Tag Archive for Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 104

Project Labor Agreement Negotiations Fail, Government Transparency Is Restored, Ferry Agency Resumes Fair and Open Bid Competition

Fair and open bid competition on a $22 million ferry project funded by California taxpayers was preserved after unions would not agree to provisions proposed by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority for a Project Labor Agreement. Background about the failed union negotiations was revealed when a government affairs representative for non-union construction trade associations pointed out how the agency board planned to discuss the negotiations out of public view in closed session, in violation of state law.

A short time schedule contributed to the failure of Project Labor Agreement negotiations. On May 1, 2013, the City of Vallejo, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, and the private developer Lennar Mare Island (LMI) issued a joint press release announcing a new $22-million maintenance, administration, and passenger facility to be built on Mare Island, a part of the City of Vallejo that was the Mare Island Naval Shipyard until 1996.

Despite its potential for prosperity based on a beautiful Bay Area water location and climate, its historic and heritage districts, and its Mare Island redevelopment, the City of Vallejo has been troubled. It filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in 2008, primarily because of excessive commitments to its public employee unions. The city’s political leadership is notorious for catering to the interests of labor unions. Construction trade union officials have lobbied elected officials to ensure that contractors must sign Project Labor Agreements as a condition of working on major public works construction in Vallejo, whether the projects are built by Solano County, the City of Vallejo, the Vallejo City Unified School District, or the Solano Community College District.

This new project – now known as the North Bay Maintenance and Operations Facility – was an obvious union target. At the May 23, 2013 meeting of the WETA board of directors, the agency’s executive director informed the board that Ben Espinoza, president of the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, had contacted her about the upcoming contractor bidding for the ferry facility. Union officials wanted the WETA board to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council as a condition of working on it.

According to the May 23, 2013 WETA board meeting minutes, the executive director told the board that the unions’ “preferred language was currently under review and that she would keep the Board informed on the status of the item.” In response to a question from one board member asking how the agency would implement the Project Labor Agreement, the executive director said that the agency would meet with union officials to negotiate an agreement for the board to approve at its June 2013 meeting. If a final agreement was not ready when the agency released bidding information for the project, the agency would subsequently add it through an addendum.

Agency negotiations with the unions had to be completed quickly. The project would be funded in part by State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds obtained for the City of Vallejo through the Solano Transportation Authority. In order to use the STIP funds allocated to this project, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority would have to award the contract no later than August 31, 2013.

At the June 27, 2013 meeting, despite the opposition of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, the WETA board unanimously voted for a resolution requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement. The resolution authorized the agency to modify a draft Project Labor Agreement within 24 hours for inclusion in the bid specifications.

Following the meeting, the executive director of the agency added a modified draft Project Labor Agreement to the July 3, 2013 bid specifications for the project. The Request for Proposals noted that “The final PLA will be released in an addendum to this RFP upon execution by the parties, which we anticipate will occur no later than 10 days prior to the date that proposals are due. A PLA acknowledgement form is also included in this RFP as a form required for submission.”

Here is the text of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority – North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility – Draft Project Labor Agreement as included in the July 3, 2013 bid specifications. Figuring this would be a done deal, I dutifully added it to the list of Copies of All Project Labor Agreements on California Government Projects (1993-2013) on the www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com web site. I would ultimately have to remove it.

A few weeks later, the first posted July 18, 2013 meeting agenda for the board of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (created on July 12, 2013) did not refer to any Project Labor Agreement negotiations. But a revised meeting agenda (created on July 15, 2013) included a closed session item to discuss the agency’s Project Labor Agreement negotiations with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council.

A July 15, 2013 letter from the WETA executive director to the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council president explains the negotiating difficulties leading to this item. Here are some key excerpts:

We have a funding deadline that requires us to be in contract no later than the end of August or we lose significant funding for the North Bay Maintenance and Operations Facility project. We released an RFP for the Phase 1 work two weeks ago that includes the PLA in unexecuted format. However, we cannot go to award of a contract without having finalized the agreement and having it fully executed.

Based on your legal counsel’s representation, it would appear that I have no alternative other than to go to my board at its meeting this Thursday and advise them we will have to pull the PLA from the procurement set. If you think further discussions would be productive, given that I have a limited ability to make further changes, please get back to me immediately. We need to resolve open issues no later than the end of the day on Wednesday…

Please get back to me immediately if you see value in further discussions. Otherwise I have no option other than to advise the WETA board to delete the PLA from the North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility project procurement.

On behalf of Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA), Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA), and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California (CAPHCC), Richard Markuson submitted a July 16, 2013 letter to WETA pointing out that discussion of the Project Labor Agreement negotiations in closed session was a violation of the California Ralph M. Brown Act, a law meant to insure government transparency and accountability.

The agency changed its plans. Created on July 16, the revised July 18, 2013 meeting agenda was “corrected” to place the Project Labor Agreement in open session as an “urgency item for consideration.”

At the July 18 WETA board meeting, representatives of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA) called for the agency to negotiate certain provisions into the Project Labor Agreement so that Merit Shop contractors would not be discouraged from bidding. But more stunning was the infighting among representatives of various trade unions, which revealed why the discussion was originally intended for closed session.

A representative of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council spoke against the Project Labor Agreement in its current draft form. The Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104 and the Teamsters union also opposed the draft language.

WETA’s executive director recommended that the board dismiss the Project Labor Agreement. After a month of negotiations, the agency could not reach an agreement with the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council. The attorney with Thompson Coburn law firm negotiating the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of WETA was resisting inclusion of off-site hauling (to and from the job site) and off-site fabrication in the Project Labor Agreement because he believed including these activities would violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Meanwhile, the law firm of Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld, negotiating the Project Labor Agreement on behalf of the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, has historically upheld a strict model of a Project Labor Agreement that includes off-site work and militantly rejects any provisions that acknowledge the existence of a non-union construction sector. Speaking on behalf of the unions, Sharon Seidenstein of Weinberg, Roger and Rosenfeld even objected to WETA changing a provision to allow apprentices to be dispatched from any state-approved apprenticeship program (including programs operated by companies or non-union Unilateral Apprenticeship Committees), rather than exclusively from a program operated by a union-affiliated Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC).

WETA’s legal counsel asked the union lawyer for case studies to back her position, which she was unable to do because reportedly no party has yet challenged the inclusion of off-site hauling (to and from a job site) or inclusion of off-site fabrication in a Project Labor Agreement. WETA board members tried to convince union representatives to accept the draft Project Labor Agreement and even recommended limiting apprentices on the project to those from union programs. In the end, the WETA board voted that if the unions did not sign the draft Project Labor Agreement by close of business on July 19, 2013, contractors would not be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on Phase 1 of the project.

On July 19, 2013, unions informed the agency that it would not sign the Project Labor Agreement, and the agency removed the requirement from the bid specifications through an addendum. State taxpayers will now benefit from fair and open competition on this project.

News Media Coverage:

Labor Agreement Could Be in Place for New Ferry Facility on Mare IslandVallejo Times-Herald – June 27, 2013

WETA Adopts Disputed Labor Agreement for Vallejo Ferry Facility – Vallejo Times-Herald – June 28, 2013

Vallejo Ferry Hub Accord in Jeopardy – Vallejo Times-Herald – July 27, 2013

Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley: My Article in www.UnionWatch.org

As documented on the web site www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com, construction trade unions continue to be active in objecting to proposed projects based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Napa Pipe Project in Napa County is the latest high-profile example.

The Napa Valley Register newspaper has referenced the environmental objections of three unions in a few articles, and on March 24, 2013 it published my letter to the editor exposing the apparent “greenmail” plot for a Project Labor Agreement on the Napa Pipe Project.

My May 28, 2013 article Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley in www.UnionWatch.org aims to make a larger audience aware of the ulterior motivations behind the union CEQA objections.

Information and News Media Coverage:

May 2, 2011 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo Comments on Supplemental Draft EIR for Napa Pipe Project – Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 343, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 180

The Battle Over Napa Pipe – Napa Valley Register – March 18, 2012

County Delays Action on Napa Pipe, but a Deal is Close – Napa Valley Register – May 21, 2013

Napa Pipe Project Workers Deserve Napa Living Wages – Napa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Union Pressure Leads to Labor Agreements – Napa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Redding Needs a Charter to End Nonsense Definition of Private Hotel as a “Public Works” Project

UPDATE: My letter to the editor Kevin Dayton: Redding Needs a City Charter is in the February 4, 2013 Redding Record-Searchlight. Comments in response misrepresent “prevailing wage” as “living wage” just like at the Newport Beach City Council meeting on January 22, 2013. It’s possible that a political consultant has suggested using this strategy to take advantage of public ignorance about the calculation of “prevailing wages” and the resulting rates.


The City of Redding has been hit with a union-instigated obstacle to economic growth and job creation imposed by Senate Bill 975, enacted into law in 2001. This law (described below in greater detail) expanded the state’s definition of “public works” to include many private construction projects, thereby requiring companies working on these projects to pay state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) instead of wages that reflect local market conditions.

On January 27, 2013, the California Department of Industrial Relations reversed an earlier decision from December 27, 2011 and determined that a proposed Sheraton hotel to be built in Redding by the Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a “public works” project after all.

Turtle Bay Exploration Center in Redding Loses to Unions

Turtle Bay Exploration Center in Redding Loses to Unions

This new decision was sought by three unions: the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union Local No. 228, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local No. 340, and the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 162 (now absorbed into Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 104). As a result of a 22-page appeal of the original decision by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, the state has now decided that the privately-owned hotel would a public works project, equivalent to a courthouse, because the City of Redding waived rental payments on the land where the hotel will be built.

Now the proposed hotel project may be in jeopardy because the anticipated increased cost of construction may compromise the financial success of the hotel. A January 30, 2013 article in the Redding Record-Searchlight newspaper (Fate of Hotel at Turtle Bay in Limbo – Ruling: Park Must Pay Workers Prevailing Wage to build Sheraton Hotel) outlined the current status of the planned 130-room hotel:

…a park spokesman said he could not say when construction will start or whether the project is in jeopardy. Groundbreaking for the hotel had been scheduled this month.

“At this point we still hope to build the hotel, and operate a hotel there,” Turtle Bay’s Toby Osborn said Wednesday. “There is just a lot of uncertainty due to the ruling.”

…“Everybody woke up this morning and it was a different ballgame,” Osborn said. “Now we need to sit down and identify all the knowns and try to identify all the unknowns.”

But don’t worry, magnanimous union officials say they will help:

Andrew Meredith of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 340 – one of the unions that appealed the ruling – said they were always confident the state would overturn its prevailing wage decision.

“That said, we are still committed to working with Turtle Bay to find a way to get this project off the ground,” Meredith said. “We know this is something that is important to the community.”

Turtle Bay met with the unions Wednesday to discuss how to move forward, including how the ruling will affect costs of building the hotel and restaurant.

What Is Senate Bill 975 and Why Is It an Obstacle to Private Construction Projects?

In 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed into law Senate Bill 975, a bill sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California that expanded the definition of “public works” under California Labor Code Section 1720 to include many private projects. Existing law had defined “public works” as various types of construction “done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of public funds.” Senate Bill 975 added a list of various kinds of non-monetary government assistance that qualified as public funds:

“paid for in whole or in part out of public funds” means the payment of money or the equivalent of money by a state or political subdivision directly to or on behalf of the public works contractor, subcontractor, or developer, performance of construction work by the state or political subdivision in execution of the project, transfer of an asset of value for less than fair market price; fees, costs, rents, insurance or bond premiums, loans, interest rates, or other obligations that would normally be required in the execution of the contract, which are paid, reduced, charged at less than fair market value, waived or forgiven; money to be repaid on a contingent basis; or credits applied against repayment obligations.

As business groups and Republican legislators predicted, the increased costs of construction labor resulting from prevailing wage requirements triggered by Senate Bill 975 scuttled numerous private commercial projects and private affordable housing projects, especially in the Central Valley, North State region (Redding and Chico), and other rural areas.

In these parts of the state, away from the coastal metropolitan cities, the disparity between state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called prevailing wages but actually based on union collective bargaining agreements) and actual median wages in the local market region is quite significant – as much as 30% or more, depending on the trade. See An Analysis of Market and Prevailing Wage Rates for the Construction Trades in California (2004) and The Effects of Prevailing Wage Requirements on the Cost of Low-Income Housing (2005).

Unions Derailed an Easy Local Solution to This Problem in 2011

Sundial Bridge in Redding, California

Sundial Bridge in Redding, California

There has been an ongoing grassroots effort in Redding to ask voters to enact a charter in order to circumvent costly and intrusive state meddling in local affairs. A charter would free the City of Redding from the mandates of the union-controlled California State Legislature, including state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

In 2011, various local groups and individuals wanted voters to consider approving a robust charter, but union officials ultimately derailed the movement through a Charter City Exploratory Committee appointed by the city council.

The citizens of Redding need to enact a charter so their city has the same authority as the 121 California charter cities to establish its own prevailing wage policies. Why are the people of Redding acquiescing to the demands of unions and allowing the state legislature and a state agency to determine the fate of this hotel?

News Coverage of the Turtle Bay Hotel Prevailing Wage Saga:

Redding City Council Abandons Charter, Saves Prevailing Wage – State Building and Construction Trades Council web site – June 8, 2011

Cost of Turtle Bay Hotel Rests with Department of Industrial Relations; Prevailing Wage in Dispute – Redding Record-Searchlight – August 18, 2011

Turtle Bay Wins Ruling on Wages; Hotel Plan Not Subject to Prevailing Pay – Redding Record-Searchlight – December 28, 2011

Hotel construction cost estimates range from $13 million to $14.8 million. Total project costs are pegged at $21.2 million. Prevailing wage would have added roughly $1.25 million to that price tag, Osborn has said.

Hotel at Turtle Bay May Break Ground in JanuaryRedding Record-Searchlight – December 12, 2012

Unions Win Prevailing-Wage Case vs. Turtle BayRedding Record-Searchlight – January 29, 2013

Fate of Hotel at Turtle Bay in Limbo – Ruling: Park Must Pay Workers Prevailing Wage to build Sheraton Hotel – Redding Record-Searchlight – January 30, 2013

One More Costly Delay on Road to Turtle Bay Hotel – Redding Record-Searchlight (editorial) – January 30, 2013

Turtle Bay Nearing Compromise with Unions Over Hotel Construction – Redding Record-Searchlight – February 7, 2013

Finally, the Redding Employees Association of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is now suing the City of Redding for approving a contract with Vertex Business Solutions (Orcom Solutions), a provider of outsourced billing and customer care services to utilities, to take over billing and a call center from the city-owned Redding Electric Utility. It appears this contract would have been umambiguously legal if Redding operated as a charter city. See Union Sues Redding Over Outsourcing REU Call CenterRedding Record-Searchlight – January 18, 2013.

$652,650 Contributed to Measure E Campaign: West Contra Costa Unified School District Seeks to Borrow Another $360 Million “For the Children of West County”

I obtained the paper copies of the campaign finance reports from the Contra Costa County Elections Office from October 1, 2012 through November 1, 2012 filed by the “For the Children of West County” campaign to convince voters to vote for Measure E. Measure E would authorize the school board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District to borrow another $360 million for construction by selling bonds to investors, thus adding $360 million plus interest payments to a $1.77 billion existing debt resulting from previous bond sales.

The total raised since the June 6, 2012 election by this committee as of November 1 is $652,650. It had $92,252 cash-on-hand as of October 20.

There are a few strange things in the October 20, 2012 report. First, the campaign refunded $15,000 to The Seville Group for a July 20, 2012 contribution, even as The Seville Group (aka SGI Construction Management) contributed another $7,500 on October 18. And the campaign refunded $25,000 to WLC Architects for an August 9, 2012 contibution, even as WLC Architects contributed another $5,000 on October 4.

There is also a mystery contribution – $20,000 on October 20 from “Moving Forward, 150 Post Street, Suite 405, San Francisco, CA 94108, ID#1348494.”

Moving Forward - Yes on Measure E Form 460 Campaign Report 2012-10-20 and Late 497

“Moving Forward” toward more than $2 billion in debt? Who thinks so?

There are no records available on the web about this organization; perhaps it filed something on paper with Contra Costa County. (There aren’t any electronic records from “Moving Forward” on the Contra Costa County Campaign Finance web site, either.)

Here’s the revised list of contributors to the campaign to convince voters to approve Measure E, allowing the board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District to borrow $360 million.

DONOR INTEREST AMOUNT
WLC Architects* Architect $175,000
Deems Lewis McKinley Architect $50,000
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 302 Construction trade union $35,000
Fred Powell, architect with Powell & Partners Architect $35,000
The Seville Group (now rebranded as SGI Construction Management)** Construction management $30,000
Quattrocchi Kwok Architects Architect $25,000
Moving Forward – based out of San Francisco-based law firm of Jim Sutton Unknown at this time: ID#1348494 not listed with California Secretary of State or San Francisco Ethics Commission $20,000
Hibser Yamauchi Architects Architect $20,000
Interactive Resources Architect $15,000
Baker Vilar Architects Architect $15,000
Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104 Construction trade union $10,000
Hamilton + Aiken Architects Architect $10,000
Lathrop Construction Associates Construction contractor $10,000
Northern California Carpenters Regional Council Construction trade union $10,000
Orbach Huff & Suarez Law firm for school districts $10,000
District Council of Ironworkers of the State of California and Vicinity Construction trade union $7,500
Employers’ Advocate Construction labor relations $7,500
HMC Architects Architect $6,950
Northern California District Council of Laborers Construction trade union $5,000
California Teachers Association Teachers’ union $5,000
Interface Engineering Engineering $5,000
GCR Law firm for school districts $5,000
Jack Schrader & Associates Consultant for developer fees $5,000
John P. Grossman and Associates Architect $5,000
KNN Public Finance School financing consultant $5,000
Powell & Partners Architect $5,000
Amanco Construction management $5,000
Atkinson Andelson Loya Ruud & Romo Law firm, works for WCCUSD $5,000
AE3 Partners Architect, engineering $5,000
AEKO Consulting Information technology installation $5,000
Matthew Pettler, executive with School Facility Consultants School finance consultant $4,500
Kam Yan & Associates Engineers $4,500
Davillier-Sloan Construction labor relations $4,000
Arcala Land Company Affiliated in some way with Davillier-Sloan $4,000
Carducci & Associates Architect $3,500
CBX Technologies Information technology installation $3,000
Brelje & Race Consulting Civil Engineers Engineering $2,500
Cal Communication Service Company Construction contractor $2,500
[United Association of Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union No. 159] TRICO Pipe Union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committee $2,500
Northern California Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association Unionized construction contractor trade association $2,500
Del Monte Electric Construction contractor $2,500
H&M Mechanical Group Engineering $2,500
O’Mahony & Myer Engineering $2,500
ZFA Structural Engineers Engineering $2,500
Contra Costa County Electrical Industry Trust Union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committee $1,500
Vallier Design Associates Architect (landscape) $1,500
Total School Solutions School district administration consultant $1,500
Thornton Tomasetti Engineering $1,500
Sprinkler Fitters & Apprentices Local Union No. 483 Construction trade union $1,250
WHM Engineering $1,200
Cammisa and Wipf Consulting Engineers Engineering $1,000
15000 Incorporated Engineering $1,000
Bay Area Consulting Engineers (BAC Engineers) Engineering $1,000
Skinner for Assembly 2012 Politician $1,000
Kleinfelder West Engineering $1,000
ISSA Structural Engineering Engineering $1,000
McCracken & Woodman Engineering $1,000
Mechanical Design Studio Engineering $1,000
PMC School finance consultant $1,000
Security by Design Engineering $1,000
Cornerstone Structural Engineering Group Engineering $750
David L. Gates & Associates Architect $500
Brokaw Consulting Electrical Engineering Engineering $500
Bricklayers & Allied Craftsworkers Local Union No. 3 Construction trade union $500
Kronick Moskovitz Tiedemann & Girard Law firm for school districts $500
Ingraham DeJesse Associates Engineering $500
Miller & Associates Construction contractor? $500
Sally Swanson Architects Architect $500
Alexander Murdoch, executive with School Facility Consultants School finance consultant $500
Luk and Associates Engineering $300
SOHA Engineers Engineering $250
RGA Environmental Hazmat consultant $250
Willie Robinson Construction management $250
Alan Kroop & Associates Engineering $250
Ninyo & Moore Engineering $100
KPFF – San Francisco Engineering $100
Not itemized $0
TOTAL $652,650

Sources: contributions since the June 5, 2012 election for the period ending June 30, 2012the period ending September 30, 2012, and the period ending October 20, 2012 with one late contribution.

$348 Million Measure Q for Solano Community College: Yes on Q Campaign Fails to Submit Latest Legally-Required Campaign Finance Report

UPDATE: The Yes on Q campaign for Solano Community College District submitted its overdue Form 460 today (Monday, October 29, 2012). Better late than never.

As of October 20, 2012, the campaign has raised over $200,000. Big contributions between October 1 and October 20 include $15,000 from Swinerton (a construction management firm) and $10,000 from MuniBond Solar, run by someone named Steve Nielsen, which has collaborated with companies such as SunPower Corp to secure “Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds” (QECBs) for several California educational districts. (An executive with SunPower Corp also contributed $1000.) As shown in this May 2, 2012 Solano Community College Financial and Budget Planning Advisory Council meeting, MuniBond Solar wants a relationship with Solano Community College District.

Other contributors include the usual suspects: architects, construction trade unions, and unionized construction associations that look forward to a Project Labor Agreement.


Yesterday (October 26, 2012) I went to the Solano County Registrar of Voters office to obtain the paper copies of the Form 460 reports that the “Yes on Q – Solano College” campaign must legally submit to the county. These reports are meant to inform the public about campaign receipts and expenditures. The staff there was quite professional and helpful, but I left knowing that the Yes on Q campaign was breaking the law and getting away with it.

Measure Q asks Solano County voters to let the Solano Community College District Governing Board borrow $348 million for construction by selling bonds to institutional investors. Solano County taxpayers must pay this money back to the investors – with interest! It will cost at least $500 million – perhaps more if the district is lured into selling Capital Appreciation Bonds.

The Solano Community College District Governing Board wants to borrow $346 million by selling bonds

The Solano Community College District Governing Board wants to borrow $348 million by selling bonds.

The Solano College governing board voted 6-1 in 2003 and 2004 to require its construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of working on projects funded by bonds authorized by the $124.5 million Measure G, barely approved by 55.6% of Solano County voters in November 2002. A majority of governing board members are likely to again make a deal to give unions control of additional projects funded by Measure Q. Project Labor Agreements raise costs and cut competition, as shown by the failure of the Project Labor Agreement pilot project at Solano Community College in 2005. (No one on the board cared at the time.)

The Yes on Q campaign finance report for the period from October 1 to October 20 was due by October 25, but it was not at the Solano County Registrar of Voters on October 26. After further inquiry, I learned this afternoon that an official of the Solano County Registrar of Voters had contacted the treasurer of the “Yes on Q – Solano College” campaign to check on the status and was told the report would not be turned in until Monday or Tuesday of next week.

So much for openness and transparency for citizens as they fill out their absentee ballots this weekend. I guess the local newspapers won’t be informing the voters in their Sunday editions who is giving to the Yes on Q campaign and who is getting from the Yes on Q campaign. Does anyone care?

I did get a copy of the campaign finance report of the “Yes on Q Solano College” for the period from July 1, 2012 to September 30, 2012. Here are a few items of interest:

1. This Campaign Is a Sitting Duck for Accusations of “Pay-to-Play”

Here’s a list of all of the campaign contributors through September 30, 2012, with links to the company web sites, the amounts contributed, and the business interest of the contributor.

DONOR INTEREST AMOUNT
Piper Jaffray Investment Bank/Bond Broker $25,000
Kitchell Construction Construction Manager for Solano College Measure G $25,000
RBC Capital Markets Investment Bank/Bond Broker $18,000
Steinberg Architects Architect $10,000
VBN Architects Architect $10,000
[Sheet Metal Workers Local Union No. 104] Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund Construction trade union-affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee $5,000
Stradling, Yocca, Carlson and Rauth Bond counsel – worked before with Solano College on bond sales $3,500
Keenan and Associates Insurance broker for school districts $2,500
B&L Properties Property holding company in Fairfield $2,500
Dannis Woliver Kelley Law firm for school & college districts $2,500
The Lew Edwards Group Political consulting firm in Oakland, works to pass bond measures $1,000
LPAS Architect $1,000
Roy Stutzman Consulting Financial consulting for school & college districts $1,000
Student Insurance Insurance company for school districts $1,000
Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin Metz & Associates Polling firm for political campaigns $500
Bricklayers and Allied Craftsworkers Local Union No. 3 Construction trade union $200
Sarah Chapman Solano College Board Member $100
Rosemary Thurston Solano College Board Member $100
Anne Marie Young Solano College Board Member $100
James Dekloe Solano College Faculty Member $100
TOTAL $109,100

There’s very little financial participation in this campaign from anyone in Solano County, but there is much interest from various professional service firms that do business with Solano Community College District and/or want business if voters approve Measure Q and let the Governing Board sell $348 million in bonds. I guess that’s how the world works, but taxpayers will pay the bill.

2. Underwriters Among Top Contributors – These Firms Get Fees When Selling Bonds

After the investment bank/bond underwriter Piper Jaffray got smacked around along with other financial service firms earlier this year about contributing to campaigns for bond measures for which it subsequently became the underwriter for those bonds, I figured that firm would back off from the practice. I was wrong.

Piper Jaffray $25,000 campaign contribution to Yes on Measure Q Solano College November 2012

Piper Jaffray $25,000 campaign contribution to Yes on Measure Q – Solano College (November 2012)

Piper Jaffray is tied with Kitchell Construction – the construction management firm for Solano Community College’s Measure G (2002) program – for making the largest contribution to the Yes on Q campaign.

3. Another Labor-Management Cooperation Committee Contributes to a Campaign.

Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund - $5000 Contribution to the Yes on Measure Q Solano College

Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund – $5000 Contribution to Yes on Measure Q Solano College

I snickered when I saw this one: how many people in Solano County know about the Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund? There’s only one place on the web where you’ll read about labor-management cooperative trusts, and you’re reading it now. These trusts are arcane entities authorized by the obscure Labor-Management Cooperation Act of 1978, a law signed by President Jimmy Carter and implemented by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. There are no federal or state regulations specifically addressed toward these trusts, and these trusts do not have any reporting requirements to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards.

This committee receives employer payments as indicated in the Master Labor Agreement negotiated between the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union No. 104. Here are references to the Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund in their Master Labor Agreement. It says the fund pays to replace stolen tools, but says nothing about political contributions, of course. Note also that employer payments to the Bay Area Industry Promotion Fund are incorporated as part of “Other” into the State of California’s government-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”).

4. If Yes on Q Raised $109,100 by September 30, 2012, How Was It Spent?

Solano County newspapers have noted the lack of visible campaign activity in support of Measure Q. In fact, this situation apparently deprived Yes on Q of an endorsement from the Vacaville Reporter newspaper:

The Reporter Editorial Board likes the vision and very much wants to support it. But board members have qualms about this bond. The impact of the state’s fiscal mess has meant the college can’t afford to operate the programs it has now. Is it wise to add new programs before the state’s budget is under control?

There are also qualms about the way the bond campaign has been mishandled. In July, when the Editorial Board supported trustees’ decision to put the bond on the ballot, it was with the caveat that an aggressive campaign be mounted to educate the community about its need.

Instead, the campaign has been lackluster and late, not ratcheting up until after mail-in ballots were already out. Where are the trustees, who can speak as individuals in support of the measure and who should have lined up supporters to drive it? Where are the other public agencies and private businesses that stand to benefit from these plans? Where is the faculty, whose union put on a get-out-the-vote drive for Propositions 30 and 32 without even mentioning Measure Q in its publicity? Does the lack of organization in the campaign reflect a lack of organization and follow-through by campus leaders?

I drove on the major thoroughfares of Vacaville, Fairfield, and Vallejo on October 26. I only saw THREE signs supporting Measure Q – all close to the entrance to the main Solano Campus campus in Fairfield.

An elusive Yes on Q campaign sign in Solano County.

An elusive Yes on Q campaign sign in Solano County.

Not that I put much value on campaign signs stuck in public areas, but I would have expected more for a campaign that already had over $100,000 by the end of September. This lack of visibility is so pitiful that it was tied with the three No on Q signs I saw in Solano County. That campaign is a small, committed group of informed local taxpayer activists with very little money to spend.

Say "No" to $348 Million Bond - No on Q - Taxed Enough Already!

Say “No” to $348 Million Bond – No on Q – Taxed Enough Already!

The September 30 campaign report for Yes on Q shows about $25,000 spent on consultants, slate mailers, some apparent development of signs and mailers, and people at phone banks. It will be interesting to see how the remaining money was spent, provided the Yes on Q campaign ever submits its campaign finance reports.

A Compilation of Construction Trade Union Project Labor Agreements for K-12 School and Community College Districts: Construction Manager-at-Risk, Lease-Leaseback, and Developer-Built Schools

The following set of Project Labor Agreements on California K-12 school district and community college district construction projects have unusual elements.

First, these Project Labor Agreements apply to public school and community college construction projects, but private parties negotiated them.

In the case of Hartnell Community College District, a construction manager-at-risk negotiated the Project Labor Agreement without authorization from the elected board of trustees. The board nullified the agreement after the company had applied the agreement to three small projects funded by Measure H.

In the case of Delano Union School District, the district arranged a lease-leaseback agreement with a private company, which proceeded to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement.

The remaining Project Labor Agreements were negotiated by private developers for school construction projects built privately by those developers. After the developers completed these projects, they transferred ownership to educational districts. Starting in the late 1990s, developers of proposed large residential housing projects in California began making agreements with K-12 school and community college districts to build their own schools and then transfer ownership to the districts. (See Builders Pick Up Tab for Schools – Los Angeles Times – July 7, 2002.)

Government agencies did NOT mandate that contractors sign these agreements, except in cases when a private Project Labor Agreement contained a successor clause that continued to apply the agreement to follow-up construction contracts, even after the ownership of the building transferred to the educational district.

In some cases, local governments provided some public funding for specific components of these developer-built projects. As a result, some taxpayer money was spent on contracts for which construction companies had to sign a Project Labor Agreement. For example, in 2002 the Roseville City School District made an agreement for Westpark Associates to fund five new schools in the West Roseville Specific Plan. Two have been completed: Junction Elementary School and Chilton Elementary School. Chilton Elementary School cost $50.6 million: the developer paid $33.7 million, the state provided $16.9 million, and the City of Roseville paid for construction of a gymnasium that the city uses for adult recreational activies outside of school hours.

Unlike government-mandated Project Labor Agreements, some of these private agreements only cover a few unions (typically, unions that engage in “greenmail” by submitting or threatening to submit legal objections under the California Environmental Quality Act – CEQA – concerning the proposed residential developments).

Project Labor Agreements negotiated by private developers are not a matter of public record, and the list below is surely not complete.

Monterey County – Construction Manager-at-Risk Project Labor Agreement

Hartnell Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Measure H – 2004 – Negotiated by DPR Construction and Employers’ Advocate – Nullified After Three Small Projects

Kern County – Lease-Leaseback Project Labor Agreement

Westside Educational Complex for Delano Union School District Project Labor Agreement 2011 between Grapevine Advisors LLC and the Kern, Inyo, Mono Building and Construction Trades Council 

Contra Costa County – Developer Project Labor Agreements Applying to Schools

San Ramon Valley Center Campus of Contra Costa Community College District Project Labor Agreement between Windemere-Brookfield-Centex and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 159

Almond Grove Elementary School of Oakley Union Elementary School District Project Labor Agreement 2004 between Pulte Homes and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 159, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 302, and Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 104

Seven Schools (Including Creekside Elementary School) of San Ramon Valley Unified School District Project Labor Agreement between Shapell Industries and Windemere and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 159 and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 302*

Placer County  – Developer Project Labor Agreements Applying to Schools

Junction Elementary School, Barbara Chilton Middle School, and Three Other Schools of Roseville City School District 2005 between Westpark Associates and Signature Properties and UA Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 447, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 340, and Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 162

Ventura County – Developer Project Labor Agreements Applying to Schools

Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Rio Vista Middle School, and Another Elementary School of the Rio School District in the RiverPark Development 2004 between RiverPark Development, LLC and Shea Homes with the Ventura County Building and Construction Trades Council

Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Rio Vista Middle School, and Another Elementary School of the Rio School District in the RiverPark Development 2007 between RiverPark Development, LLC and Shea Homes with the Ventura County Building and Construction Trades Council – Amendment

* I do not have a copy of this Project Labor Agreement, but an Invitation to Bid notice (bid deadline March 11, 2008) from Roek Construction (based in Stockton) for the $22 million new Creekside Elementary School (in Shapell Industries’ Alamo Creek Development) for the San Ramon Unified School District states that “The owner does have project labor agreements from the plumbing and electrical trades on this project.” A contractor informed me via phone that Shapell Industries and Windemere were signatory to the Project Labor Agreement.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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