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 Center – San 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).
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.