Tag Archive for Sonoma Lake Mendocino Building and Construction Trades Council

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.


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

Unions Earn Growing Reputation as Bob Filner Apologists – Will Voters Make Them Accountable?

In my August 6, 2013 www.UnionWatch.org article entitled Take the Filner Challenge: Advance the Union Political Agenda, I explain why an August 3, 2013 article in the UT San Diego newspaper can reasonably claim that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s “list of supporters has shrunk to just one major group – organized labor and its allies.” This UT San Diego article includes an ill-advised and now-notorious remark from Tom Lemmon, head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council:

It’s an awkward situation, but we have a lot invested in him. We believe in due process, so let it take its course.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Tom Lemmon is hesitant to castigate Mayor Bob Filner, considering that Congressman Bob Filner inserted a very nice statement about him in the September 10, 2012 Congressional Record.

We need to congratulate Tom Lemmon for his many years of dedicated service to the organized labor movement in San Diego and to working men and women all across this great nation!

Looking at the larger perspective, union leaders know that San Diego will one day forget Bob Filner the sexually harassing mayor, but the legacy of Bob Filner the union mayor may persist for generations. Union leaders have chosen to be politically pragmatic rather than make a public judgment about what kind of person should serve the people of San Diego as the city’s chief executive.

Nevertheless, unions are being called out on their amoral stance. An August 4 post on www.Breibart.com cited the UT San Diego article: “Unions Stand By Filthy Filner, ‘Have a lot Invested in Him.‘” As of August 13, there were 131 comments about the article – many expressing the idea that birds of a feather flock together. The article was also circulated widely via social media, tainting the reputation of labor unions across the country.

By sticking with Filner, union leaders have given San Diego Republican leaders an opportunity to highlight the shortcomings of the region’s most politically powerful leftist coalition.

Double standards are apparent. I have noted on Twitter that the North Bay Labor Council and the Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino Building and Construction Trades Council are calling for the resignation of Sonoma County Supervisor and Democrat Efren Carrillo, who has been arrested twice in the past year under strange circumstances and apparently has a drinking problem. See the July 31, 2013 press release North Bay Labor Council & Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino Building Trades Council Call For Supervisor Efren Carrillo to Resign.

Of course, a cynic would point out that union leaders in Sonoma County have detested Supervisor Carrillo since he refused to advance a proposed Project Labor Agreement policy for county projects. See my September 19, 2012 article Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Abandons Project Labor Agreement Policy; Instead Directs Staff to Negotiate Project Labor Agreement for Sonoma County Airport Expansion, which includes a series of heated tweets from Lisa Maldonado, the head of the North Bay Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Maldonado has actually been relatively restrained on Twitter after Carrillo’s second arrest.

Shame on Unions! Put Women Ahead of Your "Investment!"- San Diego Mayor Bob FilnerNow flyers are circulating in San Diego to make union leaders accountable for their decision to stick by Mayor Bob Filner. Considering how leaders of these labor organizations have no shame in blocking high-profile construction projects using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to get Project Labor Agreements, I doubt they’ll change their position because of public outrage. It’s up to the Republican Party of San Diego County to remind voters where unions stand on Filner and urge voters to make a statement via their ballots in the 2014 and 2016 elections. In fact, the time may be right to qualify dramatic county and city ballot initiatives to end costly government policies and practices that benefit unions at the expense of everyone else.