Tag Archive for Proposition A (City of San Diego June 2012)

Construction Manager at-Risk Negotiating with Unions for a Project Labor Agreement on $600 Million San Diego County Central Courthouse

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction just issued a press release (on May 30, 2013) entitled “Unions and State Conspire to Exclude Local Workers from Massive Public Courthouse Project in San Diego.” Text is below.

May 31 is the deadline for prospective bidders to submit their pre-qualification questionnaires to Rudolph and Sletten. See Subcontractors to Bid on Work for New Downtown Central CourthouseSan Diego Daily Transcript – May 16, 2013

May 30, 2013
Contact: Eric Christen, (858) 431-6337 

Unions and State Conspire to Exclude Local Workers from Massive Public Courthouse Project in San Diego

Attempt to Place Union-Only Project Labor Agreement on $600+Million State Courthouse in City that Banned PLAs Less than a Year Ago

San Diego – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) has learned that local unions and the Administrative Office of the Courts for the State of California (AOC) have been “negotiating” a union-only Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the new $600+ million Superior Courthouse to be located in downtown San Diego. The AOC has hired the general contracting firm Rudolph & Sletten to build the courthouse. Rudolph & Sletten is therefore “negotiating” the PLA with local trade unions. These “negotiations” take place less than one year after voters in the City of San Diego overwhelming voted to ban PLAs 58%-42% with the passage of Proposition A in June of 2012.

“This is a remarkably tone-deaf and outrageous decision the sole intent of which is to exclude 90% of the local construction workforce who happen to be union-free,” said Eric Christen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. “The citizens of San Diego have expressed, twice now, their desire to keep San Diego discrimination-free and now we have the AOC forcing this ‘agreement’ on us?”

CFEC has submitted a Public Records Act request to the AOC that seeks to answer, among other things, the following:

  • Where and who did the idea of a PLA come from?
  • What are the justifications for a PLA?
  • Who is actually “negotiating” the PLA?
  • Did unions who run the legislature threaten to hold up funding on the project unless a PLA was placed on it?

The project is one of the AOC’s most expensive and at more than 700,000 sq. feet and 70 courtrooms, one of the largest. Ironies abound for such a project to be considered for a PLA.

On top of San Diego having banned PLAs there is the State publicly stating its desire to have “significant local, minority, women, and veteran owned businesses participate.” Yet with 90% of the local construction workforce union-free, that goal will be impossible to reach with a PLA.

Also, PLA proponents argue that PLAs are needed on “large and complex projects” yet two of the largest projects San Diego has ever undertaken (The San Diego International Airport expansion and the new downtown Federal Courthouse) were both built successfully without a PLA. The State and AOC have been facing years of funding cuts for its courthouse projects due to the economy and indeed this project has been reduced in both size and scope. Yet a PLA will add at least 20% to the cost of the project by cutting out local bidders who would otherwise add competitive pressure to the overall bid package. Finally Rudolph & Sletten is asking for companies interested in bidding this job to fill out a “Request for Qualification” (RFQ) that has no mention of a PLA. Thus, companies are being led to believe that this project will be open to all of them when in fact in may not be.

“This is a project that is going to be paid for with taxpayer dollars that come from union and non-union taxpayers.” added Christen “Yet the State of California through the AOC has just told the majority of those workers and apprentices that while their tax dollars are appreciated their ability to work is not. This is not going to go easily or well for the State, the AOC, or Rudolph and Sletten if a PLA is in fact required on this project. As we have shown time and time again, we will use any and all means to keep this project open for every worker and contractor. This decision, and we will find out exactly who made it, is offensive.”

Contractors who are interested in bidding this work have until tomorrow, May 31, to send in their pre-qualification packages. Rudolph and Sletten is scheduled to begin subcontractor bidding in July 2013. The bond sale for construction is expected in fall 2013, and construction is scheduled to begin before the end of 2013. Completion is scheduled for 2016.


Another California Union Leader on the Way to Confirming the Ancient Proverb: The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

UPDATE: See the December 5, 2012 post Quest for the Presidency: San Diego Union Leader Lorena Gonzalez Announces Run for California State Assembly.

California newspapers are apparently obliged to run post-election profiles of the union leader who gets the credit for the local political machine’s latest successes. I have a dozen such articles in my files going back to the mid-1990s, and it is astonishing how many of these union leaders eventually leave the arena of power under shady circumstances. There’s something in the nature of humanity that warps most of us when our power or position earns undeserved and excessive flattery.

Today, the December 2, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune features a profile of Lorena Gonzalez, the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

See Democrats’ Not-So-Secret Weapon: Labor Leader Lorena Gonzalez Made Her Mark as a Key Player in November’s Election VictoriesSan Diego Union-Tribune – December 2, 2012.

There is still hope for the State of California and the City of San Diego, as the article quotes two individuals who were willing to speak out against this union official who will enjoy a period of significant influence over government and commerce in the City of San Diego.

Tony Krvaric, the chairman of the Republican Party of San Diego County, contends that Gonzalez “plays class warfare, and while that works sometimes, I don’t think in the long run it’s a healthy way to operate.”

Eric Christen, the executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, provides a perceptive psychological analysis. He observes about Gonzalez that “her radical views make her a bit predictable and linear in her approach on anything she does…Backroom deals are Lorena’s specialty…The big corporations she pretends to be against with her neo-Marxist language – she’s as much of a corporatist as anyone as long as her side gets its pound of flesh.”

I’ve documented some the recent activities of Lorena Gonzalez at this web site. I tweeted my own views about the article:

San Diego union leader Lorena Gonzalez builds her palace on sand. Voters are fickle and the gods detest hubris. http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/dec/02/the-organizer/ …

I’m looking forward to January 2013, when Lorena Gonzalez ratchets up the pressure for the State of California to withhold funding to the City of San Diego because 58% voters approved Proposition A, a Fair and Open Competition ordinance, in June 2012. She can’t wait:

Hmmm. Wonder when media will start talking about the $100 million loss San Diego will face next year from State due to Prop A

See What About Prop. A? Come January 1, San Diego Will Find Out if Funding-Loss Warnings Were TrueSan Diego City Beat – November 7, 2012.

Lorena Gonzalez supports democracy as long the people vote the way she thinks they should. This upcoming arrogant effort to compel voters to repeal a law protecting fair and open bid competition as a condition of getting their state goodies will be a cataclysmic battle over the future relevance of the structural checks and balances in our republic. Bring it on!

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


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.

Mystical Ratios and Other Strange Excuses: San Diego’s Top Union Boss Lorena Gonzalez Explains Why San Diego Voters Approved Propositions A and B

A few people were incredulous last week when they heard the election night claims of Lorena Gonzalez – the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Central Labor Council – that “corporate interests” and “huge corporations” outspent unions in a ratio of 7 to 1 in the campaign over the Fair and Open Competition ballot measure (Proposition A) in the City of San Diego. (Proposition A won with 58% of the vote on June 5, 2012.)

One person said to me, “I read your blog showing how unions spent $1.2 million against Proposition A. What is she talking about? Did the Yes on A campaign really raise more than $7 million?”

No. As shown here in the campaign finance reports of the City of San Diego Ethics Commission, unions and union-managed organizations spent more against Proposition A ($1,325,231.20) than “corporate interests” spent in support of Proposition A ($934,037.81), in a ratio of almost 3 to 2. Supporters of Prop A did not even raise $1 million for a city-wide campaign in a city with 1.3 million people. Gonzalez’s 7 to 1 ratio for spending on Proposition A could only be met with $8.2 million in additional imaginary money to the Yes on A campaign or with some sort of incredible distortion of data on campaign finance reports.

Knowing her three degrees earned from highly prestigious colleges indicate a truly superior intelligence, I concluded that Gonzalez must have used some sort of exotic algorithm to calculate the 7 to 1 ratio. I tried to figure it out, but failed. I did determine that even if she actually meant campaign spending for Proposition A combined with Proposition B (city employee pension reform), the claim is false. Add both together, and the so-called “corporate interests” outspent unions in a little more than a 3:2 ratio.

Why would someone with such prominence in a local community let out such a brazen lie? Opinions are often in the eyes of the beholder, but she presents that claim as a fact, which people can check for truthfulness and accuracy. Even more perplexing, she said it repeatedly.

A quick perusal of Gonzalez’s recent Twitter posts reveals her frequent citation of the 7 to 1 business to union campaign expenditure ratio. For example, on May 31 she responded to a taunt about her lost race for San Diego City Council with this line: “When I was outspent 7-1, everybody predicted Faulconer and I came within hundreds? Yep, I remember that!” And on May 19, she criticized the content of a KUSI Channel 10 news story with the comment “Doesn’t fit their narrative if they say business outspends labor 7 to 1.” (She was citing this specific ratio even before the campaigns for and against Proposition A submitted their later expenditure reports to the city.)

Is it possible that Gonzalez has stumbled on some sort of mystic power in the 7:1 ratio that will lead “working people” to start voting in support of the union tax-and-spend political agenda?

To examine Gonzalez’s full range of excuses after San Diego voters approved Proposition A on June 5, I looked at the election night news coverage in San Diego. Here are her standard talking points:

  1. These are “very complicated legal issues” and the voters don’t understand what they’re supporting. (Translation: voters aren’t educated enough to know what’s good for them.)
  2. Voters were distracted with so many races on the ballot. (Translation: the unruliness of democracy confuses people into voting against their interests.)
  3. We were outspent badly by huge corporations. (Translation: democracy is unfair because corporations are able to spend money in political campaigns.)
  4. We didn’t really try to win. (Translation: our political system is so fundamentally controlled by corporate interests that participation is useless, and I lied earlier to the union volunteers who helped with the campaign and lied even earlier to the union workers whose money was used – without their consent – for campaign advertising and contracts for political consultants.)
  5. We were victims of right-wing media bias. (Translation: media in a democracy should be required to present the valid position of working people. All coverage should be like Democracy Now! and Pacifica Radio.)
  6. The enacted policies are meaningless. (Translation: I lied earlier to the union volunteers who helped with the campaign and lied even earlier to the union workers whose money was used – without their consent – for campaign advertising and contracts for political consultants.)

For example, below is an election night video interview on local TV news for Channel 7 KNSD (NBC) in which Gonzalez rolls out all of her standard talking points. She claims that “we didn’t invest in those propositions in the same way as our opponents” and that “huge corporations” outspent the unions 7 to 1. She repeats the 7 to 1 lie a second time for those who didn’t hear it the first time.


Gonzalez also blames the mainstream media, even as she tries to use it. “We live in a city where we have one newspaper” with an agenda to defeat unions, working people, and Democrats. She also says San Diego has local TV stations that are anti-worker. (She has to backtrack on that statement a little in her own self-interest when she realizes she is being interviewed for local TV news, although she must be fuming after the reporter starts the interview by introducing her as “the county’s labor boss.”)

I’ll predict “corporate media bias” will be a major theme of unions in San Diego; in fact, the New York Times is helping by now being worried about it: see “Newspaper as Business Pulpit” – June 10, 2012. I would suggest that the unions establish their own competing daily newspaper targeted at “working people” in San Diego, but instead they’ll probably use the government to force ownership or content changes at the Union-Tribune. 

Here are some other Lorena Gonzalez quotes from the web and print media following the June 5 election. Remember, according to Gonzalez, all of these media entities hate working people:

Early results show voters support the idea of the City of San Diego being prohibited from using union-friendly Project Labor Agreements (PLAs)… “With so much noise going on in this election, I’m not surprised,” said Lorena Gonzalez, CEO of San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. When asked her opinion on the returns for both Prop A and Prop B, Gonzalez said it’s tough for the workers’ voice to be heard. She said San Diegans are too smart to support Prop A but said the labor stance was outspent 7 to 1 by corporate interests. “When we need to, we’ll exercise our legal options,” Gonzalez said.

Source: Prop. A Passage Not Surprising to Labor – Channel 7 KNSD (ABC). (By the way, Lorena Gonzalez is one of the most relentless sources of political noise in San Diego, so maybe she’s subconsciously blaming herself.)

Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, told City News Service that she expects Proposition B to be overturned by the courts, and for San Diegans to repeal Proposition A in the next couple of years, once its costs become clear. “There’s a third branch of government for a reason,” Gonzalez said, referring to the court system.

Source: San Diego Voters Approve Propositions A, B – Channel 10 KGTV (ABC) – June 6, 2012; Absentee Voters Favor San Diego Initiatives Channel 5 KSWB (FOX); and Election 2012: San Diegans Favor Propositions – Channel 8 KFMB News (CBS).

Here, she decides to shift the focus from the proposition victories and instead start the general election campaign by trying to diminish the first-place showing of Councilman Carl DeMaio in the hotly-contested primary race for San Diego mayor, which had four legitimate contenders (three Republicans and a Democrat):

However, labor leader Lorena Gonzalez said the outcome of Proposition B was not unexpected considering how heavily opponents were outspent…Gonzalez, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, an umbrella group that represents 133 unions, said she doubts voters realized that Proposition A could keep millions of dollars of state funds from the city. Gonzalez said the strongest message she was taking away from San Diego voters was the number who voted against mayoral front-runner Carl DeMaio. “Sixty eight percent basically told Carl DeMaio they are not in for his politics,” she said. “I think that’s great. Clearly the only person who really billed himself as anti-worker was Carl DeMaio and 68 percent of the people said no to Carl DeMaio.”

Source: Labor, GOP Draw Different Conclusions from Vote: Proposition A, B Victories Called “Taxpayer Revolution” – San Diego Union-Tribune – June 6, 2012

Here, she strangely switches focus to the California Republican Party, perhaps indicating a subconscious desire to flee San Diego and return to the comforting security of the California State Capitol, where most people are smart enough to know that free enterprise is nonsense.

Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, countered by saying Republicans have sided with corporate interests over working people, leading to the possibility of the statewide GOP going the “way of the dodo bird.” She said DeMaio and downtown lobbyists that helped fund his mayoral campaign and Propositions A and B have used pensions and project-labor agreements as straw men they’d prefer to fight against because they make for good sound bites, no matter how inaccurate. “Measures like these don’t solve problems, they just create more,” she said…“Just as these propositions will not solve the financial problems of our city government, they do nothing to put more money back in the pockets of hardworking San Diegans or put the unemployed back to work,” she said. “We will continue to put our efforts to creating more jobs, better jobs and better lives for all San Diegans — union and nonunion — because that is what matters to us, not these cheap political games.”

Source: GOP Basks in the Election Afterglow – San Diego Union-Tribune – June 6, 2012

Note: it does not look like Gonzalez even bothered to comment about the passage of Proposition D – a charter for the city of El Cajon that includes a Fair and Open Competition provision and a provision allowing the city to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for purely municipal projects.

Postscript: Lorena Gonzalez was uncharacteristically silent on record after voters approved Proposition G in Chula Vista, Proposition K in Oceanside, and Proposition A in San Diego County in 2010. I did find ONE comment from Gonzalez explaining voter approval of Proposition G and Proposition K: in this case, she blamed the people again, this time by complaining about people not voting.

FUDGE: And you’re disappointed, I assume, with Proposition G in Chula Vista and Proposition K in Oceanside on the project labor agreements.

GONZALEZ: Well, especially Chula Vista, you know, we spent a lot of time down there but the turnout just – I’ve never quite seen anything like it. I think when the final numbers come in, we’ll see about, maybe 25% and in a city that is predominantly Latino and predominantly Democrat, it was – the electorate yesterday was not. It was mainly an absentee turnout and mainly a Republican turnout and, again, when people show up at the polls, when we have high turnout like we do in presidential years or in gubernatorial years when there’s a runoff, then workers win. But when people don’t come out, we can’t win.

Source: Who Won and Who Lost In Tuesday’s Primary Election – KPBS – Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Exclusive: Local Government Election Results in California Highly Relevant to Labor Issues

California’s primary election night was overshadowed by the support from Wisconsin voters for state elected officials who implemented a modest reform of collective bargaining for public employees. But here is an exclusive report on how the June 5, 2012 election also brought good results for advocates of fiscal responsibility and economic and personal freedom in California.

Some might say that voters are being hoodwinked by FOX News, conservative talk radio, and the Dayton Public Policy Institute. To me, it’s clear that a majority of Californians do not see tax increases, more government spending, and expanded government programs as the solution to the state’s economic struggles.


Similar to what’s taking place in numerous states throughout the country, voters in the San Diego region are actively responding to a challenging economy by calling for smaller and more efficient government. I will elaborate in a future post about the ten years of behind-the-scenes tedious work that led to this development in San Diego County, but for now I’ll outline the good news.

I’ve already posted on the easy 58% victory in the City of San Diego for Proposition A, which enacts a Fair and Open Competition ordinance prohibiting the city from requiring construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on taxpayer-funded construction. I also reported already on the 57% victory in the City of El Cajon for Proposition D, a new charter that includes a Fair and Open Competition provision and also gives the city authority to establish its own government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) for city projects. (Boy, unions hate it when local governments take power away from the state!)

There will be a heated campaign up to November 5 for San Diego Mayor. Advocate of economic freedom (and San Diego City Councilman) Carl DeMaio will face leftist Congressman Bob Filner. This election will feature a passionate debate over the benefits of capitalism versus socialism! If DeMaio is elected as Mayor, there will be a dramatic change in political culture in the City of San Diego. I will write more about DeMaio in a future post.

(See Filner’s letter here telling the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce to oppose Proposition G in part because it would be a “fool’s errand” to seek federal funding for the city if Proposition G passed. It did pass, and somehow the federal money continues to be piped in, as shown by evidence of continued federal grants to the city’s Capital Improvement Program here.)

Also, Councilman DeMaio’s Proposition B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Diego won with 66% of the vote. And this was not the only successful urban public employee pension reform measure to win voter approval in California on June 5: Mayor Chuck Reed’s Measure B to reform public employee pensions in the City of San Jose (a much more liberal city than San Diego) passed with 70% of the vote. Apparently Californians are a lot like people in Wisconsin: they understand that future economic growth and job creation cannot be anchored on excessive government payouts obtained by public employee unions through politically-manipulated collective bargaining.

Also in the City of San Diego, Scott Sherman won a city council seat. He supports economic freedom and fiscal responsibility. Ray Ellis – also an advocate of economic freedom – will face Sherri Lightner in November for another city council seat.


Even in much more liberal Northern California, there was good news beyond the win for public employee pension reform in the City of San Jose.

In Placer County, construction unions flushed $30,000 down the toilet in funding 92% of the campaign of Pam Tobin, who challenged incumbent Kirk Uhler for a seat on the Placer County Board of Supervisors but lost, 60% to 40%. I was at the Uhler election night victory party in Granite Bay and was pleased to see the result. See my exclusive investigative report revealing and analyzing the union sources of Tobin’s campaign contributions here.

But Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery won re-election. She voted in 2010 against the currently-in-effect Fair and Open Competition policy banning Project Labor Agreements on county construction projects.

Elsewhere in Placer County, 65% voters in the City of Auburn rejected Measure A, a proposed charter that would have given authority to the city to establish its own policies concerning government-mandated construction wage rates (prevailing wages) on city projects.

In an earlier post I compared the City of Auburn’s charter campaign to the charter campaign of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes (in Los Angeles County) in 2011. In both cases, large and politically sophisticated construction unions used their well-funded labor-management cooperation committees, political action committees, and general budgets to steamroll over a home-grown local grassroots movement.

ADVICE to CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS and CITY STAFF seeking a CHARTER: contact Labor Issues Solutions, LLC for a free consultation and some honest assessments of what it takes to win against aggressive self-interested union opposition. You’re fighting a political machine, as city council members and community activists have recently learned through experience in Rancho Palos Verdes, Auburn, Redding, Paradise, South Lake Tahoe, Folsom, and Elk Grove. You CAN win like Oceanside did in 2010 and El Cajon just did on June 5, 2012 (see below).

There was a gratifying victory in Contra Costa County, where Danville Mayor Candace Andersen won 60% of the vote and easily defeated Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board member Tomi Van De Brooke for the open seat held by the late Supervisor Gayle Uilkema. Van De Brooke only received 28% despite receiving the “benefit” of nasty union-funded mailers about abortion sent to district voters. This is yet another case in which Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in California made a politician accountable to the voters for supporting costly union-backed policies in order to lock up union campaign support. Regrettably, the Project Labor Agreement imposed by Van De Brooke in December 2011 for community college district construction projects will remain as a legacy of this election.

In Sonoma County, there will be a clash between two ideologically opposite members of the Santa Rosa City Council for an open seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. The candidate for economic freedom, John Sawyer, will face off against pro-union candidate Susan Gorin.

In Solano County, pro-union challenger Skip Thomson defeated Mike Reagan, the one solid advocate for economic freedom on the Solano County Board of Supervisors. Reagan barely held onto the seat against Thomson four years ago. The Project Labor Agreement policy for Solano County construction projects will continue, now without an opposing view on the board.

In Yolo County, incumbent Duane Chamberlain survived a challenge from union-backed Woodland Mayor Art Pimentel for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

Voters rejected Measure J, a $59.5 million school bond measure to modernize a high school in the City of Antioch. That was a whopping target for a Project Labor Agreement, as shown by the construction union funding of the campaign to support Measure J.

Disappointing results were seen in the elections for Sacramento City Council, where candidates backed by business groups lost, as usual. The Sacramento City Council continues to be dominated by politicians lukewarm toward economic growth. I believe this results in part from voter distrust of candidates funded by housing tract developers, and NOT because voters love unions. In fact, I think union connections would be a liability for incumbents if campaigns chose to focus on them aggressively.


Voters in the City of Yreka (near the Oregon border on I-5) voted 720-650 to approve possession of up to six backyard hens (no roosters) in residential areas of the city. As Yreka City Councilman Bryan Foster said to KDRV News Channel 12 (ABC) in Medford, Oregon: “The chicken issue, for me, it centers around private property rights and really, government interference.” Isn’t it refreshing to hear that kind of statement from a California elected official, even when it’s broadcast from an Oregon TV station? See my earlier post on this hotly-contested issue here.

Voters of San Diego (Eighth Most Populous City in U.S.) Approve Fair and Open Competition Ordinance with 58 Percent of the Vote to Prohibit Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreements

The people of California continue to demonstrate their firm support for fair and open bid competition and the best quality work at the best price for taxpayer-funded construction. On June 5, 2012, 58% of voters in the City of San Diego approved Proposition A, a Fair and Open Competition ordinance prohibiting the city from requiring contractors to enter into Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with unions. San Diego is the eighth most populous city in the country.

Also, in the City of El Cajon (in San Diego County), 57% of voters approved Proposition D, a charter stating in Section 400 (Purchasing and Contracts) that “The City will promote fair and open competition for all City construction projects so that all contractors and workers, whether union or non-union, are treated equally in the bidding and awarding of City construction contracts.” See this June 5, 2012 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune: Proposition D Passes in El Cajon.

A Quest for Fair and Open Competition Policies in San Diego County’s Ten Most Populous Cities



Population (2010)



San Diego


58% of voters approved a Fair and Open Competition ordinance as Proposition A on June 5, 2012.


Chula Vista


56% of voters approved a Fair and Open Competition ordinance as Proposition G on June 8, 2010.




54% of voters approved a charter with a Fair and Open Competition provision as Proposition K on June 8, 2010.




Voters will approve a charter with a Fair and Open Competition provision on the November 6, 2012 ballot.




No action to date.


El Cajon


57% of voters approved a charter with a Fair and Open Competition provision as Proposition D on June 5, 2012.




No action to date.


San Marcos






National City



San Diego County


76% of voters approved a Fair and Open Competition charter amendment as Proposition A on November 2, 2010.

How Has the No on Proposition A Campaign in the City of San Diego Shelled Out Its Money? An Analysis.

How has “Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No on Measure A, sponsored by labor and management organizations” distributed its significant campaign resources to try to defeat Proposition A, the Fair and Open Competition measure on the June 5, 2012 ballot in the City of San Diego?

An analysis of the Recipient Committee Campaign Statement (Form 460) for this campaign covering March 18 through May 19 indicates the campaign’s spending patterns for $549,560.98 in expenses.

  • 50% of the money ($272,757.97) was spent on physical production and distribution of direct mail.
  • 11% of the money ($61,331.75) was spent on actual payments for radio advertising.
  • 3% of the money ($16,921.17) was spent on actual payments for web advertising.
  • 13% of the money ($56,419.10) was spent on polling and market research.
  • 13% of the money ($68,866.07) was spent on political consulting.
  • 13% of the money ($73,264.92) was spent on fees for professional services (radio ad placement, mailer design and coordination, legal counsel and accounting, office expenses, etc.) 

In other words, 64% of campaign resources was spent on actual voter outreach. The other 36% was spent on firms that make a living giving advice and helping campaigns.

Direct Mail – $272,757.97 + fee of $56,337.53

$329,095.50 Paid to JPM&M, a direct mail firm in Sacramento that works for numerous Democrat politicians and causes, as well as labor unions.
$160,845.78 United States Postal Service (Sacramento)
$104,258.68 InSource Print and Design (Sacramento)
$7,653.51 Political Data (Sacramento)
$272,757.97 Printing, Labeling, Postage (Total Cost of Mailer Production)
$56,337.53 Remainder with JPM&M (20.65% of mailer production)

Radio Advertising – $61,331.75 + fee of $4668.25


Paid to Sadler Strategic Media in Los Angeles


KFMB 100.7 Adult Hits


KYXY 96.5 FM Adult Contemporary


XEHRM 92.5 FM Rhythmic Oldies (Tijuana station)


KSON 97.3 FM Country


KGB 101.5 FM Classic Rock


KIFM 98.1 FM Smooth Adult Contemporary


XHPRS 105.7 FM Oldies (Tijuana station)


XEPRS 1090 AM Sports (Tijuana station)


Total Spent on Radio Advertising on Eight Stations


Remainder with Sadler Strategic Media (7.6% of radio buys)

Web and Social Media Advertising (placed through Grassroots Lab) – $16,921.17


Paid to Facebook


Paid to Google

Polling and Market Research – $56,419.10


Paid to David Binder Research, a San Francisco firm that does market research for a variety of industries, including labor unions.


Paid to Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) – with a California office in Santa Monica, this is a polling and market research firm for numerous Democrat politicians and causes across the country. (Amount includes unpaid bill of $15,000.)

Political Consulting – $68,866.07


After subtracting web advertising costs (see above), this amount remains with Grassroots Lab, a public affairs and web communications firm in Sacramento. Note that the report indicates payments of $7,500 for web and $32,500 for consulting, so payments are ambiguously classified in the report.


Paid to Townsend Raimundo Besler & Usher, a consulting firm in Sacramento specializing in ballot measures. (Includes unpaid bill of $787.24.)


J.S. Peace & Associates – Townsend Raimundo Besler & Usher subcontracted to this El Cajon consulting firm run by former State Senator Steve Peace.


Remainder for Townsend Raimundo Besler & Usher

Legal – $8,827.76


Paid to Olson Hagel & Fishburn LLP in Sacramento

Office Space and Miscellaneous Fees – $3,431.38


Paid to McClatchy Insurance Agency, Inc. in Sacramento


Other Fees

Is the City of San Diego’s Proposition A (on the June 5, 2012 Ballot) Meaningful and Necessary? Absolutely! Here’s the Documented Proof.

One of the most ridiculous arguments thrown at voters by opponents of the Fair and Open Competition ballot measure (Proposition A) for the June 5, 2012 election in the City of San Diego is that the proposed ordinance is unnecessary. Representatives of the No on A campaign argue that people should vote against Proposition A because the city has never required contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for a taxpayer-funded project. Perhaps polling shows this illogical argument to be effective, because the No on A campaign uses it regularly:

Examples of the Campaign Message “Vote No on Proposition A because the City of San Diego Has Never Required Contractors to Sign a Project Labor Agreement with Unions”

1. No on A Spokesperson and Former San Diego City Councilmember Donna Frye – Debate Over Prop A: Should City Ban Project Labor Agreements? – KPBS – May 7, 2012

Frye said the city of San Diego has never been a party to any project labor agreement, “which is why this is even goofier than one can imagine.”

2. Tom Lemmon, business manager of the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council and Scott Barrett, union-backed board member of the nearly-bankrupt San Diego Unified School District – Dialog: Project Labor Agreements: Local Jobs, Quicker Completion Among Benefits – San Diego Union-Tribune – January 29, 2012

If something is not broken, do not try to fix it.

3. Mike Madrid, consultant to No on A, as quoted in “Dialog – No on Prop. A: It’s Awful” – San Diego Union-Tribune – May 12, 2012

The most peculiar part about this is the city of San Diego has never used a PLA in a municipal contract. There’s no public policy problem being addressed here, none.

4. Our June 5 Election Endorsements Are Here!San Diego City Beat – May 16, 2012:

The debate raging over PLAs is complex and worth having. But it’s beside the point in the case of Prop. A. Here’s why: The city of San Diego has never used a PLA on a project. Never. As Prop. A’s campaign spokesperson said on KPBS recently, the point of the measure is to “preemptively” ban the City Council from “even having the opportunity” to consider a PLA. Not only is this measure a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist…

What should voters in the City of San Diego make of this argument? Well, perhaps they need to call San Diego County Public Health Services, because it appears that San Diego’s union leaders and their political buddies have contracted a case of highly contagious amnesia.

The San Diego City Council Is Already Involved with Project Labor Agreements

1. At its October 12, 2009 meeting, the San Diego City Council voted 5-3 to move into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Portland, Oregon-based Gerding Edlen Development Corporation to build a new $432.4 million civic center complex. Read the draft Project Labor Agreement being circulated for that project here. Also, here is news coverage of the planned Project Labor Agreement for this project:

With the San Diego City Council yet to determine a developer for the proposed new civic center, talks of a project labor agreement have surfaced. According to Kelly Saito, chief operating officer of Gerding Edlen Development, the company looking to enter into an exclusive agreement with the city to build the proposed civic center, there have been discussions with the San Diego Building and Construction Trade Council about a labor agreement. “We have been in talks with them for the past four to five months,” Saito said

See Possible Labor Agreement in the Works for Civic CenterSan Diego Daily Transcript – July 14, 2009. (Note the article is triumphantly re-posted on the web site of the pro-PLA, pro-union San Diego-based Center on Policy Alternatives.)

2. Read the letter that four San Diego City Council members signed to praise three board members of the almost-bankrupt San Diego Unified School District for requiring contractors to sign their disastrous Project Labor Agreement on future school construction: here.

3. San Diego County’s top union official urged a San Diego City Council committee to require city contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. At the April 28, 2010 meeting of the San Diego City Council’s Committee on Rules, Open Government, and Intergovernmental Relations, Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council, called for a Project Labor Agreement on future city construction:

The only way to do legally enforceable local hire is through an agreement with a – with the union. Call it what you like, but through a Project Labor Agreement.

See 1:44:45 of the meeting video here. Both Gonzalez and the preceding speaker – Jen Badgley of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 569 – suggested that the city look at the Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Unified School District.

Campaign Statements Show Obvious Union Plots to Require Contractors to Sign Project Labor Agreements for Taxpayer-Funded Construction Projects of the City of San Diego

Union officials and the No on A campaign are continually and inexplicably undermining their own argument by indicating their intent to pressure the city to require Project Labor Agreements for at least some projects in the future:

1. Tom Lemmon, business manager of the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council – In Response: Project Labor Agreements Protect Business, Workers – San Diego Union-Tribune – April 19, 2012

We agree that PLAs aren’t the best solution for every situation. But for large, complex projects, they can bring a stability and efficiency that makes sense. San Diego should retain the ability to choose the right solution on a project-by-project basis…As illogical as it may seem, the city of San Diego is not required to, and currently doesn’t even consider, using PLAs. That’s right – San Diego taxpayers are not reaping the benefits from PLAs that private businesses and other municipalities enjoy.

2. From the No on A web site, Frequently Asked Questions:

Regardless of one’s views on union labor, it is in every ones (sic) best interest to keep the financial option open to using a PLA – even if that option is never exercised…Where it does make sense, the option of using a PLA should be made available. Where it does not, a city should not be required to use a PLA…San Diego is not currently required to use PLAs in its construction contracts. In fact, the city of San Diego has never used a PLA in the construction of its public works projects…However, it has always retained the option of using one if it made sense. It has always had the financial choice of using a PLA or not. That choice is threatened by Proposition A.

3. Tom Lemmon, business manager of the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council – In Response: Project Labor Agreements Are Invaluable Tool – San Diego Union-Tribune – May 17, 2012

Some (San Diego Unified School) district officials openly question the value of the city of San Diego proactively preventing such agreements in the future. I don’t blame them.

The San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council Routinely Lobbies Local Governments to Require Contractors to Sign Project Labor Agreements with Unions

One of my activities when I was the State Government Affairs Director of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California was to keep an authoritative and documented list of all Project Labor Agreement activity in California since 1993, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that governments acting as market participants could enter into Project Labor Agreements with construction contractors. Below is my compilation of the implemented and proposed government-mandated Project Labor Agreements involving the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council since 1993.

1. San Diego Unified School District – projects of $1 million or more funded by Proposition S – implemented in 2009 with significant rancor and public attention. Apparently seeing the Project Labor Agreement as part of a fundamental structural change in local and national ideological identity, school board member John Lee Evans summed up the vote on May 26, 2009 this way: “I think the bigger picture that people are realizing – and this is what scares some people – is that San Diego is changing, the United States is changing…this is a different city…we are looking at a different community.”

2. San Diego Unified School District – projects funded by Proposition M – threat in 1999, but not implemented.

3. San Diego County Water Authority – Emergency Storage Project – implemented in 1999.

4. San Diego County Water Authority – Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant  – threat in 2005, but built without a PLA.

5. San Diego County Water Authority – policy for automatic PLA consideration on capital projects over $100 million – threat in 2005, but not implemented.

6. San Diego County Regional Airport Authority – Terminal 2 Expansion – threat in 2009, but now under construction without a PLA.

7. San Diego Convention Center Phase III – there is a serious PLA threat on this proposed project.

8. Southwestern Community College District (in Chula Vista) – a serious threat began immediately after the 2010 elections, which resulted in unions getting solid political control of the governing board. A vote to negotiate the PLA was scheduled for the May 9, 2012 meeting, but the item was removed from the meeting agenda (probably to avoid unwanted public attention to the issue until after the June 5, 2012 election on Proposition A). See my blog post on this upcoming vote here.

9. South Bay Union School District (Imperial Beach) – threat in 2009, but PLA not implemented.

In addition, there have been oral reports and rumors of behind-the-scenes union efforts to get local government officials to require contractors to sign PLAs to work on the City of San Diego’s new Central Library and to work on construction projects at the San Diego Community College District and the Sweetwater Unified School District (in Chula Vista). There are reports that a PLA was signed for Phase II of the San Diego Convention Center in 2000, but I have not obtained definitive confirmation of that.

Unions Routinely Block Private Projects in the San Diego Region with Environmental Objections Until Developers Surrender and Agree to Sign Project Labor Agreements with Unions and Require Their Contractors to Do the Same

It’s hard to track and document the numerous threats and legal actions in the San Diego area by construction unions (and other unions such as UNITE-HERE) to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other environmental laws to block and delay approval of private development projects until a labor agreement is signed. The negotiations and extortion goes on behind closed doors, and often the victimized developer is compelled to succumb in secret while claiming publicly that signing a Project Labor Agreement with unions is a wonderful business practice.

Two companies that exposed the union extortion to the public were Seaworld and Gaylord Entertainment.

1. Seaworld expansion – threatened in 2002, but resisted, and a PLA was not implemented.

2. Gaylord Entertainment hotel and convention center at the Chula Vista Bayfront – threatened in 2007 and 2008, but resisted. Gaylord ultimately abandoned the project and commenced construction instead of a resort complex in Arizona.

Other companies gave in without much of a public fight:

1. San Diego Padres Petco Park – IBEW Local 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 1999, developer agreed to a PLA in 2000, project magically became OK for the environment.

2. Ballpark Village – there was a Ballpark Village draft PLA circulating in 2005, after a law firm representing IBEW Local No. 569 identified environmental problems with the project. Four years later, the same law firm identified environmental problems with the project on behalf of UNITE-HERE. Do you still wonder why California is struggling economically?

3. Poseidon Desalination Plant in Carlsbad – developer avoided union interference by agreeing to a PLA in 2005.

4. Downtown San Diego hotel projects, including Lane Field (Intercontinental Hotel and Aviana Suites), Sunroad Harbor Island Hotel, and San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina facilities expansion projects – although the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has identified alleged environmental problems with these proposed projects on behalf of UNITE-HERE Local No. 30 in at least some of these cases, that same law firm has also represented the IBEW Local No. 569 using the same strategy of exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

5. Palomar Power Plant in Escondido – Sempra Energy signed a PLA and avoided licensing delays at the California Energy Commission instigated by intervenor California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). There is also a 30-year Maintenance Labor Agreement for this power plant.

6. Otay Mesa Generating Station – see here how CURE extracted this PLA from Calpine.

7. Sunrise Powerlink transmission line – PLA implemented in 2010.

8. Pio Pico Energy Center in East Otay Mesa – The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California proudly announced on November 3, 2011 that it had extracted a PLA for the construction of this power plant. You will not be stunned to hear that California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) did NOT intervene in the licensing process at the California Energy Commission on this 300 MW project. It’s odd how CURE sees devastating environmental problems with solar energy generation but passed this one by…

Other projects of uncertain status:

1. 655 Broadway – no PLA, union-only though.

2. Sapphire Tower at 1262 Kettner Boulevard (Santa Fe Parcel 6) – IBEW Local No. 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 2004.

3. Chula Vista Bayfront project – Pacifica Companies – news media indicated that PLA seemed likely.

4. Carlsbad Energy Center – threat or already agreed to PLA.

I remember the former executive director of the San Diego Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors telling me with confidence in 1998 that there would never be a Project Labor Agreement in the San Diego region. But times were changing. He did not observe or anticipate how demographic change in San Diego County and complacency among the San Diego business community and the county Republican Party in the 1990s would soon give labor unions their political control over many local governments in the region, including the San Diego City Council. For more on the rise of union power in San Diego, see here.

Be a Secret Supporter of Fair and Open Competition – Mail Documentary Proof!

If you have copies of Project Labor Agreements, revealing correspondence (letters, faxes, emails, handwritten notes) from unions or law firms such as Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, or other background information about how unions pursue or win Project Labor Agreement on private construction projects, please mail it to me (anonymously is fine – be sure to redact any information that reveals your identity).

Kevin Dayton
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC
3017 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 300
Roseville, CA 95661-3850

Please do not mail illegally-obtained written material or recordings conducted secretly of meetings or conversations with union representatives.

You may also use the contact form on the right margin of the web site www.laborissuessolutions.com to send intelligence information about PLAs electronically.