Tag Archive for University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program/Institute for Labor and Employment

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 But the label is simplistic and based on outdated political paradigms.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.

Workers’ Compensation Reform Bill Sent to Governor Jerry Brown Has One Change to Union-Exclusive Alternative Dispute Resolution Carve-Out Program

On August 31, 2012 (the last day of the 2012 California legislative session), the California State Assembly voted 72-5 and the California State Senate voted 34-4 for Senate Bill 863, a bill making various changes to California’s workers compensation system.

As is customary in the California State Legislature, the bill was created as a gut-and-amend at the last minute (amended on August 24, August 27, and August 30) and whipped through the legislative process to Governor Jerry Brown on August 31 without adequate review.

As Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote in his September 2, 2012 column entitled The Legislative Process Does Count:

A 170-page overhaul of California’s multi-billion-dollar workers’ compensation system – hammered out during months of secret negotiations between business and labor union lobbyists – was dumped on the desks of 80 Assembly members late Friday after being whisked through two perfunctory committee hearings…

So is SB 863 good public policy or not?

One can’t really answer that question, and the same ambiguity envelops almost everything else that was done, and left undone, in the final days of the session.

SB 863 was one of countless measures that popped up during those days, entirely new bills that were hustled through the process with little or no detailed knowledge of what they really do, or whose interests they serve.

I looked at the final version of Senate Bill 863 to see if the bill changed the obscure alternative dispute resolution “carve-out” program authorized exclusively for the unionized construction industry. It does. For some reason (innocuous or sinister?), Senate Bill 863 eliminates this reporting requirement, which was part of the original 1993 authorization:

By June 30, 1996, and annually thereafter, the Administrative Director of the Division of Workers’ Compensation shall prepare and notify Members of the Legislature that a report authorized by this section is available upon request. The report based upon aggregate data shall include the following:

(1) Person hours and payroll covered by agreements filed.

(2) The number of claims filed.

(3) The average cost per claim shall be reported by cost components whenever practicable.

(4) The number of litigated claims, including the number of claims submitted to mediation, the appeals board, or the court of appeal.

(5) The number of contested claims resolved prior to arbitration.

(6) The projected incurred costs and actual costs of claims.

(7) Safety history.

(8) The number of workers participating in vocational rehabilitation.

(9) The number of workers participating in light-duty programs.

The division shall have the authority to require those employers and groups of employers listed in subdivision (c) to provide the data listed above.

Why was this language eliminated? The legislative analyses for the bill don’t say.

Background on Alternative Dispute Resolution in Carve-Outs for Unionized Companies

This program was established as California Labor Code Section 3201.5. It was part of a workers compensation reform enacted by Governor Pete Wilson in 1993. The program was expanded by reform legislation signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004. (Section 3201.7 allows unionized employers in other industries to set up similar programs.)

An article in the March 10, 2006 Sacramento Business Journal (“Unionized Firms Save in Workers’ Comp Plan“) gave rare news media attention to this program, which is only available to construction companies in a collective bargaining agreement with unions or signatory to a Project Labor Agreement. I’m quoted in the article:

Too bad this kind of program is only allowed in the construction industry when companies and employees are part of a collective bargaining agreement, said Kevin Dayton, state government affairs director for Associated Builders and Contractors of California, a merit-shop group.

The California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a list of what are now 34 carve-out programs established to date. Unions have promoted this program as a benefit of unionization. For example, the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) – then (and now) chaired by California Labor Federation lobbyist Angie Wei – was able to commission what is now the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program to produce a 2006 report entitled How To Create a Workers’ Compensation Carve-Out in California: Practical Advice for Unions and Employers. The California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation has also hosted at least one conference on Workers’ Compensation Carve-Outs and Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Although I never hear carve-outs cited nowadays as a reason to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement, unions and pro-union construction management firms such as Parsons Constructors used the existence of this alternative dispute resolution carve-out program as an argument in support of Project Labor Agreements for large infrastructure projects during the early years of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements in California (1993-2000). One example was the Project Labor Agreement for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California. It was negotiated in 1997 between construction manager Parsons Constructors and officials of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Alameda County.

Seeking Access to Alternative Dispute Resolution for Non-Union Contractors

In 1998, then-Senator Dick Mountjoy introduced Senate Bill 2019, sponsored by the California Business Properties Association (the contract lobbying firm at the time for three California chapters of Associated Builders and Contractors), which would have eliminated the requirement that alternative dispute resolution programs for workers compensation in the construction industry be part of a collective bargaining agreement. Opposed by unions and trial lawyers, the bill did not get out of committee, and since then there have been no attempts to expand alternative dispute resolution in the construction industry outside of the unionized arena.

Before the 2011 legislative session, I attempted on behalf of my former employer (Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California) to develop language that would allow non-union contractors to reduce workers compensation costs through participation in an alternative dispute resolution program. I was unable to figure out a way to graft such a program onto the existing law, which is dependent on the models of union collective bargaining agreements and labor-management cooperation committees.

Trying to Eliminate Favoritism in California State Law for Bidders in the Union-Exclusive Alternative Dispute Resolution System

Various laws authorize state agencies and local governments in California to award contracts for construction projects with subjective “best value criteria” under the “design-build” alternative bidding procedure. Unionized contractors that are part of alternative dispute resolution carve-out programs get a special exemption from safety requirements.

Design-build authorization language throughout California law includes the following:

A bidder’s safety record shall be deemed acceptable if their experience modification rate for the most recent three-year period is an average of 1.00 or less, and their average Total Recordable Injury/Illness rate and average lost work rate for the most recent three-year period does not exceed the applicable statistical standards for its business category, or if the bidder is a party to an alternative dispute resolution system, as provided for in Section 3201.5 of the Labor Code.

So a bidder in an alternative dispute resolution system (under California Labor Code Section 3201.5) does not have to worry about the experience modification rate or injury/illness/loss rate. As noted above, Section 3201.5 only applies to contractors in either a collective bargaining agreement or a Project Labor Agreement. Non-union contractors cannot use this method of alternative dispute resolution.

On January 11, 2010, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee considered Assembly Bill 1063, introduced by Assemblyman Martin Garrick and sponsored by my former employer, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of California. It would have removed language that allows a contractor with a poor safety record to be “acceptable” if it is part of an alternative dispute resolution program that by law is restricted to contractors in a collective bargaining agreement or project labor agreement.

ABC of California argued that all design-build entities should have a decent safety record, without exceptions. The Western Electrical Contractors Association stated that “A safety record should be based on safety – not the existence of a side-agreement over dispute resolution – the two have nothing to do with each other! There is simply no valid public policy served by this requirement.” But the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO opposed AB 1063 by praising unions and their activities, which was sufficient for the bill to fail on a party-line vote (Democrats opposed, Republicans in support.)

Update, October 31, 2013: The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) issued a bulletin on October 28, 2013 announcing The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) Approves Carve-Out Agreement Covering 22,000 Workers in Southern California between seven Southern California United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local unions, Vons and Super A Foods. I sent this tweet in response:

A labor attorney representing management emailed me a response:

But Kevin this can only work under a union contract because the health plan workers comp plan and grievance process are combined. A good idea. Still, few unions have implemented as it is a lot of work to make it work…Impossible to do in a non-union setting as the grievance process side of things would be cost prohibitive and disruptive – only works in union setting as the grievance process is already in place, as is the trust health plan administration system which does double duty – that is reason for efficiencies. Maybe some giant corporation might try it non-union but doubt it – frankly most unions see the benefits but it is so much work and can cause employee dissatisfaction if a comp case goes wrong that not worth it. And then what do you do with claimants’s lawyers? – nice idea, but generally a no-go.

San Diego Unified School District: the Only Local Government in California Evading Labor Compliance Fees to the California Department of Industrial Relations

The Ziggurat Exterior

I requested public records from the State Allocation Board‘s Office of Public School Construction (part of the California Department of General Services) to find out which educational districts in California were slipping out of the state’s new requirement to pay fees to the State Public Works Enforcement Fund, which supports the Compliance Monitoring Unit of the California Department of Industrial Relations.

The Ziggurat Interior

School districts (K-12), community college districts, and other local governments pay these fees to support the agency’s monitoring and enforcement of contractors complying with laws related to state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”).

Personnel at the state’s obscure but powerful Office of Public School Construction were prompt and efficient in getting me the information, and I was able to obtain the records in person at the Department of General Services offices in the beautiful Ziggurat in West Sacramento.

Only one school district is avoiding the fees: the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). It submitted four applications for state grants to the State Allocation Board via the Office of Public School Construction to fund “New Construction (Overcrowding Relief Grant)” on four projects: The Language Academy (low bid $10 million), Euclid Elementary School (low bid $7 million), Zamorano Elementary School (low bid $8.4 million), and Encanto Elementary School (low bid $5.7 million). See the four applications here.

Administrative offices of the San Diego Unified School District.

In the funding applications for each of those projects, the San Diego Unified School District checked off a box in Question 17 (“Prevailing Wage Monitoring and Enforcement Costs”) indicating that the monitoring requirement to be used by the school district will be “Collective bargaining agreement, pursuant to Labor Code Section 1771.3(b)(3).”

This means that the San Diego Unified School District won’t need to pay fees to the state for labor law compliance activity on these projects because contractors working on them have to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. (See the special SDUSD “Project Stabilization Agreement” web page here for details.) In other words, the state is exempting the San Diego Unified School District from paying mandatory labor compliance fees because the school board requires contractors to sign a union agreement!

Under state law (Assembly Bill 436) and California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 16452, the fee assessed by the Department of Industrial Relations cannot exceed one-quarter of one percent of the total amount of the total project construction costs. The State Allocation Board includes the costs of these fees in the funds it distributes to school districts.

The total cost of these four San Diego Unified School District projects is $31.1 million, meaning the school district was able to evade costs of $777,500 in fees to the California Department of Industrial Relations as a result of the school board requiring contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

Unions Have Promoted Complex Labor Compliance Schemes in California for Twenty Years

Since the early 1990s, construction trade unions have lobbied the California State Legislature to implement various schemes meant to supplement the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (headed by the Labor Commissioner) in its monitoring and enforcement of construction contractor compliance with California’s laws related to state-mandated construction wage rates (“prevailing wages”) on public works projects.

Basically, union leaders and lobbyists imposed and expanded complicated, convoluted, burdensome wage rate mandates on public works contractors for each trade in various geographical regions (based on the jurisdictions of unions as defined in collective bargaining agreements). Then they complained when the state bureaucracy could not actively scrutinize all of their non-union competitors for possible violations of those laws.

For example, as cited in the committee bill analyses for Senate Bill 588 (2001), which allowed union-affiliated labor-management cooperation committees to obtain addresses and (initially) names of workers on certified payroll records, unions argued that “Because DLSE has only 20 field investigators and 6 auditors in the public works unit, that agency cannot adequately enforce the law on more than 22,000 public works projects each year.”

Reflecting the political priorities of unions during the administrative of Governor Gray Davis (1999-2003), the University of California Labor Program – flush with taxpayer funding starting in 2000 – produced a report about the history and status of the state’s labor law enforcement agencies. Even while continually pushing for new labor laws, union officials and lobbyists called for more state funding for labor law enforcement, perhaps as part of the plot outlined in the guidebook first widely circulated in the early 2000s entitled Using the California Labor Laws Offensively: Organizing Through Enforcement of State Employment Laws.

Unions Exempted Their Construction Monopolies Under Project Labor Agreements from Labor Compliance Fees with Assembly Bill 436

The latest union-backed labor compliance scheme was enacted in 2011, after the California State Legislature gutted and amended Assembly Bill 436 on August 30, 2011 and turned it into a bill establishing new guidelines for local governments building projects using funding from four statewide bond measures. Here is a list of the four state bond measures covered by this law:

  1. The $13.05 billion Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2002 (Proposition 47, approved by 59% of voters in November 2002).
  2. The $12.3 billion Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2004 (Proposition 55, approved by 50.9% of voters in March 2004).
  3. The $3.34 billion Water Security, Clean Drinking Water, Coastal and Beach Protection Act of 2002 (Proposition 50, approved by 55% of voters in November 2002 – note, don’t confuse this proposition with the $2.6 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act of 2002 – Proposition 40 – on the statewide ballot in March 2002).
  4. The $9.95 billion Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century (Proposition 1A, approved by 54% of voters in November 2008).

AB 436 requires school districts, community college districts, water districts, the California High Speed Rail Authority, and the now-disbanded San Diego Model School Development Agency to pay a fee to the California Department of Industrial Relations, in an amount “sufficient to support the department’s costs in ensuring compliance with and enforcing prevailing wage requirements” as well as “labor compliance enforcement” on projects funded by the four state bond measures listed above.

The bill included a couple of exceptions under which these local governments do not have to pay a fee to the state for labor law monitoring and enforcement. One exception applies to local governments that already established in-house labor compliance programs under old laws that the state enacted in 2002 (but subsequently repealed) – a technical matter.

But there was also an exception based on politics that earned the criticism of business associations and various newspaper editorial boards. Assembly Bill 436 was peppered with this provision for every kind of local government: “if it enters into a collective bargaining agreement that binds all of the contractors performing work on the project and that includes a mechanism for resolving disputes about the payment of wages.”

A “collective bargaining agreement that binds all of the contractors performing work on the project” is a Project Labor Agreement.

Assembly Bill 436 was authored by Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D-Anaheim) and supported by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

A Project Labor Agreement Doesn’t Ensure Contractors Are Complying with Labor Laws

I’ve heard union officials say at local government meetings over the years that there would be no need for the government to monitor contractors for labor law compliance if the government required all of its contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) with unions. Allegedly, unions check the paperwork and certified payroll records of their signatory contractors to make sure those companies aren’t violating the law.

Associated Builders and Contractors – California Cooperation Committee (ABC-CCC) investigated contractor labor law compliance for projects at the City of Milpitas and the Los Angeles Unified School District on which contractors were required to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions. ABC-CCC found numerous violations and disproved this contention. In fact, the discovery suggested that having a Project Labor Agreement (ironically) encourages labor law violations because chances are lower than people will be snooping around looking for them.

Despite these cases, the California State Legislature passed AB 436 to ensure that school districts that require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions are rewarded for reducing the number of bidders and participating subcontractors (i.e. cutting competition) and raising costs of behalf of construction unions.

Did the San Diego Unified School District Operate a Flawed Labor Compliance Program?

A study commissioned by the San Diego Unified School District and released by Rea & Parker Research in November 2011 about the performance of the district’s Project Labor Agreement reports “There has been an increase in reporting violations and deficiencies pertaining to labor compliance since the PSA was adopted.” Without evidence, the report goes on to contend that “the increase is due to increased attention to worker payroll and benefits under the PSA than before…” It also suggests that “It is known that PSA projects grant access to union representatives and that deficiencies may be due to increased attention to labor issues, and it may be that this increased attention may have resulting (sic) in increased protection of the wages and benefits of workers than may have existed prior to the PSA.”

Well, the unions will certainly cite this sentence as (unsubstantiated) “proof” that Project Labor Agreements provide sufficient monitoring and enforcement of contractor compliance with laws concerning state-mandated construction wage rates. But how did Rea & Parker isolate the Project Labor Agreement as a cause of the increase in discovered violations? There is at least one additional variable Rea & Parker Research should have considered: the operations of the twelve-year old San Diego Unified School District’s in-house labor compliance program.

The California Department of Industrial Relations has allowed the San Diego Unified School District to operate its own in-house labor compliance program under the strict criteria of California Labor Code 1771.5(b) since it first approved the program on September 14, 2000. When the school district sought permanent approval for its own labor compliance program a year later, it claimed that the program was “successfully operated since September 14, 2000” and provided documentation to the Department of Industrial Relations that “demonstrates SDUSD’s ability to monitor and enforce Public Works Prevailing Wage law consistent with CCR §16434 and Labor Code §1771.5.”

Was the San Diego Unified School District labor compliance program failing to fulfill its claims of successful operation, and if so, should the California Department of Industrial Relations retroactively revoke the program’s approval for the nine years before the school district implemented the Project Labor Agreement for the first project in the fall of 2009?

This is a serious matter that has implications for school district finances and for the paychecks of construction trade employees of many contractors that worked for the school district over the past twelve years. The standard project cost threshold for state-mandated construction wage rates is $1000. But local governments operating labor compliance programs approved under California Labor Code Section 1771.5 are qualified to set a higher project cost threshold of $25,000 for construction work and $15,000 for alteration, demolition, repair, or maintenance work.

For example, according to this report, in 2009-10 the San Diego Unified School District was able to exempt 114 contracts worth a total of $11,583,770.80 from state-mandated construction wage rates. In 2010-11, the San Diego Unified School District was able to exempt 258 contracts worth $61,822,251.08 from state-mandated construction wage rates, as reported here.

I expect there will be much more extensive research into the labor compliance program at San Diego Unified School District, now that the school board has placed a $2.8 billion bond measure on the November 6, 2012 ballot and passed a resolution to lock that taxpayer-funded work under a union Project Labor Agreement.

What Happened to the Pacific Research Institute? California Needs a Policy Institute That Inspires and Dominates Intellectual Discussion about an Alternative Way to Govern the State

The leftist magazine Mother Jones published an article today (July 19, 2012) critical of the President and CEO and the operations of the Pacific Research Institute, a free market think tank based in San Francisco. I am an Adjunct Fellow in Labor Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, although I probably won’t be after I post this commentary on my Dayton Public Policy Institute blog.

Here’s my perspective on this matter.

Once innovative, creative, and on the cutting edge of policy initiatives, many American free market think tanks in 2012 appear to be developing into a stagnant, protective, incestuous club of interlocking directorates and eccentrics who enjoy socializing in urban intellectual salons. This culture will react strongly against any outside pleas to reform the remnants of their comfortable “movement.” No version of the Tea Party has yet emerged among free market-oriented intellectuals to topple the decaying edifice and energetically rebuild it with fresh thinking and ambitious strategic planning.

The Pacific Research Institute perhaps excels among the thousands of people and organizations in this country who are trying to make a living pontificating about Obamacare. But is there any unique angle or aspect about Obamacare that still remains to be chewed on? While bashing Obamacare attracts attention and excitement, even I’m tired of it – I change the radio station whenever a talk show host begins rehashing it. (I recommend reading the June 28, 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision and dissent in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius for fresh, thoughtful perspectives on Obamacare.)

Meanwhile, the State of California and many of its local governments are careening toward bankruptcy while most citizens of the state are wringing their hands in helplessness. Almost everyone in this state knows something is terribly wrong (even the union officials and the union-backed politicians know it), but the state utterly lacks a recognized free market organization with a message that can effectively subvert the entrenched, self-preserving syndicate of politicians, big corporations, unions, and media. Some sort of intellectual force needs to develop and advance a thoughtful, principled alternative to the current way in which the state is governed.

The people of California desperately need a strong, vocal, prominent free market policy institute that not only identifies the numerous economic and governance problems in the State of California, but also proposes audacious, concrete long-term solutions that ordinary citizens can understand and support. The Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco should have that role. It has not held it for many years.

My Early Background with the Pacific Research Institute

I first met a Pacific Research Institute policy analyst – former Director of the Center for Enterprise and Opportunity Katherine Post – in Washington, D.C. in the mid-1990s. I was surprised and impressed to learn that a free market think tank was based in San Francisco.

When I began government affairs work for Associated Builders and Contractors in California in 1997, the Pacific Research Institute’s Senior Fellow in Education Studies Lance Izumi was one of the first people I met in the public policy arena. In the early 2000s, the Pacific Research Institute recognized my professional expertise on complex and costly construction labor issues and designated me as their one and only fellow in Labor Issues. I saw Milton Friedman at the institute’s 25th anniversary gala in San Francisco in September 2004.

The Pacific Research Institute especially took an interest in my lonely work researching and exposing a taxpayer-funded union propaganda program at the University of California, established in 2000 with $6 million in direct funding in the California state budget signed by Governor Gray Davis. I worked extensively on this and other labor issues with the Pacific Research Institute’s former Business and Economic Studies Director Lawrence McQuillan (now chief economist at the Illinois Policy Institute) and also with its former Editorial Director Lloyd Billingsley (author of Hollywood Party: How Communism Seduced the American Film Industry in the 1930s and 1940s).

Selected twice by the Pacific Research Institute for its Golden Fleece Award, the University of California Labor Program was an especially appropriate state issue for the Pacific Research Institute to examine and expose. Other than my employer (Associated Builders and Contractors), no other prominent organization in California was taking a leadership role in publicly criticizing the University of California Labor Program, even as the Labor Program grew to serve as the intellectual foundation of the California Labor Federation‘s political agenda at the California State Legislature and at California local governments. (The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association did include the program in its lists of unnecessary, wasteful, inappropriate government programs, but it necessarily had to focus on a thousand other examples of California fiscal foolishness.)

While independent free market-oriented think tanks such as the Pacific Research Institute rely on corporations, foundations, and individuals to fund their policy research, the California Labor Federation and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California simply obtained taxpayer funding to start and maintain what should have been their own self-funded research and marketing program. To add insult to injury to California taxpayers, the Labor Program was hosted at the University of California, so union officials and their academic sycophants could add a degree of credibility to their phony and biased reports, web sites, and news releases by stamping the respected UC logo and name on them.

Neither Associated Builders and Contractors nor I had any sort of written or unwritten financial agreement with the Pacific Research Institute for any of its research and exposure concerning the UC Labor Program. The Pacific Research Institute staff was outraged about the taxpayer funding for the program and filled a policy vacuum by investigating it and reporting on it for several years, thus providing a valuable service to California taxpayers and businesses.

In 2002, I Propose to the Pacific Research Institute That It Establish the Nation’s First Free Market-Oriented Labor Studies Center

Here are a few excerpts of my October 10, 2002 memorandum to Pacific Research Institute officials, entitled “Proposal for Labor Studies Center at the Pacific Research Institute.”

New Union Think Tank Challenges Free Market Economics in California

At the request of the California Labor Federation, the California state legislature has provided a total of $17 million in the past three state budgets to establish and operate a “Multi-Campus Research Unit for Labor Studies” at U.C. Berkeley and UCLA. With taxpayer funding and the academic credibility of the University of California behind it, this “union think tank” has quickly become a powerful political tool for organized labor.

An Orange County Register editorial describes this union think tank as “a thinly veiled payoff to organized labor activists.” As cited in the same editorial, Associated Builders and Contractors contends that “studies and papers produced by this union think tank lack academic merit but make useful propaganda for the unions to advance their political agenda at the state and local levels.”

Legislators and news media now regularly cite the dozens of studies already produced by the union think tank, including studies on living wage and the supposed negative impact on the poor that would result from the breakup of Los Angeles. Directors for the union think tank have essentially become the media spokespeople for the union political agenda, displacing the angry rhetoric of union lobbyists with the calm impartiality of supposedly thoughtful university intellectuals. As one union leader said when presenting a union think tank study during a recent Antioch City Council meeting, “It’s from a college. Written by a doctor.”

There’s a Vacuum Where Opposing Views Should Be Heard

California lacks a clear voice from the free market perspective on the immediate labor issues before state and local governments. Responses from industry representatives and elected officials to union initiatives have often been lackluster or even apologetic. Unions and their Democrat supporters portray industry positions on proposed legislation as self-interested and motivated by corporate greed, and there lacks an alternative source of information to back industry positions.

On the national level, many of the intellectual champions of free market economics against the unions during the union heyday of the 1950s and 1960s have retired or died … compared to the prolific union think tank, output is minimal.

Pacific Research Institute Can Fill the Vacuum and Provide Balance

For a few years now, I’ve seen the need for an intellectual operation in California to challenge some of the unions’ academic production that is blindsiding business associations and interest groups. For example, when the UCLA union think tank and the California Research Bureau simultaneously issued studies in the fall of 2001 to support a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for construction of U.C. Merced, opponents of PLAs lacked opposition studies. Studies and comments against the union political agenda from outside the political world could provide some balance on labor issues in the media and in Sacramento.

I believe that creating a Labor Studies Center at the already established Pacific Research Institute could be a solution. I have not been able to identify a purely research-oriented free market institute for Labor Studies anywhere in the country.

Although my proposal sparked some interest at the Pacific Research Institute, especially after the October 2003 recall of Governor Gray Davis and replacement with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Labor Studies Center was never established, and the country still lacks anything like it.

My Relationship Fades with the Pacific Research Institute

On August 30, 2009, the San Jose Mercury-News published an opinion piece written by me under my title of Adjunct Fellow in Labor Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. It exposed the documented behind-the-scenes politics leading to a decision at the highest levels of the University of California administration to divert $4 million from other purposes to the University of California Labor Program, which had its annual budget appropriation vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008. This op-ed stirred up a lot of controversy.

But the Pacific Research Institute seemed to be retreating from important issues at the state level. I was quoted and cited as a source in a comprehensive report released by the Pacific Research Institute in March 2011 outlining weaknesses and proposing solutions concerning California’s public records access laws (Bringing More Sunshine to California: How to Expand Open Government in the Golden State). I was disappointed at how little attention the Pacific Research Institute received for this well-documented, thoughtful report about another policy arena in which California governance is failing.

Then the Pacific Research Institute laid off some people I knew, and subsequently a few others I knew left for other employment – some to other states. The Pacific Research Institute was ditching California policy issues, while its staff – highly informed Californian policy experts – was simply moving out of the state for better opportunities. (Good riddance, I’m sure many leaders in this state are saying about those departures as they eagerly anticipate the bounty from higher tax rates on the people who are left.)

I’m guessing the unflattering profile in Mother Jones magazine will not alter the priorities of the Pacific Research Institute. I’m now waiting for the emergence of a new free market think tank, based near the state capitol in Sacramento and influential in changing the hopes and plans of the people of California. It would be ideal to see the Pacific Research Institute revitalized to tackle this ambitious project, but I expect someone outside of the traditional culture of free market think tanks will need to start it from scratch.

Which California Cities Will Be the First Wave to Ban Soda Sales? Predictions from the Dayton Public Policy Institute.

Regarding taxes, I agree with the five “Principles of Sound Tax Policy” advanced by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation. One of its five principles is Neutrality, which includes these statements: “The primary purpose of taxes is to raise needed revenue, not to micromanage the economy,” and “The tax system should not favor certain industries, activities, or products.”

Perhaps the Tax Foundation should add “favor or disfavor certain industries,” as politicians and special interest groups turn to SIN TAXES as an increasingly popular way to raise revenue. In California, Proposition 29 – a new tax on cigarettes, allegedly to raise money for cancer research – was on the June 5, 2012 ballot. According to the numbers posted as of today on the Secretary of State’s web site, Prop 29 is losing by only 17,534 votes out of 4,902,114 counted.

Taxe increases on alcohol and cigarettes have a long history, but a recent development is soda taxes. And in the crusade against sugary drinks, California is falling behind New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts in the progressive vanguard.

While liberals in California are still fumbling with the strategy to use the government to change people’s soda-drinking habits, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Board of Health and Mental Hygiene have proposed to the city’s Board of Health that it institute a new code section setting maximum beverage sizes (with a $200 fine per violation) for “food service establishments.” This evening, the Cambridge City Council (in Massachusetts) approved a resolution to study a ban on sodas and sugary beverages from being served in city restaurants.

Not that California has been immune from this New Prohibition movement. In 2003, Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 677 banning soda sales in elementary and middle schools, and in 2005 Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 965 banning soda sales in high schools. Democrats voted YES on these bills and Republicans voted NO.

In 2011, Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Santa Cruz) introduced Assembly Bill 669, which would have imposed a one-cent tax per fluid ounce on every distributor for “the privilege” of distributing in California bottled sweetened beverages, concentrate, or drinks derived from that concentrate. According to the legislative analysis for AB 669, “this act is intended to discourage excessive consumption of sweetened beverages by increasing the price of these products…” The taxes and penalties (estimated at $1.66 billion for fiscal year 2012-13 and $1.72 billion for fiscal year 2013-14) would have gone to a newly-created Children’s Health Promotion Fund, meant to fund programs targeted at reducing childhood obesity.

The bill died without being voted on in committee, and it would have required a 2/3 vote in the Assembly and Senate to be approved. (Democrats hope to get 2/3 control of both houses of the legislature in the November 2012 election.) According to the legislative analysis for AB 669, three other bills have been introduced in the California legislature to tax soda – one back in the 2001-02 session and two recently in the 2009-10 session.

At California local governments, the Richmond City Council (in the San Francisco Bay Area) voted 5-2 at its May 15, 2012 meeting for a resolution to place two measures on the November 6, 2012 ballot, the first to impose a business license fee of one cent per ounce of sugar-sweetened beverage served, provided, or traded by businesses within the City of Richmond, and the second to provide advice to the city council on whether or not the taxes and penalties should be used to fund programs to prevent child obesity.

The San Francisco Chronicle claimed in an article on May 18 that Richmond would become the first municipality in the country to tax soda, if voters approve the ballot measure. It reported that soda taxes have been proposed in San Francisco and San Pablo.

MY PREDICTIONS!!!! Which California cities may soon consider adopting a soda tax or even banning food service establishments from selling sodas?

Off the top of my head, I picked a few larger causes and movements for which some cities in California have recently taken a stand.

First, any cities on the list of cities that have living wage policies, as compiled by the UC Berkeley Labor Center (affiliated with the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program):

  1. Albany
  2. Berkeley
  3. Davis
  4. Emeryville
  5. Hayward
  6. Fairfax
  7. Irvine (I don’t believe a soda ban would pass here.)
  8. Los Angeles
  9. Oakland
  10.   Pasadena
  11.   Petaluma
  12.   Port Hueneme
  13.   Richmond
  14.   Sacramento
  15.   Santa Barbara
  16.   Santa Cruz
  17.   Santa Monica
  18.   San Diego
  19.   San Fernando
  20.   San Francisco
  21.   San Jose
  22.   San Leandro
  23.   Sebastopol
  24.   Sonoma
  25.   Ventura
  26.   Watsonville
  27.   West Hollywood

(Speaking of labor issues, I wanted to identify the cities that passed resolutions in the late 2000s in support of the federal Employee Free Choice Act [card check unionization], but it looks like that campaign fizzled out before it gained a lot of momentum, and the records appear to have disappeared from the web. I did identify Los Angeles, Pacifica, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Ana, Santa Rosa, and South San Francisco as some of the California cities that passed resolutions in support of card check.)

Second, cities that officially signed onto the “Cities for Peace” movement sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies:

  1. Arcata
  2. Berkeley
  3. Coachella
  4. Davis
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Oakland
  7. Richmond
  8. Sacramento
  9. San Francisco
  10.   Santa Barbara
  11.   Santa Cruz
  12.   Sebastopol

(I was not able to find a complete formal list on the web of California cities that opposed the war in Iraq, although I found this list that includes the usual suspects.)

Third, cities that were party to the lawsuit or filed an amicus brief to support the lawsuit to overturn Proposition 8 (ban on same sex marriage):

  1. Berkeley
  2. Cloverdale (I don’t believe a soda ban would pass here.)
  3. Fairfax
  4. Long Beach
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Oakland
  7. Palm Springs
  8. San Diego
  9. San Francisco
  10.   San Jose
  11.   Santa Cruz
  12.   Santa Monica
  13.   Santa Rosa
  14.   Sebastopol
  15.   Signal Hill

Notice that some cities appear twice or even three times on these lists. Surely these cities will not pass on the crusade against soda.

Where the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust Spends Its Money: Now We See How Unions Spread It

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust is an arcane entity 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.

Since its founding in 2006, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has collected $5,110,095 in receipts, consisting of $2.6 million in seed money from another trust, about $1.7 million in “membership dues” (paid by power plant owners and contractors as a condition of Project Labor Agreements extracted by California Unions for Reliable Energy), and $450,000 in net investment returns. A chart of the organization’s finances is at the end of this post.

Where does the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust send its millions of dollars? I attempted to find out using the organization’s IRS Form 990s (2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008), state and local campaign finance reports, and other sources. See the list below.

1.  $1,095,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No on Measure A, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 5, 2012 election in City of San Diego)

As of May 25, 2012, the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust has contributed $1,095,000 to the campaign committee opposing Proposition A, a “Fair and Open Competition” measure on the June 5, 2012 ballot in the City of San Diego that would prohibit the city from requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on a taxpayer-funded project. The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust has provided 92% of all receipts for this campaign committee.

2.  $770,000 – UCLA Labor Center (aka UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education), part of the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has contributed a cumulative total of $770,000 to the UCLA Labor Center, primarily or exclusively for the establishment and operation of the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy, a propaganda operation that issues biased studies and bogus reports about construction labor issues using the UCLA name and affiliation.

The UCLA Office of Research Administration’s Office of Contract and Grant Administration received $250,000 in 2010-11, $250,000 in 2009-10, and $150,000 in 2008-09 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. In 2007-08, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $120,000 for a “Workforce Development Leadership Academy Grant” sent to PO Box 951478 in Los Angeles, zip code 90095. (This is the address for the UCLA Labor Center.)

There seems to be confusion at the UCLA Labor Center about how much the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust has contributed to the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy. The 2010-11 annual report for the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education recognizes a grant of $450,000 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, but a footnote added on April 4, 2012 indicates that the $450,000 is a cumulative amount for several years, with $180,000 as the actual amount for 2010-11. A press release from the UCLA Labor Center’s California Construction Academy tries to rebut a March 27, 2012 article from www.PublicCEO.com entitled Project Labor Agreement Debate is as Complex as It is Conflicted by stating that “according to the 2009 990 IRS Form, the UCLA Labor Center received $450,000. In fact, when clicking on the document, the amount the Labor Center received was $180,000.” (See this link: Correction on PublicCEO.com Post: CCA Advances Broad Construction Industry InterestsCalifornia Construction Academy: A Project of the UCLA Labor Center – March 27, 2012.) PublicCEO.com then countered with its own correction that stated “Editors note: Originally, the UCLA Annual Report showed a donation of $450,000, as was reported in this article. That was an incorrect total. The report, and this article, now accurately reflect a donation of $250,000. The $450,000 UCLA reported was a total of several years.”

This outfit of five professional staff promotes the political agenda of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, including government-mandated Project Labor Agreements and union control of so-called “green jobs” in the construction industry. The founding Academy Director and Senior Advisor is David Sickler, former Southern California Regional Director of the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The advisory board for the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education consists extensively of officials representing building trades unions. 

The UCLA Labor Center California Construction Academy was the organization used by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California to awkwardly and ineffectively challenge a study published in July 2011 by the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego indicating that schools built in California with Project Labor Agreements cost 13%-15% more than schools built under fair and open competition. As part of this response, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust mailed a letter to local elected officials throughout the state attacking the study, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson mailed a letter to county superintendents and other educational officials attacking the study and providing the report from the UCLA Labor Center California Construction Academy.

3.  $250,000 – No 98/Yes 99 – A Committee of City and County Associations, Taxpayers and Environmental Groups, League of California Cities, Californians for Neighborhood Protection, Coalition of Conservationists

On April 7, 2008, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $250,000 to this No on 98/Yes on 99 campaign committee to oppose a statewide ballot proposition on the June 2008 ballot that would have restricted the ability of governments to gain possession of private property through eminent domain. The proposition failed – it only received 39% of the vote.

4.  $164,550 – “Other” (?)

The California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust reports that it spent $164,550 on “Other” fees for services (non-employees) in 2010-11. No additional information is given, and these expenditures are not classified as administrative, accounting, or legal services. I’m unable to determine where this money went, but I’m guessing it was used for something political that promoted unions and socked it to California taxpayers. Any ideas?

Contrary to some rumors, “Other” does not appear to be the union front group Citizens Against Identity Theft and Ballot Fraud, sponsored by labor organizations, which funded a radio advertising scam in the summer of 2011 meant to discourage Sacramento and San Diego voters from signing petitions to place Fair and Open Competition measures and a Paycheck Protection initiative on the 2012 ballots. See my post thoroughly outlining this scheme here.

5.  $100,000 – Apollo Alliance

The Apollo Alliance received $75,000 in 2010-11 and $25,000 in 2009-10 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust. This is currently a project of the Blue-Green Alliance, a coalition of environmental organizations and unions on a quest to stop global warming through government programs and a union workforce. President Obama’s former “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones was an influential founder and leader of this organization.

6.  $100,000 – Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop in San Joaquin County

In 2007-08, the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust contributed $100,000 to the San Joaquin Office of Education’s Career and Technical Education Program to establish a Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop.

The story behind this contribution is a mystery. Public records provided by the San Joaquin Office of Education in October 2011 did not include any documents dated earlier than September 17, 2007, when the former County Superintendent sent a letter to Bob Balgenorth (chairman of the the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, and chairman of California Unions for Reliable Energy – CURE) thanking him for the contribution. Surely there was something beforehand that led to a private contribution of $100,000 arriving at the office! Those kinds of checks usually don’t arrive in the mail without extensive solicitation.

In addition, the records did not indicate whether or not the Paxton-Patterson Construction Lab/Shop was ever built. Where are the two plaques celebrating Bob Balgenorth (as referenced in the letter)? When was the photo op? Where are the photos? How was the money spent?

In May 2007, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on the county’s New Administration Building. (See my post here providing some background on that vote.) Is there a connection between the two incidents? 

7.  $50,000 – Taxpayers to Preserve Community Jobs, No On Measure G, sponsored by labor and management organizations (June 8, 2010 election in City of Chula Vista)

The California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust contributed $50,000 to the campaign committee opposing Proposition G, a “Fair and Open Competition” measure on the June 8, 2010 ballot in the City of Chula Vista that would prohibit the city from requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions as a condition of working on a taxpayer-funded project. The funding was in vain, as 56.37% of Chula Vista voters approved the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance is now Chula Vista Municipal Code Section 02-59. At the behest of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Governor Brown and the Democrat Party leadership in the California State Legislature tried to financially punish the citizens of Chula Vista for enacting this ballot measure with Senate Bill 922 (signed into law in 2011) and Senate Bill 829 (signed into law in 2012). See my blog posts about these laws here and here.

8.  $50,000 – Fresno Area Construction Team (F.A.C.T.)

A group called the Fresno Area Construction Team received $50,000 in 2010-11 from the California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Trust to promote union contractors, union construction, and union apprenticeship programs in the Central Valley. It appears to have the involvement of the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 162, Plumbers Union Local No. 246, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 100. This group advertises, spent $51,862 on “consulting,” and even spent $992 on “travel and entertainment for public officials,” according to this form.

Financials: California Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperative Trust

Year Gross Receipts Contributions & Grants/Program Service Revenue/Other Investment Income Total Revenue
   $ 2,595,954 “Contribution from Prior Trust”
2007-08  $    593,950  $    283,670  $      97,150  $    380,820
2008-09  $    463,792  $    506,403  $    (42,611)  $    463,792
2009-10  $    522,782  $    274,437  $    200,583  $    475,020
2010-11  $    933,617  $    678,209  $    195,780  $    873,989
Total  $ 5,110,095  $ 1,742,719  $    450,902  $ 2,193,621


Year Grants & Similar Amounts Other Expenses Total Expenses
2007-08  $    220,000  $    290,859.  $    510,859
2008-09  $    150,000  $      21,143  $    171,143
2009-10  $    205,000  $      16,839  $    221,830
2010-11  $    375,000  $    234,319  $    609,319
Total  $    950,000  $    563,160  $ 1,513,151


Year Revenue Minus Expenses Total Assets
2007-08  $  (130,039)  $ 2,595,954
2008-09  $    292,649  $ 2,888,603
2009-10  $    253,181  $ 3,141,784
2010-11  $    264,670  $ 3,406,454

National Labor College Selling Its Campus (That’s OK, Taxpayers Are Funding Dozens of Labor Colleges at State Universities Anyway)

The blog “Union Organizer,” maintained by a Los Angeles-based “International Lead Organizer” for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) named Bob Oedy (see his web site at www.unionorganizer.com), appears to have broken the news story on the web that the National Labor College is selling its Silver Spring, Maryland campus (just outside of Washington, D.C.) and dedicating itself exclusively to on-line instruction and degrees.

His blog is also the only place I could find on the web that posted this official April 9, 2012 announcement: Email Statement of President Paula E. Peinovich of National Labor College/George Meany Center. Mr. Oedy is a graduate of the National Labor College with a B.A. in Labor Studies.

I first became aware of the existence of the National Labor College when I learned about a senior thesis entitled “Unrelenting Pursuit of the Non-Signatory Electrical Contractors in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s $11 Billion of Construction Work: Subscription Agreements.” To complete her requirements for a B.A. in Labor Studies at the National Labor College in 2004, a compliance official for IBEW Local 11 named Diana Limon wrote about how this Los Angeles-based IBEW local union compels non-union electrical contractors of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to make their employer payments for fringe benefits to IBEW-affiliated trust funds, as they are required to do under the school district’s Project Labor Agreement (PLA). As you can see from this July 7, 2004 article on the IBEW web site, IBEW Local 11 officials actively used the National Labor College program.

I was unable to find ANY references whatsoever on the National Labor College web site about the closing of the physical campus, nor any hints that the college might soon lose its “accreditation.” A web site called Inside Higher Education reported on the closure on April 10. (See “National Labor College Will Sell Its Campus” and read the comments too.) The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on April 16 that “labor historians” were concerned that a “Key Labor Archive May Be Inaccessible After Labor College Sells Campus.” The May 3 Washington Times triumphantly reported “Big Labor Forced to Sell Its Only College” and declared the move to be “the latest sign of the fast-shrinking Big Labor movement.”

My personal opinion is that most post-secondary education providers – including the ones described as “colleges” – don’t need a physical campus and don’t need to submit to the indignities of any accreditation system either. Why would hard-core union ideologues feel the need to conform to the trappings of corporatized higher education? It reminds me of young Occupy Wall Street activists who condemn corporations but seem blind to how the government-academia complex gave them empty and meaningless educations at outrageous prices.

If certain union officials or union activists want “prestige” associated with their education in Labor Studies or Union Organizing, they can simply use one of the dozens of biased, taxpayer-funded labor studies programs based at state universities across the country, such as the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program or the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Nativo Lopez Retires from Public Life, Nine Years After “I Became a Target of the Wrath of the ABC”

Orange County professional political activist Nativo Lopez announced on April 30 that he is retiring from public life and resigning his leadership positions with groups such as Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana (formerly known as Hermandad Mexicana Nacional) and the Mexican American Political Association.

Best known for his work defending illegal immigrants and bilingual education, Lopez also dabbled in construction labor issues. As an elected board member for the Santa Ana Unified School District, he was part of the 4-1 majority that voted on March 14, 2000 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for construction funded by Measure C, a $145 million bond approved by 70% of Santa Ana voters in June 1998. In that election, voters had no inkling that the school board would subsequently give unions a monopoly on school construction funded by their taxes.

See the Santa Ana Unified School District Project Labor Agreement here. (It was not renewed by later school boards and terminated as of June 9, 2005.)

See news coverage of the Santa Ana Unified School District Project Labor Agreement and its consequences here, including the November 2003 admission of the district’s facilities director that the Project Labor Agreement increased the costs of construction.

In February 2003, almost three years after the school board mandated that its construction contractors sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions, 70% of voters recalled Lopez. Unions tried to keep their ally in office with a series of mailers to voters (see three of them here), but apparently the voters of Santa Ana were fed up with Lopez’s endless agitation over bilingual education and the failure of the Measure C construction program to build schools in a timely and cost-effective manner.

On January 7, 2004, Lopez was a guest on the Berkeley-based KPFA (Pacifica) weekly labor show, “David Bacon on Labor,” along with Victor Narro, director of the Downtown Labor Center in Los Angeles (an operation of the taxpayer-funded Institute for Labor and Employment at the University of California, now absorbed into the University of California Miguel Contreras Labor Program). Lopez blamed my former employer Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in part for his recall. Below is a paraphrasing of the remarks, which you can hear starting at 48:10 of this podcast:

The Morning Show – January 7, 2004 at 7:00am

Click to listen (or download)


Bacon (to Narro) – Now your funding is being cut by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Your group received the wrath of ABC, Associated Builders and Contractors, the group for non-union contractors that got the governor to pull that out from the budget.

Narro – They’ve been targeting us for a few years now. We face elimination this month and the closing of the Downtown Labor Center. We’re fighting like crazy to save the program with a foundation like the California Endowment. We do research strengthening the labor movement.

Bacon (to Lopez) – Nativo Lopez, I understand you also were a target of the ABC.

Lopez – Oh yes, “a very nice group.” I was on the school board in Santa Ana and shepherded a proposal to create a PLA, signed between the school district and the building trades, much to the chagrin of ABC. (Explains a PLA.) It was the only agreement of that character in California. I became a target of the wrath of the ABC with the Republicans in Orange County and Ron Unz. They tried to recall me, ABC was a big contributor. They were successful. I thank the ABC and Ron Unz, “because they really freed me up” to do organizing work for immigrants.

Lopez appeared to be an exception to my axiom that “behind every Project Labor Agreement is a politician with ambition for higher office.” He truly seemed to believe in the causes of the anti-establishment Left and pursued them relentlessly. He was entangled in many controversies, including a guilty plea in 2011 for one felony count of voter registration fraud (by registering to vote using his business as his address), as he sought to advance his agenda.

Here’s some of his parting wisdom from his retirement announcement:

…What I have learned over close to half a century is that the capacity of capitalism to re-invent itself, to absorb its losses and re-adapt, but most importantly, to beguile, co-opt, and corrupt its opponents and the general citizenry, is truly astonishing. It utilizes its political parties (of differing persuasions), private foundations, tax code, public institutions, corporations of all categories, churches – traditional, new age, and evangelical, – its monopolized media, public and private education, its regulatory agencies, statutes and codes, lawyers, judges, and courts, and the public administrative bureaucracy, etc. to induce consent of the citizenry. And when consent is not secured by voluntary means, it has at its disposal the ever-ready repressive tentacles of the state apparatus to crush any and all opposition and dissent, however miniscule, to thus compel consent, and performance.

Never in the history of human-kind has an imperial power of planetary dimension had available to it the reserve of monetary and human capital resources to induce consent of the governed by voluntary and involuntary means, and even extra-legal measures, as does these United States of America…