Tag Archive for Solano County

Sonoma County Will Get Its First Government-Mandated Project Labor Agreement: County Projects Over $10 Million

After hearing public comments from 71 speakers and spending hours deliberating on technical aspects of Project Labor Agreement provisions, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors agreed on January 14, 2014 to vote at their next meeting (January 28) on their own version of a policy to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions for projects with construction costs over $10 million.

It’s the first government-mandated Project Labor Agreement in Sonoma County. Board chairman David Rabbitt said that the number of comment cards submitted at the meeting for the agenda item (90 total) was a record.

Back of T-shirts worn by union activists at Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Back of T-shirts worn by union activists at Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Union officials have been lobbying the Board of Supervisors for a Project Labor Agreement for two years. In September 2012, the board considered a policy but did not enact it because a 3-2 majority did not support it.

In the November 2012 election, retiring Supervisor Valerie Brown (who opposed a Project Labor Agreement) was replaced by Susan Gorin, a Santa Rosa City Councilmember who supports Project Labor Agreements. Unions backed her campaign. Gorin defeated Santa Rosa City Councilmember John Sawyer, who opposed Project Labor Agreements, 24,033 votes to 22,251 votes (51.8% to 47.9%). The Project Labor Agreement was then inevitable.

An ad-hoc committee was formed in 2013 to develop a Project Labor Agreement that could win consensus from the Board of Supervisors. After the final version was produced, a business coalition opposed to the Project Labor Agreement proposed their changes, and building trade unions proposed their changes. At the January 14 meeting, the board spent hours compromising and agreeing on various disputed provisions.

In more than 16 years fighting Project Labor Agreements in California, it was the first time I saw elected officials take their jobs seriously to create their own agreement, rather than simply approving a boilerplate model from the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO with a few variations negotiated by staff and union officials. Supervisors emphasized that the policy was for the county, not for special interest groups.

Nevertheless, the adoption of this policy gives unions a foothold to eventually expand it to almost all county construction, provided a solid union-backed majority continues to control the board. For example, Solano County adopted a Project Labor Agreement policy with a threshold of $10 million, but Supervisors approved special exceptions in which contractors were required to sign a Project Labor Agreement, even for a $957,000 project (321 Tuolumne remodel at the county’s Vallejo campus). In addition, the Santa Rosa City Council and the Santa Rosa Junior College board of trustees have voted in the past not to use Project Labor Agreements, and surely unions will again target these local governments. They now have a precedent in Sonoma County.

Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction speaks to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors against the proposed Project Labor Agreement policy.

Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction speaks to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors against the proposed Project Labor Agreement policy.

Background

January 14, 2014 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors – Agenda and Staff Report

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Ad-Hoc Committee Report and Project Labor Agreement

Sonoma County Past and Future Major Construction Projects

Sonoma-Mendocino-Lake Counties Building & Construction Trades Council Proposed Changes

The Coalition Against Sonoma County Project Labor Agreements Proposed Changes

Comparison of Three Versions of Project Labor Agreements

Sonoma County Taxpayers Association Opposes Project Labor Agreement

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Demands Environmental Impact Report for Proposed Policy Giving Unions Monopoly on County of Sonoma Construction Contracts

News Coverage

Push for Worker Benefits on Sonoma County Projects Returns – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – January 12, 2014

Sonoma County Project Labor Agreements Could Have Lower Cost Threshold – North Bay Business Journal – January 13, 2014

Bringing Blunt Force to Public Works Contracts – editorial – Santa Rosa Press-Democrat – January 14, 2014

Sonoma County Supervisors Appear to Back Project Labor Agreements – North Bay Business Journal – January 14, 2014

County Supervisors Signal Support for Project Labor AgreementsSanta Rosa Press-Democrat – January 15, 2014

$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.

Project Labor Agreements at California Cities for Individual Projects

Note: go to California Cities with Project Labor Agreements Covering Multiple Projects to see the multi-project Project Labor Agreements for the cities of Berkeley, Carson, Compton, Los Angeles, and San Fernando.

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

City of Brentwood

City of Brentwood Civic Center Project Labor Agreement 2009

City of Brentwood Civic Center Project Labor Agreement Parking Garage Addendum 2010

City of Concord

City of Concord Police Facilities Project Labor Agreement 1995 (Resolution)

City of Concord Parking Structure Project Labor Agreement 1999 (Minutes indicate an informal suggestion to staff; not an agenda item for consideration)

City of Richmond

City of Richmond (California) Project Labor Agreement Resolution 2001

City of Richmond (California) Civic Center Project Labor Agreement 2007

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

City of Long Beach

City of Long Beach Airport Terminal Improvements Phase 1 Project Labor Agreement 2010

City of Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles and its Board of Public Works imposed Project Labor Agreements on at least a dozen individual projects and a program to improve Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) systems before the city council adopted its multi-project Project Labor Agreement in December 2010. See City of Los Angeles List of Individual Project Labor Agreements November 2009. Here are a few examples from the mid-2000s:

City of Los Angeles Metro Detention Center Project Labor Agreement 2006

City of Los Angeles Police Headquarters Project Labor Agreement 2006

City of Los Angeles Harbor Area Police Station & Jail Facility Project Labor Agreement 2006

City of Los Angeles Fire Station 64 Project Labor Agreement 2006

City of Los Angeles Avenue 45 & Arroyo Drive Relief Sewer Project Labor Agreement 2007

City of Los Angeles Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) Project Labor Agreement 2008

SACRAMENTO COUNTY

City of Sacramento

City of Sacramento Sump 2 Improvement Project Labor Agreement 1998

SAN MATEO COUNTY

City of San Mateo

City of San Mateo New Main Library Project Labor Agreement 2003

City of San Mateo New Police Station Project Labor Agreement 2005

SANTA CLARA COUNTY

City of Milpitas

City of Milpitas New Library Project Labor Agreement 2006

City of Milpitas Senior Center Project Labor Agreement 2008

City of San José

City of San Jose Civic Center Project Labor Agreement 2002

City of San Jose International Airport Master Plan Project Labor Agreement 2002

San Jose McEnery Convention Center Expansion & Renovation 2011*

SOLANO COUNTY

City of Vallejo

City of Vallejo Station Parking Garage Project Labor Agreement 2010

City of Vallejo Ferry Maintenance Facility Improvement Project Project Labor Agreement 2011

YOLO COUNTY

City of West Sacramento

City of West Sacramento Palamidessi Bridge Project Labor Agreement 1996 (Brown and Root)

* I am seeking a copy from the agency.

Project Labor Agreements and Project Labor Agreement Policies at California Counties

ALAMEDA COUNTY

Alameda County – East County Hall of Justice Project Labor Agreement 2012

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center Project Labor Agreement 2004 (Resolution Only)

Contra Costa County Family Law Center Project Labor Agreement 2001 (Resolution Only)

Contra Costa County Project Labor Agreement Policy (Not Implemented) 2002

Contra Costa County Project Labor Agreement Policy Revision 2003

Contra Costa County Standard Project Labor Agreement 2003 (2011 Example)

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Los Angeles County Martin Luther King, Jr Medical Center Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center Project Labor Agreement 2011

ORANGE COUNTY

Orange County Project Labor Agreement Policy Resolution 2000

Orange County Standard Project Labor Agreement 2000-2005

Orange County Project Labor Agreement Policy Termination 2004

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY

San Joaquin County New Administration Building Project Labor Agreement 2007

SAN MATEO COUNTY

San Mateo County Replacement Jail Project Labor Agreement 2012

SANTA CLARA COUNTY

Santa Clara County Valley Specialty Center Bid Package #2 Project Labor Agreement 2004

Santa Clara County Project Labor Agreement Policy 2005

Santa Clara County Standard Project Labor Agreement as of 2009

Santa Clara County Replacement Bed Building Project Labor Agreement 2010

SOLANO COUNTY

Solano County New Government Center Project Labor Agreement 2002

Solano County Project Labor Agreement Policy 2004

Solano County Project Labor Agreement Policy Amendment 2007

Solano County Claybank Adult Dentention Center Project Labor Agreement (Signed) 2007

Solano County William J Carroll Government Center Project Labor Agreement 2010

Solano County Claybank Adult Dentention Center Project Labor Agreement in Bid Documents 2012

A Compilation of Construction Trade Union Project Labor Agreements for K-12 School and Community College Districts in Solano and Sacramento Counties

Attention Embattled Sonoma County Taxpayers: Prepare for Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to Vote on Costly Project Labor Agreement Policy

In California, the battle continues at county governments over requiring all contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions as a condition of working on taxpayer-funded construction. In the future, the Dayton Public Policy Institute will produce and post a chart summarizing all Project Labor Agreement activity at California’s 58 county governments since the unions’ government-mandated PLA movement started in the 1990s. In the meantime, here is a report on the latest county to be targeted by unions: Sonoma County, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Like the unions’ recent unsuccessful pushes for Project Labor Agreements in Santa Barbara County and Ventura County, the campaign for a Project Labor Agreement policy in Sonoma County began with an unsubstantiated union claim that the county needed a local hire policy. Union lobbying to solve this non-existent problem in Sonoma County was underway in August 2011. Soon the unions dropped their pretense and began openly campaigning to get a Project Labor Agreement policy.

On December 20, 2011, Sonoma County staff convened the first of a series of joint meetings with local representatives of the construction industry and with union officials to try to develop a Project Labor Agreement that served the needs of the county while being acceptable to contractors and unions. Subsequent meetings occurred on January 17, February 24, March 26, and on May 16, 2012.

I attended the last meeting on May 16. Representing the unions were Lisa Maldonado (Executive Director of the North Bay Labor Council), Jack Buckhorn (a California Apprenticeship Council commissioner and Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 551), and Tom Mattis (Field Representative for Carpenters Union Local No. 180). Representing contractors were Keith Woods (executive director of the North Bay Builders Exchange) and two contractors belonging to that group, along with Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. (Nicole Goehring of the Golden Gate Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors was unable to attend this particular meeting.) Caught in the crossfire were County Administrator Veronica Ferguson and several members of her staff.

Ferguson held these meetings because she had some success in 2007 reaching a compromise between contractor representatives and unions for a revised Project Labor Agreement policy at Solano County. Neither side particularly liked the outcome. (Does this indicate a good compromise?) Worse for the contractors, the Solano County Board of Supervisors simply overrode the policy for individual projects when the unions demanded control of the work.

Not only was that compromise undesirable to the two opposing construction industry factions, but economic circumstances have changed dramatically from 2007 to 2012. Opportunities for work are few and infrequent, and construction union leaders see Project Labor Agreements as essential to cutting competition and guaranteeing work for their members.

In addition, to me it appeared there was no hope for compromise or even reasonable discussion as long as the North Bay Labor Council’s leader Lisa Maldonado was present in the meeting. Coming from outside the “business unionism” culture of the building trades, she seemed more interested in an ideological crusade against capitalism than in pragmatic discussions concerning the county’s bid specifications for construction projects and how a Project Labor Agreement would be implemented by employers and the county in practice. Maldonado is a participant and teacher in the Bay Area Troublemakers School Workshops and knows that the power of government must be wielded to suppress reactionary elements.

After a couple hours of bickering, ripostes, and accusations revolving around a compromise proposal produced by Veronica Ferguson, Maldonado and Buckhorn declared they had no further interest in meetings and discussions and were simply going to lobby the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to get the three votes for the Project Labor Agreement policy they wanted. Raw political power will be the deciding factor.

Project Labor Agreements are about politics, not logic. As I left the county administrative building, the three union officials were walking into the supervisors’ offices to take care of business and get what they wanted: a costly union monopoly on county construction projects.

Attention Embattled Sonoma County Taxpayers: prepare for the vote about how YOUR money will be spent. Here are the email addresses of the five elected members of the Board of Supervisors:

Supervisor Valerie Brown – Valerie.Brown@sonoma-county.org
Supervisor David Rabbitt – David.Rabbitt@sonoma-county.org
Supervisor Shirley Zane – Shirlee.Zane@sonoma-county.org
Supervisor Mike McGuire – MikeMcguire@sonoma-county.org (notice, no period between first and last name)
Supervisor Efren Carrillo – Efren.Carrillo@sonoma-county.org