondido because officials there have been trying to lower wages on public construction projects.

The brief submitted by the State Building Trades can be found here. Of course, it says nothing about the underlying objective of the lawsuit: dissuading cities from including provisions in their charters that allows those cities to establish their own state-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for purely municipal construction. A honest perspective about the lawsuit is revealed in excerpts below from the State Building Trades web site:

Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Fair Elections by Bob Balgenorth, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council – January 2012

It’s not surprising that a city council that treats its Latino citizens disdainfully also has plans to worsen the quality of life for all construction workers. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported in its coverage of the lawsuit, the current council will try to convince voters to make Escondido a charter city, in hopes of lowering construction wages on public works projects – for all workers, Latino and non-Latino alike.

“They want to take away the prevailing wage,” Demetrio Gomez, the lead plaintiff, told the paper. “They want to take away the things that make the average worker’s life worthwhile. We believe that’s wrong. And we believe if we had the ability to elect Latinos we would have better representation.”

(Also, see Members of SBCTC Affiliates Demand Escondido Change to District-Based Elections – State Building and Construction Trades Council of California web site – December 8, 2011.)

In response, the City of Escondido asked the San Diego County Superior Court to dismiss the State Building Trades as a plaintiff because it obviously lacked standing to sue: see here.

A judge ruled on March 16, 2012 (Superior Court Decision – Gomez v. City of Escondido) that the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California did NOT have standing to be a plaintiff in this lawsuit:

In addition, Plaintiff Council does not satisfy the requirements for associational standing because voting rights are not germane to its purpose. The purpose of the Council is to protect the members’ rights with relation to their work and trade in construction. Voting rights are separate and distinct. Registering members to vote and providing voter education does not make members’ voting rights germane to the Council’s purpose.

Surely this is not the last time California unions will be manipulating the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. At the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in California’s “Day at the Capitol” program on April 18, 2012, I asked a panel of three California elections experts if they thought unions and other special interest groups will routinely use the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 as a weapon to achieve their political objectives at local governments. The unequivocal answer was YES.

“Absolutely,” said Paul Mitchell, a political consultant with Redistricting Partners, a firm based in Sacramento. He agreed with me that “that’s exactly what happened” at the City of Escondido and noted that the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 is “a card able to be played.” He expressed surprise that police, firefighters, and other public employee unions in cities such as Stockton had not already used this powerful weapon to win concessions from governments during negotiations for collective bargaining agreements.

Additional Recent News Media Coverage of Union Exploitation of the California Voting Rights Act of 2001:

Judge Bars Union from Voting Rights Lawsuit – San Diego Union-Tribune – March 17, 2011

ESCONDIDO: Judge wants union removed from voting rights suit – North County Times – March 17, 2011

Lawsuit Aims To Elect More Latinos In Escondido – KPBS – April 4, 2012