Tag Archive for West Valley-Mission Community College District

Sixteen Flaws in the Working Partnerships USA Argument for Project Labor Agreements on Community College District Construction in Santa Clara County

Effects of Project Labor Agreements on Local Business Utilizatio in Santa Clara County, California - Working Partnerships USATo attempt to formulate an economic and intellectual argument for controversial project labor agreements, a union-oriented policy organization based in San José called Working Partnerships USA released a report dated October 8, 2012 called Effect of Project Labor Agreements on Local Business Utilization in Santa Clara County, California.

How credible is the Working Partnerships USA report? The California Construction Compliance Group has published Sixteen Flaws in the October 2012 Working Partnerships USA Argument for Project Labor Agreements on Community College District Construction in Santa Clara County, my critical examination of that report.Sixteen Flaws in the October 2012 Working Partnerships USA Argument for Project Labor Agreements on Community College District Construction in Santa Clara County

While the Working Partnerships USA researchers apparently collected a great deal of data and the authors addressed some interesting questions, their report in its current form includes logical errors, false assumptions, and broad generalizations. This paper identifies at least 16 fundamental flaws in the report:

  1. The Group That Produced the Report Has an Overt Ideological Bias
  2. The Group That Funded This Report Uses the Report to Help Advance Its Own Political Interests
  3. The Report Inexplicably Excludes Construction Contracts Awarded by the Fourth Community College District Based in Santa Clara County
  4. The Report Does Not Offer Its Source Data for Evaluation
  5. The Report Does Not Accurately State What It Is Measuring
  6. The Report Lacks the “Economic” Analysis Expected of an Economic Policy Report
  7. The Report Compares Two Data Sets That Are Rather Narrow
  8. The Report Does Not Account for Variations in Sizes and Types of Contracts
  9. Time Periods Used for the Report Are Vague, Arbitrary, and Inconsistent
  10. Key Terms in the Report Are Inconsistent and Poorly Defined
  11. The Report Defines Local in an Absurd Way
  12. The Report Shows Favoritism for Certain Geographic Regions
  13. The Report Includes Distorted Estimates of Commute Distances
  14. The Report Fails to Recognize that Northern California Is a Regional Construction Market
  15. The Report Is Fattened with Non-Relevant and Unproven Statements
  16. The Report Makes Uncritical Assumptions About the Inherent Superiority of Contracts Awarded to Local Businesses

Debates over project labor agreements at California local governments tend to prioritize politics over logic. The Working Partnerships USA report – as currently written – attempts to justify a preconceived ideological concept with a logical, intellectual economic argument. In this exercise, it fails.

UPDATE: The Santa Clara and San Benito Building and Construction Trades Council had planned to use the study from the pro-union think tank Working Partnerships USA as an intellectual argument for the elected board of the West Valley-Mission Community College District to require contractors to sign a project labor agreement. At the December 11, 2012 meeting of the college board, the author of the Working Partnerships USA study expressed her distress and outrage about the unexpected and devastating analysis of flaws in her study. It remains to be seen if the board will mandate a project labor agreement on future construction.

See my three blog posts about this union lobbying effort:

Here Comes Yet ANOTHER Project Labor Agreement on a California Community College District: West Valley-Mission in Silicon Valley (November 12, 2012)

Elected Board of Community College in Silicon Valley Has December 11 Vote on Project Labor Agreement for Construction Funded by Money Borrowed Through Bond Sales (December 8, 2012)

Elected Board of Community College in Silicon Valley Has December 11 Vote on Project Labor Agreement for Construction Funded by Money Borrowed Through Bond Sales (December 13, 2012)

Board Members of Silicon Valley’s West Valley-Mission Community College District Hear More Arguments For and Against Project Labor Agreements

According to reports from people at the scene, the usual cast of characters made the usual arguments in conjunction with the Project Labor Agreement staff report at the December 11, 2012 meeting of the board of trustees of the West Valley-Mission Community College District (in the South Bay/Silicon Valley region of the Bay Area).

First the board of trustees received a report from the district’s Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services about Project Labor Agreements, as the board had requested at its November 13 meeting. At that same November 13 meeting, the board had also directed district staff to develop a Project Labor Agreement/Project Stabilization Agreement for projects funded by bond sales authorized by Measure C. The board gave staff discretion to negotiate that agreement as it saw fit for the benefit of the district and to bring the agreement to the board for consideration by March 2013 or the soonest practicable date.

At the December 11 meeting, the Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services asked the board to define its policy objective and warned that a Project Labor Agreement could increase costs with unknown benefit to the district. He noted that construction funded from earlier bond sales (authorized by voters in 2004 as Measure H) was done successfully without a Project Labor Agreement. He also indicated his intent to negotiate a “fair” Project Labor Agreement and pick two similar projects to compare for a pilot project – bidding one with a Project Labor Agreement requirement and one without it.

Clearly the board is split on the issue, with board member Adrienne Grey pushing for the Project Labor Agreement. She complained that the Vice Chancellor’s report was inadequate and tried to rebut the 2011 study on the cost of Project Labor Agreements on California school construction from the National University System Institute for Policy Research in San Diego.

The usual crowd spoke in support of the Project Labor Agreement:

Two among the group of contractors at the meeting to oppose the Project Labor Agreement dared to speak openly against it. Also speaking against the Project Labor Agreement were Eric Christen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, and Nicole Goehring, Government Affairs Director of the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Ms. Goehring refuted the Working Partnerships USA study, reviewed the recent dismal bid results under the new Project Labor Agreement at Contra Costa Community College District, and reported the latest contractor labor law violations at the San Mateo Union High School District, where contractors are required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

News Coverage:

Education Desk: Project Labor Agreements for Measure C Construction? West Valley-Mission Board Hears ArgumentsThe Santa Clara Weekly – January 2-8, 2013

“I have received voluminous, voluminous material on this topic,” Board President Nick Heimlich noted drily. But that didn’t deter several dozen people who had come out specifically to address the board on the subject from making their statements.

Elected Board of Community College in Silicon Valley Has December 11 Vote on Project Labor Agreement for Construction Funded by Money Borrowed Through Bond Sales

The Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors warns of an item scheduled on the December 11, 2012 meeting agenda of the West Valley-Mission Community College District board of trustees concerning a requirement for contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on future construction. Unions are primarily targeting $350 million of work funded by the proceeds of bond sales authorized by voters in June 2012 through Measure C.

This $350 million (plus state matching grants) is borrowed money that taxpayers will pay back to bond investors, with interest.

Debates over the use of Project Labor Agreements at West Valley-Mission Community College District go back to at least 2005: Here Comes Yet Another Project Labor Agreement on a California Community College District.

To attempt to formulate an economic and intellectual argument for controversial Project Labor Agreements, a union-oriented policy organization based in San José called Working Partnerships USA released a report dated October 8, 2012 called Effect of Project Labor Agreements on Local Business Utilization in Santa Clara County, California.

How credible is the Working Partnerships USA report? The California Construction Compliance Group has just released my critical examination: Sixteen Flaws in the October 2012 Working Partnerships USA Argument for Project Labor Agreements on Community College District Construction in Santa Clara County.

While the researchers apparently collected a great deal of data and the authors addressed some interesting questions, the report in its current form includes logical errors, false assumptions, and broad generalizations. This paper identifies at least 16 fundamental flaws in the report:

  1. The group that produced the report has an overt ideological bias
  2. The group that funded this report uses the report to help advance its own political interests
  3. The report inexplicably excludes construction contracts awarded by the fourth Community College District based in Santa Clara County
  4. The report does not offer its source data for evaluation
  5. The report does not accurately state what it is measuring
  6. The report lacks the “economic” analysis expected of an Economic Policy Report
  7. The report compares two data sets that are rather narrow
  8. The report does not account for variations in sizes and types of contracts
  9. Time periods used for the report are vague, arbitrary, and inconsistent
  10. Key terms in the report are inconsistent and poorly defined
  11. The report defines local in an absurd way
  12. The report shows favoritism for certain geographic regions
  13. The report includes distorted estimates of commute distances
  14. The report fails to recognize that Northern California is a regional construction market
  15. The report is fattened with non-relevant and unproven statements
  16. The report makes uncritical assumptions about the inherent superiority of contracts awarded to local businesses

Here Comes Yet ANOTHER Project Labor Agreement on a California Community College District: West Valley-Mission in Silicon Valley

UPDATE: Here is a report from the Northern California Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) about what happened when the board of the West Valley-Mission Community College District considered a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) at its November 13, 2012 meeting:

November 13 was the last meeting for PLA proponent Trustee Chris Stampolis at the West Valley-Mission Community College District and last opportunity for him to get a Project Labor Agreement placed on the agenda…he was able to get one final agenda item to provide direction on Project Labor Agreements on the November 13, 2012 agenda through PLA proponent and Board President Adrienne Grey. Before a packed crowd of union members touting their praise for the union and how it has provided them a career, Trustees Stampolis and Grey pushed for forward action on PLA negotiations in the district, against the recommendation of Vice Chancellor Maduli for the Board to wait to provide direction on Project Labor Agreements until after the December 11 study session on the pros and cons of PLAs. Vice Chancellor Maduli recommended looking at several delivery options as strategies to improve local hire in the district. A pilot PLA on a less complicated project like the Learning Resource Center at West Valley Mission Campus was one of the strategies mentioned in addition to multi-prime and lease leaseback methodologies. After deliberating back and forth on an original motion by Trustee Lucas to wait until the December 11 meeting where staff will bring back information regarding pros and cons about PLAs and a pilot PLA that was ultimately withdrawn, the final motion was to direct staff to pursue the PLA/PSA with the appropriate entity using their discretion and bring it back at a timely future date no later than March in addition to completing the staff study on the pros and cons of PLAs at the December 11 meeting. Motion passed 4-1 with Trustee Heimlich and Trustee Walsh absent.

President Grey touted the PLA as opportunities to be gained by pursuing a Project Labor Agreement as $8 billion of public and private work is currently being built under a PLA in Santa Clara County [according to Neil Struthers, head of the Santa Clara County Building and Construction Trades Council].

Trustee Heimlich voted against the motion. He noted that state law exempted PLAs from labor and wage monitoring and wanted to know what the public would get for a PLA in exchange for higher costs and more labor law violations.


Note: this article is also posted on www.UnionWatch.org as Advancing the Union Agenda: A More Mundane Silicon Valley Ambition.


Almost all of the community college districts located within 50 miles of San Francisco (the Bay Area Community College Consortium) have succumbed to the union political agenda and require their construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions as a condition of working on taxpayer-funded projects.

(See the current revised list below, which now also indicates the imminent end of fair and open bidding competition at the Ohlone Community College District in Fremont, as reported in my November 8, 2012 article Another Project Labor Agreement in the Works for a California Community College District: Unions Will Control Construction at Ohlone College.)

One of the few holdouts has been the West Valley-Mission Community College District, which includes the cities of Santa Clara, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno. I regret to report that the celebrated (but somewhat exaggerated) free choice, free mind, free market culture of Silicon Valley is about to experience another intrusion of government into commerce, this time for the benefit of unions.

Through the 2000s, politically moderate college board members resisted the pressure to negotiation a Project Labor Agreement. Leading the charge to ram this union deal through the board of trustees was Chris Stampolis, a Democratic Party activist intent on advancing his own political career with the help of powerful San José union officials.

Trouble arrived soon after 60.1% of voters in the West Valley-Mission Community College District voted for Measure H in November 2004, thereby authorizing the college board to borrow $235 million for construction projects by selling bonds. In May 2005, the West Valley-Mission Community College District issued a request for proposals for construction management services that included notice of a possible Project Labor Agreement, prematurely revealing the union plan to get monopoly control of the work.

Opponents of Project Labor Agreements were ready to respond when Neil Struthers, the head of the Santa Clara Building and Construction Trades Council, made a formal presentation during the May 17, 2007 West Valley-Mission Community College District board meeting about a Project Labor Agreement, at that time disguised as a “Construction Career Agreement.”

A majority of the board was either lukewarm or opposed to the plot of union officials and board member Chris Stampolis to give unions control of the work. Risking retaliation from powerful union interests, the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce issued a letter in 2008 opposing the proposed Project Labor Agreement for West Valley-Mission Community College District Project Labor Agreement. The threat faded – for a time.

In the June 2012 elections, 59.9% of voters approved Measure C, which authorized the board of trustees to borrow $350 million for construction by selling bonds. This time the unions and their allies had a more clever plan to get their government-mandated Project Labor Agreement for taxpayer-funded construction.

The same head construction union official made another presentation about Project Labor Agreements, this time disguised as “Promoting Local Hiring for Future Major Building Projects and Partnering to Develop Construction Industry Educational Pathways.” But this time the Project Labor Agreement presentation was scheduled as a “study session” at a May 8, 2012 “special” board meeting of the West Valley-Mission Community College District.

Notice that the board meeting notice that West Valley-Mission Community College District posted on its web site for the May 8, 2012 special meeting does not include any background information about this special agenda item, perhaps because only ONE side was studied during the so-called study session. Also notice that the West Valley-Mission Community College District failed to post the minutes of this May 8, 2012 special meeting on its web site.

Lessons:

(1) Just because a government entity is based in Silicon Valley doesn’t mean it is diligent or committed to transparency by opening its most controversial business to public scrutiny on the web. Union deals are best done when the taxpayers don’t know about it.

(2) Regarding community colleges, is there any other class of local government in California that manages so much money but has so little accountability to the People? Three times I’ve seen a one-sided, Project Labor Agreement presentation from union officials and their attorneys scheduled for a “special” community college board meeting, with the minutes of this “special” meeting somehow slipping through the cracks and not getting posted on the web for public scrutiny, as is done with the minutes of the regular meetings.

There’s a lot of strange antics still going on at West Valley-Mission Community College District board meetings. At the October 2, 2012 meeting, board member Chris Stampolis again called for discussion of a Project Labor Agreement at a future meeting. Then, at the October 14, 2012 meeting, Stampolis demanded that the minutes be changed regarding his comments on the Project Labor Agreement. He wanted the minutes to state his call for discussion at an October meeting, not a future meeting.

Finally, Chris Stampolis is getting his way. At tomorrow night’s meeting (November 13, 2012), the board of the West Valley-Mission Community College District is scheduled to give direction to the college administration about preparations to impose a Project Labor Agreement on the district’s construction contractors. Mr. Stampolis is obviously emboldened by the November 6 exercise of union political might in California and his own victory in the race for board of trustees of the Santa Clara Unified School District (where he’ll likely push for another Project Labor Agreement in that district to cover construction funded by three bond measures.) He wants to get this Project Labor Agreement in place at the West Valley-Mission Community College District before he leaves for new ambitions, and his proposed directive calls for the college administration to provide a final report on Project Labor Agreements at the December 11, 2012 board meeting.


Here’s the current status of Project Labor Agreements for community college districts in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Community College District (CCD) Year as PLA Target Year of PLA Enacted
Peralta CCD (Alameda County) 2004 2004, 2009
Chabot-Las Positas CCD (Alameda County) 2003 2006, 2010
Ohlone CCD (Alameda County) 2002, 2011 Looks like 2012
Contra Costa CCD (Costa Costa County) 2000 2012
College of Marin (Marin County) 2005 2008
Hartnell CCD (Monterey County) 2004 2004; rescinded 2004
Monterey Peninsula College Not Yet Not Yet
Napa Valley College (Napa County) 2004 Not Yet
City College of San Francisco (San Francisco) 2002 2005
San Mateo CCD (San Mateo County) 2002 2002, 2007
Cabrillo College (Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey Counties) 2004 Not Yet
Foothill-DeAnza CCD (Santa Clara County) 2007 2008, 2011
San Jose-Evergreen CCD (Santa Clara County) 2006 2011
West Valley-Mission CCD (Santa Clara County) 2005, 2008, 2012 Looks like 2012
Solano CCD (Solano County) 2003 2004
Santa Rosa Junior College (Sonoma County) 2002, 2005 Not Yet

See my www.UnionWatch.org analysis of why California’s community college districts are inclined to require construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements with unions:  Unions Increase Control of California’s Community College Boards.