Tag Archive for Sacramento Bee

Project Labor Agreement on Planned New Sacramento Kings Arena Comes Back to Bite: Contractors Fund “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal”

On October 15, 2013, a new organization called “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal” held a press conference at Sacramento City Hall to announce a new campaign to collect voter signatures on petitions to place a fiscal accountability ordinance on the ballot in the City of Sacramento.

October 15, 2013 press conference at Sacramento City Hall announcing formation of "Voters for a Fair Arena Deal."

October 15, 2013 press conference at Sacramento City Hall announcing formation of “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal.”

The “Voter Approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act” states the following:

The City of Sacramento shall not use or redirect, undertake an obligation to pay, or bond or borrow against monies intended for or from the City general fund for the development and/or construction of a professional sports arena without the approval of a simple majority of voters.

Leaders of the organization are making a deliberate attempt to distance themselves from another organization called “Stop Arena Subsidy” (STOP), which qualified the petition but then made some poor strategic decisions about its name, message, and sources of funding.

Contractors opposed to the union deal to impose a Project Labor Agreement on construction of the proposed new Sacramento Kings arena (the “Entertainment and Sports Center”) are funding the signature-gathering efforts of “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal.”

If you are a registered voter within the boundaries of the City of Sacramento, you can obtain a petition and instructions to help place the Voter Approval for Public Funding of Professional Sports Arena Act on the ballot:

On the “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal” web site: http://ourcityourvote.com/petition/

On the “Stop Arena Subsidy” web site: http://www.stoparenasubsidy.com/signature-petitions/

Documents from “Voters for a Fair Arena Deal”

October 15, 2013 - Voters for a Fair Arena Deal - Lectern Logo

October 15, 2013 – Media Advisory – Voters for a Fair Arena Deal – Sacramento Kings

October 15, 2013 – Press Release – Voters for a Fair Arena Deal – Sacramento Kings

October 15, 2013 – Ten Principles – Voters for a Fair Arena Deal – Sacramento Kings

October 15, 2013 – Campaign Code of Conduct – Voters for a Fair Arena Deal – Sacramento Kings

Opposition Response

www.DowntownArena.org – Supporting the Arena Is Sponsored by Region Builders, Inc.“Lipstick on a Pig” – October 15, 2013

News Coverage

New Group Forms to Combat Kings Arena Subsidy – Sacramento Bee – October 15, 2013

New Kings Arena Draws Fan Attention – and New Opponent – Sacramento Bee – October 16, 2013

Sacramento’s Arena Deal Has a New Playerwww.CalWatchdog.com – October 16, 2013

Voters for a Fair Arena Deal Forms Today to Gather Initiative Signatures, Change Tone of Arena Discourse – Sacramento News & Review – October 15, 2013

New Group Emerges in Campaign for Public Vote on Arena Deal – Fox News 40 (KTXL) – October 15, 2013

New Sacramento Arena Group to Help Force Public Vote: Group Will Help STOP Gather Signatures – CBS News 3 (KCRA) – October 15, 2013

Response of Eric Christen of Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Sacramento Bee Article “Downtown Arena Deal Creates Unlikely Alliances”

The Sunday, September 8 Sacramento Bee newspaper includes an article “Downtown Arena Deal Creates Unlikely Alliances” that makes this observation:

The prospect of a new arena at Sacramento’s Downtown Plaza has caused political foes to unite and groups with opposing philosophies to occupy common ground. Unions and business groups have joined in support of the project, while some left-leaning Democrats find themselves aligned with conservative anti-tax and anti-union interests.

The Dayton Public Policy Institute blog would obviously be labeled as part of “conservative anti-tax and anti-union interests.” But the label is simplistic and based on outdated political paradigms.

I would contend that these new alliances are simply a symptom of a fundamental political realignment going on in the United States and California, in which populist movements on the Left and Right are unifying against the establishment that holds up the structure of Crony Capitalism. The old Republican versus Democrat dichotomy is fading away.

But that is an issue I’ll address at another time (probably in www.FlashReport.org). For now, I provide below – without my editorial comments – an email from Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment, to the two Sacramento Bee reporters who wrote this article.

From: eric christen
Sent: Sunday, September 08, 2013 8:38 AM
To: Dale Kasler; Ryan Lillis
Cc: xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; Kevin Dayton; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx; xxxx
Subject: Regarding Your Piece in Today’s Bee

Your article is pretty good and interesting on many levels but it really fails on three: First, because we fight for the right of all workers (85% of whom locally are union-free) to work on projects and thus oppose PLAs does not make us “anti-union.” That’s the third article that trope has now been used Dale and Ryan and it’s getting tendentious. I have union board members. Now a group that proposes PLAs as a way to discriminate against union-free workers, that group is in fact anti-merit shop and anti-competitive. Interesting how ones ideology allows certain groups to be framed using certain language while exempting others.

Secondly the Bee still has yet to fully connect the relationship between the PLA and union greenmail. Greenmail is where unions use CEQA to hold up projects until such time as the owner “agrees” to a PLA. Then all the union environmental concerns magically go away. This is implied by Mr. Thatch in the last part of the article but it is deserving of its own stand alone article. It is absurd that with Steinberg’s bill on the verge of being passed this week that exempts this project from CEQA delays that this paper has not written on this issue. I mean really?

Lastly, why would you allow two people (Thatch & Ken Jacobs, that latter nothing but a union mouthpiece working for a union “think tank”) to say something as silly as “this would be built union-only anyway” but not call us to get the other side? It is such a silly statement I’m embarrassed they actually said it. If it would be built union-only anyway then why the PLA that forces non-union workers to pay union dues and into union pensions? But even more obvious is the fact that right up the road the $1 BILLION airport project is being built with union and non-union labor and has no PLA. In other words projects of this magnitude (and larger) get built all over America and California without PLAs and with non-union labor. When PLAs are used, which is rare because they are an irrational business decision, their sole intent is to keep big non-union guys like Bergelectric, Rex Moore Electric, and Helix Electric from getting work. They are welfare for a few unions who simply can’t compete for a variety of reasons.

The parts of the article that deal with Mayor Johnson (I like him) and Mark Freidman (a real gentleman) are in fact interesting. I understand why they think they needed to make this deal with union bosses just as I’m sure they understand why I need to stand up for the rights of my people. What I don’t get at the end of the day is what leverage they thought the unions had on this project that would force them to agree to a deal that will only make this project more expensive. Would the unions seriously greenmail this project thus opening themselves up to untold derision and legislative action? Really? Was it just because Steinberg and his ilk said there had to be a PLA? This is the $64,000 question here, a question that cannot be answered seriously with “We needed the PLA to stop strikes and bring the project in on time.”

I hope the Bee will more fully cover the PLA itself and provide historical context as well as how CEAQ conflates with this whole issue. CEQA reform is needed because greenmail is symptomatic of the economic distortions that infect this state and make it an economic laughingstock. PLAs are another one of those distortions and, again, they are related.

As far as what we intend to do we will be holding a press conference soon that will make it very explicit. We view this issue as not just about an arena but about the railyards, the work around the arena, the new Sacramento courthouse, Delta Shores, etc. In other words we are looking big picture and realize that PLA proponents will stop at nothing to keep workers out of a job simply because they don’t belong to their group. That bigotry will be fought by CFEC vigorously and in a non-linear manner.

Remember, we aren’t the bad guys here. We are reacting to actions being taken against us. If the shoe were on the other foot and unions were somehow being targeted those targeting them would not be safe in their homes or places of business, and everyone damn well knows it.

We are different. We just show up at your event and borrow your microphone for a minute or two.


The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction web site is www.opencompca.com.

The “Steinberg bill” giving a CEQA break to the Kings arena project is Senate Bill 743.

Ken Jacobs is affiliated with the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program.

How Are Unions Funding Opposition to a Vote on Public Funding of the New Sacramento Kings Arena?

A few construction trade unions have joined a Sacramento-based political committee and have made or pledged contributions to this committee to ensure that citizens in the City of Sacramento don’t get to vote to derail the city’s arrangement with the owners of the Sacramento Kings professional basketball team to build a new arena.

As I most recently reported in Request for Proposal for Prime Contractor for New Sacramento Kings Arena Refers to Project Labor Agreement with Construction Unions, contractors will probably be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the arena construction. Unions have been waiting for the opportunity to build a new arena for many years, and they are intent on seeing it built – under a union monopoly.

An August 1, 2013 article in the Sacramento Bee (PAC Pushes Sacramento Arena Vote but Won’t Say Where It Is Getting Money) reported that an organization called DowntownArena.org revealed the source of “nearly $15,000” of contributions received or pledged for a campaign opposed to a ballot initiative that would stop the arena arrangement. This group consists mainly of local business groups (including construction trade associations) and unions.

Meanwhile, many ordinary citizens in Sacramento (and the surrounding region as well) are unhappy with the idea that the city will borrow $212 million for construction of the $448 million arena by selling bonds, with the principal and interest paid back through fees on people who park in downtown Sacramento. A law firm in Southern California that has represented the former owners of the Kings has reportedly funded a campaign (STOP – Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, aka Stop Arena Subsidy) to collect signatures on petitions to qualify a ballot measure that would stop it. The initiative would prohibit the City of Sacramento from spending public money on a professional sports arena without approval of a majority of voters in an election.

Apparently based on information provided by the executive director of Region Builders, a trade association that established the DowntownArena.Org campaign, the Sacramento Bee article states that the “International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers donated $2,500.” Under the article, a list of donors includes “National Electrical Contractors Association/International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: $2,500.”

The first reference is simply a union (with no local affiliation indicated), but the second reference combines a union AND a construction trade association. A contractor trade association and a union would not be making a joint contribution if the money came from their PACs or from their general operating budgets.

To confuse matters, the DowntownArena.org web site lists “IBEW Local 340” and “National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) of Sacramento” separately (not jointly) as supporters.

I’m wondering if the donor is actually the NECA/IBEW Northern California Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC). Why is the distinction important?

  1. If money comes from the union PAC and/or the association PAC, it means the source of the money to DowntownArena.org is voluntary political contributions from either union members or contractors to a state-regulated Political Action Committee. These PACs have detailed reporting requirements.
  2. If money comes from the general operating expenses of the union and/or the association, it means the people running the organizations simply made a decision to send some of their income or assets to DowntownArena.org. The right to do this under state election law is quite limited.
  3. If money comes from the NECA/IBEW Northern California Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC), it means the source of the money to DowntownArena.org is employer payments mandated in collective bargaining agreements that are sent by contractors to a trust fund authorized under the obscure federal Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978. These LMCCs are generally unregulated and have few reporting requirements. It’s easy to get this money – the employer payments are even incorporated into state prevailing wage rates.
  4. It’s even possible that the money came from another trust fund managed by NECA and IBEW and authorized under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

I suspect the donor of the $2500 is the NECA/IBEW Northern California Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC). But no one will know until February 2014, after DowntownArena.org submits its semi-annual report to the Fair Political Practices Committee. I’ll update this post at that time.

Morning View Studios in Dixon: A Union Project Labor Agreement on an Imaginary Project?

Northern California was stunned last weekend when the Sacramento Bee published an extensive investigative report about the developer of Morning View Studios, a proposed $2.8 billion film studio planned for 300 acres, or maybe even 548 acres, in and near the City of Dixon, in Solano County, west of Sacramento. Reading the June 2, 2013 report (Hollywood Coming to Dixon? Executive’s Financial Troubles Raise Questions) is a painful experience if you empathize with the people who were apparently lured or duped into a scheme that was too good to be true.

The report and related news articles have inspired numerous reader comments referring to the plot of the musical The Music Man or to TV shows in which con artists routinely swoop into small towns to try to victimize the local citizenry. One June 2 armchair psychiatrist, going by the moniker WALLYSMOM, suggested the article evoked “a picture perfect example of someone with Histrionic Personality Disorder with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” (Refer to the DSM for more details.)

I’ve been watching this project because it has been aggressively promoted by officials with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local No. 180, which has jurisdiction in Solano and Napa Counties. Supposedly there was a Project Labor Agreement for the construction of Morning View Studios. (Who negotiated and signed it?)

This is not the first time the IBEW Local 180 has been caught in a large proposed project in Dixon that collapsed in the end. In November 2004, Mike Smith (Michael C. Smith), a business development official with the IBEW Local 180, was elected to the Dixon City Council. During his one term in office, a now-bankrupt Canadian company called Magna Entertainment Corporation proposed a horse racetrack with associated hotel and retail development in Dixon. Unions supported the development after the company committed to sign a Project Labor Agreement for the $250 million Dixon Downs development, and the city council approved the project 4-1. Dixon residents qualified a ballot referendum to stop the project, and in April 2007, 53% of the 5,340 voters overturned the city council votes and ended the dream.

See below for the two educational mailers sent from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction and what is now the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) to the residents of Dixon informing them about the Project Labor Agreement for Dixon Downs and encouraging them to start asking questions about the behind-the-scenes deal. A press release explains the mailers.

In the early 2010s, a woman claiming to represent big-money entertainment interests proposed building a film studio in Dixon, without need of public subsidies. The economic opportunities for this project obviously got local people very excited, including IBEW Local 180 officials. A major unionized California general contractor, Rudolph & Sletten, became involved as the chosen construction company for the massive project. At the heart of this effort was the aspiration of the IBEW Local 180 leadership that the union would get guaranteed construction work with a Project Labor Agreement and studio work with a Master Labor Agreement.

Here’s the union angle as Morning View Studios moved forward, with key points highlighted in red:

1. IBEW Local 180 Newsletter September-October 2012

Dan Broadwater, Business Manager: I have been working with Morning View Studios for over two years now to bring a facility to our jurisdiction…One of the concerns is the additional cost of a City Planner to process the documentation and follow through the entitlement process. Through our Market Recovery program and the buy in from our Nor Cal NECA partnership, we will assist the City of Dixon in funding the cost of a Planner with a wage and benefit package to get this done. This along with contributions from our Building Trades affiliates to assist with this cost will pay dividends for years to come on not only the new construction but the set work that will be on going at the studios.

It appears a Labor-Management Cooperation Committee was going to reimburse the City of Dixon for the staff costs of preparing this project. These union-affiliated committees are obscure; go to www.LaborManagementCooperationAct.com for an explanation. “Nor Cal NECA” refers to the Northern California Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association, a trade association for unionized electrical contractors.

I submitted a public records request about this to the City of Dixon in September 2012 and received a response in February 2013 stating there weren’t any records concerning such a transaction.

2. IBEW Local 180 Newsletter November-December 2012

Morning View Studios in Dixon

Things were moving along great before this Measure N hit Morning View. Deals were struck with the landowners that covered 800 acres of land. The City provided a letter to fast track and streamline the process. Financing is in place, the PLA is done and we are ready to move forward. We were helping Morning View through the approval process so things did not get “hung up”. Then bam, we hit the wall and need your help like never before. This project is currently at a stand still due to Measure N. Measure N kills business and thus jobs; that is an understatement….

Our role currently is to support the No on Measure N campaign and we desperately need members’ support. We were asked to help walk precincts in Dixon, only two brothers helped. Folks, Morning View has signed a PLA to build AND operate this studio with 100% UNION people. We are talking about 1000 construction jobs short-term (2 years) and 300 full-time long-term jobs. Can we get you to help a brother out?

If we do not step up and show human support and kill Measure N, we lose big. Not only the project, but the fact our word of “support” is worthless. It pains me to be that direct but the Local’s reputation is on the line…

January 24, 2013 Morning View Film Studio Update – Mike Smith’s Blog – Dixon California Patch

Comment posted by Mike Smith in response to a critical comment about his blog post:

Both people with and without union membership will have an opportunity to work on the construction of the project. Many private businesses will be supportive vendors to the studio. But to work for the studio – you have to be union – that is what Morning View requires. We have had nonmembers working on PLA’s in the past – membership is not a requirement to get a job through the IBEW and many other unions. Building green requires sourcing materials and labor as close to a project as possible. To assure this, you use specifications for materials and a PLA for labor. A new blog on who will use the studio is coming soon. Mike Smith

The June 2, 2013 Sacramento Bee article exposing the background of the studio developer noted the heavy involvement of the IBEW Local 180:

Among the project’s most ardent supporters in Solano County have been officials with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. On local websites, and at public meetings, union leaders have extolled the virtues of the project and urged public support.

Robert W. Naylor, Carpenter’s Morning View attorney and a former state legislator, recently told The Bee that the IBEW is “prepared to make a major investment of their pension fund” into the movie studio project.

Dan Broadwater, business manager of IBEW Local 180, referred calls to Naylor.

Did the IBEW or NECA-IBEW invest anything in the end? Was there really a Project Labor Agreement? Will everything end up OK, as it did in The Music Man?

Mailers Informing the Residents of the City of Dixon about the Project Labor Agreement on the Proposed Dixon Downs Development of Magna Entertainment Corporation

Read the press release explaining the 2007 Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement mailers.

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #1 2007 Front

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #1 2007 Back

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #2 2007 Front

Dixon Downs Project Labor Agreement Mailer #2 2007 Back

Latest Scheme for Career Technical Education: School Districts Borrowing Money with “Social Impact Bonds” – Unions on Board

On March 19, 2013, California State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg led a press conference to promote Senate Bill 594 (California Career Pathways Investment, also known as the High School Dropout Reduction & Workforce Development Bond Act of 2013) meant to encourage partnerships among school districts, corporations, and unions for career technical education in California K-12 schools and community college districts.

Senator Steinberg also promoted this bill on March 22 at Redevelopment Forum: Revitalizing our Neighborhoods in a Post-Redevelopment Era, hosted by the San Diego Foundation. SB 894 is apparently a serious initiative.

It establishes an unfunded mandate for K-12 school districts and community college districts to create a new pool of money called a “Career Pathways Investment Trust Fund.” These districts can borrow money for the program by selling “Social Impact Bonds” (a concept promoted by the “progressive” Center for American Progress) for which investors can earn “Career Pathways Investment Credits.” This will be overseen by a new state government board called the “California Career Pathways Investment Committee.” The appointments of the Assembly Speaker and Senate Rules Committee to this committee will likely be union officials.

Senate Bill 594 exemplifies the foolishness of governance in the California State Legislature:

  • bizarre and incomprehensible financing schemes
  • borrowing money (with interest) without consideration of cumulative debt service
  • unfunded state mandates
  • forcing the state’s local governments to create and manage another pool of money
  • inviting more corruption at local governments
  • creating another state government board
  • tax breaks to corporations for ambiguous purposes
  • intrusion of corporations and unions into the public school system
  • brilliant suggestions that freed-up funds from a few cuts in the state budget can be transferred to pay for it
  • lack of concrete evidence that there is a problem (in fact, testimony during the press conference suggested the big problem is a lack of jobs, not lack of training)
  • government solutions for something that could be handled by the free market if there was real demand

When Governor Schwarzenegger promoted his Career Technical Education initiative in 2007, he considered it worthy enough to propose paying for it out of the general fund through the annual state budget. His efforts were not deemed worthy of mention at the SB 594 press conference.

Here’s my March 20, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org about the press conference and Senate Bill 594: Businesses Can Make a “Social Impact Bond” with Unions – www.UnionWatch.org – March 20, 2013.

The Sacramento Bee posted an article on March 21, 2013 about Senate Bill 594, Steinberg Pushes Privately Funded Career Training Program, which quotes me as a skeptic:

But skeptics wonder how the career readiness programs would be funded.

“They need to stop coming up with new funds and new schemes paid for by borrowed money,” said Kevin Dayton, head of the consulting firm called Labor Issues Solutions. “New things like this are just a big distraction. If they want to do career education they should fund it in the general budget.”

I posted these comments under the article:

Do you want your K-12 school district or community college district to establish a “Career Pathways Investment Trust Fund” and oversee yet another pool of money? It’s a mandate.

Let’s create another state government board: the “California Career Pathways Investment Committee!” The appointments of the Assembly Speaker and Senate Pro Tem will certainly be union officials.

Do you want your K-12 school district or community college district to sell “Social Impact Bonds?” Who will pay the interest on these bonds? Who will make the money on the interest?

“Career Pathways Investment Credits” – how about just focusing on an efficient, responsible government with a simple tax structure?

As another comment indicated, “the State has funding for apprentices (it contributes about 5% of the cost to train an apprentice – the rest coming from employers)…”

I also mentioned this in my comment:

One is led to believe Senate Bill 594 is needed because California businesses can’t find skilled workers. But notice the nurses’ association representative says the problem is that trained nurses can’t find jobs in California and therefore need to move out-of-state. And is there really a shortage of skilled construction workers in California right now? Are there no longer 20%-30% unemployment rates in the building trades? Or is SB 594 for training disadvantaged union workers to build the California High-Speed Rail under the Project Labor Agreement?

Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton wrote positively about the general concept of encouraging career technical education (he avoids the politically correct phrase and simply calls it “shop”), but his column (Reinvigorating ‘Career Tech’ a Worthy Goal – Los Angeles Times – March 20, 2013) also reveals that the supporters don’t understanding the funding scheme:

Steinberg’s legislation is a bit convoluted — at least the financing part — and needs much work…Steinberg is suggesting several financing methods, including tax credits and foundation grants. But the main money source involves bonds. The state would sell “workforce development bonds” — say, for $1 million a crack — to businesses in areas “with the greatest potential for high-wage job growth.” The bond revenue would pay for the career-tech programs. The bond-buyers would earn a rate of return based on a program’s results, as judged by some committee. “I’m not sure I completely understand it,” Zaremberg [Allan Zaremberg, President & CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce] told me. “Why don’t we just fund this out of existing resources? Is this not a priority? … like Zaremberg, he [Jack Stewart, President of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association] doesn’t quite grasp the bond idea.

Dan Walters is another California commentator who has written much over many years about the need for stronger career technical education programs in California public schools. (For example, see Technical Education Fight RagesSacramento Bee – November 19, 2007)  I look forward to reading his perspectives on Senate Bill 594.

California Republicans Need to Ensure That Unions Don’t Evade California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Reform in 2013

As interest groups await State Senator Michael Rubio’s introduction of his bill to revise the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), it’s becoming clear that this reform, as introduced, will not hinder the CEQA exploitation strategies used by California Unions for Reliable Energy, regional building trades councils, and individual unions to block proposed projects until the project owners commit to labor agreements or other economic concessions.

Despite not quite having one-third control of the California State Assembly and State Senate, Republicans may be able to influence CEQA reform and add appropriate and meaningful provisions that end union abuse of CEQA for purposes other than environmental protection.

My commentary Republicans Have Opportunity to Broaden CEQA Reform was published on February 1, 2013 in www.FlashReport.org. Here is a summary of my recommendations:

An Ideal Republican Response: Analyze Before Praising and Demand Real Reform

Considering that Senator Rubio may be able to ride on his leadership in CEQA reform to future statewide office, and considering that environmental groups may convince some legislative Democrats to oppose any CEQA reform, how should Republicans use their potential political leverage in response to Senator Rubio’s specific proposal?

When he actually introduces the bill, Republicans should refrain from immediate praise and support. Instead, they should take the time to analyze it, line-by-line, to determine if such language would have been effective in discouraging notorious union CEQA threats against projects such as Gaylord Entertainment’s now-abandoned Bayfront Hotel and Conference Center in Chula Vista or the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3, for which hotel and construction unions dropped CEQA objections after obtaining commitments for union monopolies in employment.

As a guide, Republicans may want to look at concepts proposed in past CEQA reform legislation such as Senate Bill 628 (2005), Senate Bill 1631 (2008), and Assembly Bill 598 (2012).

If Senator Rubio’s bill does nothing but suppress the simple CEQA complaints of elderly long-time California residents who are upset about an apartment complex proposed for their rural community, Republicans should resist the corporate pressure to vote for it anyway as pro-business “CEQA reform.”

Instead, Republicans need to ensure that Senator Rubio’s CEQA reform proposal discourages ALL parties that exploit CEQA for purposes unrelated to environmental protection, including unions that engage in “greenmail” to coerce labor agreements or other economic concessions from project applicants.

Without a coordinated caucus strategy, individual Republicans in the legislature will adopt their own strategies about planning and portraying their relevance in CEQA reform. If assessments are accurate such as the anonymous February 5, 2013 commentary in www.FlashReport.org entitled Sacramento Syndrome: Republicans Accept Their Status as the Political Hostages of Big Business, some Republicans may greet the Rubio proposal with instant enthusiasm, rather than appropriate skepticism and public attention to its shortcomings.

Opinion Pieces:

Phony Tree Huggers Are Abusing CEQA…CEQA Needs To Be Updated!!! – “Monday Morning Quarterback” bulletin of Associated General Contractors of San Diego – by Jim Ryan, Executive Vice President – February 4, 2013

Republicans Have Opportunity to Broaden CEQA Reformwww.FlashReport.org – op-ed by Kevin Dayton – February 1, 2013 (reprinted on the Families Protecting the Valley web site)

Senator Rubio’s CEQA Reform Gives Unions a Free PassSacramento Bee – letter to the editor by Kevin Dayton – January 30, 2013

Rubio’s Interest in CEQA Reform Turns Out to Be Highly SelectiveBakersfield Californian – op-ed by Kevin Korenthal of KOREN Communications – January 29, 2013 (Kevin Korenthal was a guest on the Ralph Bailey Show, KNZR 1560 AM in Bakersfield on February 7, 2013 to talk about Senator Rubio’s CEQA reform and union greenmail.)

Rubio Would Gut CEQA for Public, but Not Touch UnionsSacramento Bee – letter to the editor by Tim Bosley – January 20, 2013

Lead Democrat for “Reform” of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Never Mentions Unions as the Major Instigator of CEQA Abusewww.LaborIssuesSolutions.com – January 14, 2013

Lead Democrat for “Reform” of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Never Mentions Unions as the Major Instigator of CEQA Abuse

UPDATE: The January 28, 2013 Sacramento Bee has a profile of Senator Michael Rubio in the context of his campaign to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (Moderate Michael Rubio Takes on California’s Environmental Law):

State Sen. Michael Rubio says he first wondered if something were wrong with California’s environmental review law during his days as a Kern County supervisor, when he saw it used to slow wind and solar projects he considered green by their very nature…he said he was “shocked” to see projects that could improve the environment and public health “delayed significantly by misuses and abuses of a wonderful statute.”

As you might expect, Rubio says nothing about how construction unions used CEQA to try to force a Project Labor Agreement on the Big West/Flying J refinery modernization in Bakersfield (see below) or on Recurrent Energy solar projects in Kern County.

Also, a January 20, 2013 letter to the editor of the Sacramento Bee responds to Rubio’s January 13, 2013 op-ed by noting that Rubio Would Gut CEQA for Public, but Not Touch Unions.

For more background on CEQA reform, see my three articles A First Crack at Analyzing the Proposed CEQA Reform: “The Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” of 2012CEQA Reform is Over for This California Legislative Session: Sustainable Environmental Protection Act May Return in 2013, and Looks Like CEQA Reform Talks Are Underway…Good Luck People.

State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) is the leading voice in the California State Legislature for amending the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to prevent people from using CEQA to block projects for reasons unrelated to environmental protection. (With less than one-third control of the Assembly and Senate, Republicans currently are not recognized as relevant by the state’s Establishment.)

I analyzed Senator Rubio’s proposed Sustainable Environmental Protection Act, introduced near the end of the 2012 legislative session, and concluded it would do little to prevent “greenmail” by unions that exploit CEQA with an objective of coercing developers into signing Project Labor Agreements, neutrality agreements, or other labor agreements. The bill mainly appeared to suppress the flailing and railing of small-time community activists.

On January 13, 2013, the Sacramento Bee presented a point-counterpoint entitled Should California Make Changes to Landmark 1970 Law? Writing for the position YES: Opponents Abuse CEQA to Derail Worthy Projects was Senator Rubio, and writing NO: We Should Resist Efforts to Weaken a Law that Works Well was Tom Adams of the law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, who was identified as “the former board president of the California League of Conservation Voters, and a CEQA attorney.”

In his opinion piece, Rubio cites a few examples of groups of community activists or individuals using CEQA to prevent projects from getting built. But he never mentions unions.

Considering that Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is the dominant law firm in representing construction unions in CEQA actions, this omission is particularly stunning! But I’ve seen from experience that Senator Rubio has sympathy for unions that abuse CEQA. I posted the following comment under the article:

Kevin Dayton

There’s a notable omission in Senator Rubio’s critique about parties that abuse CEQA.

On October 21, 2008, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a $700 million expansion and modernization of the Big West/Flying J refinery in Bakersfield. This was the second Environmental Impact Report produced by the county for the project. The only remaining opposition of any substance to the project was from a South San Francisco law firm, which claimed to represent a mysterious organization called “Bakersfield Refinery Coalition.” At the October 21, 2008 meeting, an attorney for this law firm spoke during public comment and submitted a massive “document dump” objecting to the final Environmental Impact Report. It was a classic case of CEQA abuse.

Someone spoke from the public and revealed that the Bakersfield Refinery Coalition was six construction unions that wanted the refinery developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement so that only union workers would build the refinery project. The unions were the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local No. 460, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 428, the Asbestos Workers Local No. 5, the Boilermakers Union Local No. 92, the Ironworkers Local No. 155, and the Road Sprinkler Fitters Union Local No. 669.

One of the Kern County Supervisors was irate about the criticism of the Bakersfield Refinery Coalition and criticized the commenter by name. He then praised the unions.

Which Supervisor? Michael Rubio, who would get union support in his campaign for California State Senate. See the video of the October 21, 2008 Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting, and go to 2:57:40 for Supervisor Rubio’s specific comments about the document dumpers:


Eight-minute video showing the part of the September 15, 2008 Kern County Planning Commission meeting with the CEQA abuse:


And what was the law firm that dumped the documents in front of Supervisor Rubio and the other Kern County Supervisors? Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo.

What’s my point? Whatever CEQA reform you see in 2013 is going to be aimed at people who are trying to stop projects such as “affordable housing” from coming into their neighborhood. Unions won’t be hindered in their comprehensive, professionalized CEQA strategies.

New California Law for 2013: Labor History Month in Public Schools

My article on Assembly Bill 2269, which establishes Labor History Month in California public schools, was posted on December 31, 2012 on www.UnionWatch.org. See How Will Students Celebrate Labor History Month in California Schools?

AB 2269 was signed into law in September 2012 by Governor Jerry Brown.

I wrote about this bill on April 14, 2012 in Soon, a Whole Month to Subject California Students to Union Propaganda in the Classroom. Here is the letter I submitted to the author of the bill in opposition: Dayton Letter Opposed to Assembly Bill 2269 – Labor History Month.

There was very little press coverage of this bill, but here’s an excerpt from a short article (Jerry Brown Signs Bill Declaring May to be Labor History Month) in the Sacramento Bee on September 26, 2012:

Gov. Jerry Brown, like the Democratic-controlled California Legislature, wants schoolchildren to learn about labor unions, preferably when they are in school and aren’t too busy with other matters…

Labor unions have had a significant impact on labor conditions for workers nationwide. They are also major contributors to Democratic politicians and their causes.

Also, see my article published in 2003 in the journal Government Union Review (Volume 21, Number 1): Labor History in Public Schools: Unions Get ‘Em While They’re Young

Protecting the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle: One of Many Species Used By Unions to Block Projects Under CEQA Until the Owner Signs a Project Labor Agreement

Public objections based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to proposed projects in California’s Central Valley often focus on how these projects could affect habitats of several species. Some prominent examples of these creatures are the Swainson’s Hawk (a California threatened species), the San Joaquin kit fox (a federally endangered species and a California threatened species), the Western burrowing owl (a California species of special concern), the giant garter snake (a federally threatened species and California threatened species), the vernal pool fairy shrimp (a federally threatened species), the Delta smelt (a federally threatened species and California threatened species), the California red-legged frog (a federally threatened species), and the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle (a federally threatened species).

Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing to remove the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle from the federal Endangered Species Program list, according to articles in the October 1, 2012 Sacramento Business Journal (Feds Urge Beetle’s Removal from Endangered Species List) and the October 2, 2012 Sacramento Bee (Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle May Fall from ‘Threatened’ List). This move is a result of legal actions by the Pacific Legal Foundation, backed by farm bureaus, developers, and special district public agencies that build and manage flood control systems such as levees.

As early as 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to end the beetle’s threatened species status: “The slowdown in habitat loss, the protection and restoration of riverine habitat, and the increase in valley elderberry longhorn beetle occurrences, together have been the major reasons for the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) having considered delisting this species.”

Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle Habitat – still protected in 2012 in Roseville, California

Protecting and relocating existing elderberry shrubs and planting new elderberry seedlings is apparently expensive and inconvenient. The Rio del Oro development in the City of Rancho Cordova actually has its own “Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle Mitigation Plan” in its final Environmental Impact Report.

I checked to see if environmental law firms specializing in “greenmail” on behalf of construction unions had used threats to the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle as an environmental objection to proposed projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). I did find one.

In a January 3, 2011 comment letter concerning the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Fink Road Solar Farm in Stanislaus County (proposed by Turlock-based JKB Energy), the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo had this to say on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) about the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle:

3. The Project may result in significant impacts to the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle

The Valley elderberry longhorn beetle is a federally threatened species. The MND states that the beetle may be present on the Project site but does not propose adequate mitigation measures to avoid or reduce the Project’s impacts. In Mr. Cashen’s opinion, impacts to the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle are not less than significant.

The preconstruction surveys described in the MND may not be sufficient to detect elderberry shrubs within the Project site. Specifically, the MND does not provide basic information as to who will conduct the survey and when it will be conducted. The Project may, therefore, cause undisclosed and unmitigated impacts to a federally threatened species.

If elderberry shrubs are found during preconstruction surveys, the MND proposes to prohibit ground-disturbing activities within 20 feet of the shrub to avoid impacts.117 This measure, however, would not avoid the Project’s impacts. The USFWS only assumes complete avoidance when a 100-foot buffer is established. Shading and wind deflection caused by the Project’s structures will impact soil temperature and evaporation. In addition, maintenance water to clean the solar panels will increase soil moisture. According to Mr. Cashen, these factors may have an adverse impact on elderberry plants if an adequate buffer is not established.

If avoidance is not feasible, the Applicant will have to obtain a federal Incidental Take Permit and comply with USFWS guidelines regarding transplanting affected elderberry shrubs to a conservation area and potential replacement planting.122 The MND, however, does not require the Applicant to comply with these federal rules if impacts to elderberry shrubs cannot be avoided. Without specific, enforceable mitigation measures to reduce the Project’s impacts, the County may not conclude that impacts to Valley elderberry longhorn beetles will be less than significant.

The elderberry longhorn beetle objections, along with the other objections, apparently did the job for California Unions for Reliable Energy. As reported in a March 1, 2012 staff report to the Stanislaus County Planning Commission:

The County received a comment letter from Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo representing the California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). In response to this comment letter, the project applicant and CURE have signed an Agreement outlining how the applicant will address the issues and concerns raised by CURE in their comment letter. As a result, the project applicant has made minor revisions and modifications to the proposed project, including commitment to various environmental commitments that will be incorporated into the proposed project and made conditions of approval by the County.

I’m going to guess that this was one of the three Project Labor Agreement negotiations “resolved” for projects in Stanislaus County, as cited by Tony LaDoux of the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 162 (now part of the consolidated Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 104) at the June 28, 2011 meeting of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors (who voted 5-0 for a Fair and Open Competition ordinance to ban Project Labor Agreements on county projects).

The county’s final approval of the Fink Road Solar Farm included the following plan regarding the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle:

To avoid and minimize impact to valley elderberry longhorn beetle, prior to construction, a survey shall be conducted for elderberry shrubs. The survey area shall include all areas subject to disturbance, and a 250 buffer area extending beyond areas subject to disturbance. In the event that any elderberry shrubs are found, the project applicant shall determine if the shrubs can be completely avoided. Complete avoidance would require no ground disturbance with 20 feet of the shrub. If complete avoidance is not feasible, the project applicant shall comply with USFWS compensation guidelines for valley elderberry longhorn beetle (USFWS 1999).

With California Unions for Reliable Energy out of the way and the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle safely preserved wherever it might be found, the Stanislaus County Planning Commission approved a CEQA Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Fink Road Solar Farm on a 5-0 vote on April 19, 2012, with no public objections.

Happy Holidays: News Coverage of California Labor Issues on Labor Day 2012

It seems to me that Labor Day news coverage focusing on labor union issues in California was much less in 2012 than in past years. I have a big file of Labor Day press clips from when unions were flying high during the years of Governor Gray Davis (1999-2003), but this year’s news coverage is fairly sparse.

Here’s various Labor Day 2012 news stories, opinion pieces, and press releases about labor unions and labor policy issues in California:

Los Angeles Daily News article (On Labor Day, Trying Times for Organized Labor – Los Angeles Daily News – September 2, 2012) reports that unions are on the defensive in politics, in commerce, and in collective bargaining for government employees.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported on the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council‘s annual Labor Day picnic in Santa Cruz. Quotes from attendees mainly refer to the legislative accomplishments of unions from 125 years ago. The Vice President of the Labor Council is quoted as saying, “Who had ever heard of a weekend before the unions came along? People assume it’s there and always has been there, and it hasn’t.” See Picnic Draws Union Members to DeLaveaga Park – Santa Cruz Sentinel – September 3, 2012.

As reported in the Sacramento Bee, unions provided food for the homeless on Labor Day and received some positive press coverage: Unions Supply Volunteers for Labor Day Lunch at Loaves & Fishes – Sacramento Bee – September 3, 2012. Many of the 75 comments about the article cynically accuse the unions of a public relations stunt.

KQED in San Francisco posted a blog providing a brief history of union power in San Francisco in the early 1900s. Labor Day Special: The San Francisco Waterfront Strike of 1901 – KQED – August 31, 2012.

Los Angeles Times pro-union columnist Michael Hiltzik provided a positive union perspective through a report on the rigors of apprenticeship training for the Ironworkers Union Local No. 416 and Ironworkers Union Local 433 in Southern California. (Ironworkers Union Gives Skills to Members, Public Safety to All – Los Angeles Times – September 2, 2012.) This column relies on the old image of labor unions: a brotherhood of men centered around tough, dangerous work in the construction trades. It also acknowledges some of the shortcomings of unions, including the result of the Ironworkers union having a monopoly on state-approved apprenticeship training for the trade:

Getting into the ironworkers apprenticeship program isn’t a snap. It may help to have a relative, or even a well-wishing neighbor or family friend, in the Ironworkers, but that’s not a prerequisite, nor is it enough. Applicants, who have to be at least 18 with a high school diploma or equivalent, must line up a construction contractor willing to sponsor them with at least six weeks of employment before they can start. That explains why, with the local construction market still soft and the building trades still suffering from about 40% unemployment, there’s a waiting list of about 5,000 applicants looking for sponsors right now.

So there’s a waiting list of 5000 people for how many spots? And nepotism is still important to get in? This is an example of how apprenticeship programs can be used to control who and how many people enter the construction workforce.

Meanwhile, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters took a more relevant and contemporary view on the influence of labor unions in California. Here are excerpts from California Unions Hold Power but Face Peril – Sacramento Bee – September 3, 2012:

Anyone who was paying attention to the California Legislature during the hectic final days of the 2012 session last week could see the political clout of the state’s labor unions.

Countless union-backed bills whipped through the Capitol and onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Although union lobbyists lost a few battles, they could count many more victories.

With the Legislature’s Democratic majority utterly beholden to unions for political sustenance and with a governor, Jerry Brown, whose 2010 campaign relied on union financing, unions and their 2.4 million members are at the apogee of political influence.

Finally, a writer for the leftist San Diego Free Press asks this ridiculous question on September 3, 2012: Is This California’s Last Labor Day? This article focuses on Proposition 32, a statewide measure described on the November 6, 2012 ballot as follows: “Prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Applies same use prohibition to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors. Prohibits union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees. Prohibits government contractor contributions to elected officers or their committees.”

This doesn’t seem unreasonable, but recognize that labor unions, big corporations, and government contractors are all in cahoots in California to perpetuate Big Government, at the expense of individuals and small businesses. Proposition 32 would stop some of that special interest money funding state and local political campaigns, while unions and their cronies in business are determined to keep the status quo by convincing a majority of voters to reject it.

In 2012, Election Day is more important to California unions than Labor Day. Perhaps that’s why there was little news coverage.