Tag Archive for www.UnionWatch.org

Nine Fall 2015 Commentaries on California School and College Bond Measures

Abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): 25 Fake Groups

My July 31, 2015 article in www.UnionWatch.org lists 25 alleged community-based grassroots environmental organizations that in actuality are front groups for labor unions. There are surely more fake groups not yet identified.

These organizations object to environmental reviews of proposed projects until the project owners agree to sign a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions to bind all construction contractors and their building trades employees. This abuse of environmental laws is called “greenmail” and has been going on in California since the late 1980s.

Labor unions are a prominent opponent of legislative proposals to change the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to end exploitation of this law to achieve economic objectives unrelated to environmental protection. CEQA is a labor law, used to organize workers into union representation when the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) doesn’t provide enough firepower.

Read the article California Unions Masquerade as Community-Based Environmental Groups – www.UnionWatch.org – July 31, 2015


Union Abuse of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Exposed in Petaluma

In my June 24, 2014 article in UnionWatch.org entitled Union Abuse of California Environmental Laws Goes On, Unabated, I report on my exposure of construction union “greenmail” against the Basin Street Properties Riverfront Mixed-Use Project to the Petaluma Planning Commission. As usual, getting a Project Labor Agreement on construction is apparently the purpose of the relentless union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the development.

The Planning Commission approved the project on a 5-0 vote. It now goes to the Petaluma City Council, where unions will likely continue to threaten the developer with CEQA complaints.

Here are the four sets of objections so far:

Union Request for Extension of Public Comment Period for Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration – June 26, 2013

Union Objections to Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration – July 25, 2013

Union Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report – February 6, 2014

Union Objections to Final Environmental Impact Report – June 24, 2014

Studies About Impact of Prevailing Wage Laws on San Francisco Bay Area Cities Are Not Trustworthy

Union officials are livid about the continuing defiance of California’s charter cities. For example, the City of Palo Alto continues after 33 years to exercise its right under the California Constitution to maintain its own policy concerning government-mandated wage rates on municipal construction contracts and private projects receiving city financial assistance.

Intellectuals have recently intervened with scholarship meant to educate the unlearned in Palo Alto about the need to submit to the authority of the wise and venerable California state legislature. But don’t be fooled: just because people with higher degrees are churning out studies doesn’t mean these studies are reliable.

In April 2011, the union-oriented think tank Working Partnerships USA published an “Economic Policy Brief” entitled Economic, Fiscal and Social Impacts of Prevailing Wage in San Jose, California.

In response to that study, I had my own analysis published in August 2013:

Report Defending State-Mandated Construction Wage Rates (“Prevailing Wage”) As Beneficial to Taxpayers Not a Credible Tool For Decision Makers

In October 2012, the union-oriented academic journal Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society published an article entitled The Effect of Prevailing Wage Regulations on Contractor Bid Participation and Behavior: A Comparison of Palo Alto, California with Four Nearby Prevailing Wage Municipalities.

In response to that study, I had my own analysis published in April 2014:

University of Utah Study on Government-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Policies in Five California Cities: Not a Reliable Tool for Policymakers

I write about my analysis of the University of Utah study in an April 22, 2014 article in www.UnionWatch.orgJournal Article on Prevailing Wage Debunked, But Only Outside Academia

Unions and the Sacramento Kings Arena: The Three-Part Series in www.UnionWatch.org

A new “Entertainment and Sports Center” planned for downtown Sacramento is intended to keep the Kings professional basketball team from moving to another city. A non-binding term sheet approved by the Sacramento City Council on March 26, 2013 indicated a $447 million cost for construction of the arena, to be supplemented by a $258 million public subsidy funded primarily by a city arrangement involving parking revenue.

This project will be a financial bonanza (as well as a public relations triumph) for unions, union-affiliated fringe benefit trust funds, and labor-management cooperation committees. My three-part series in www.UnionWatch.org entitled “How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento” provides the best public explanation available about how unions have schemed and will likely scheme to gain control of as many jobs as possible through construction and operation of the arena and surrounding development.

  • Part One explains the background of how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena itself.
  • Part Two explains the union plot to monopolize the service jobs at the arena.
  • Part Three explains how unions may attempt to win control of the construction and permanent jobs at the ancillary development around the arena.

In addition, my December 16, 2013 article in www.FlashReport.org entitled Regional Sports and Entertainment Facilities in the Urban Core Attract Costly Political Meddling: Sacramento Kings as a Case Study provides a broader perspective on the ideological agenda grafted onto this new sports and entertainment facility:

…the arena is entangled in idealistic schemes that impose significant financial and logistical costs. Progressive community activists recognize the potential of the downtown arena as a social engineering project. They can get away with using the arena as a vehicle to change the world because so many ordinary people and influential business and community leaders seem to want it at any cost…[business leaders] have to align themselves with leftist political leaders and organizations to secure the Kings arena in a downtown location.

Of course, unions will transfer some money collected through their representation of workers at the downtown arena district to their various in-house political operations and to the Democratic Party in the Sacramento region. This money may hasten and solidify the ongoing transition of Congressional seats, state legislative seats, and local government seats in the Sacramento suburbs from Republican to Democrat control.

In the long term, elected officials will need to figure out how to pay off the bond debt for the Entertainment and Sports Center (and the remaining debt from what is now Sleep Train Arena) if revenue projections for parking aren’t realized by the City of Sacramento. Political pressure will be on the suburbs to share in this cost:

Be vigilant for an ambitious politician from the City of Sacramento to propose some sort regional tax or fee system, perhaps implemented through the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), the regional metropolitan planning organization.

My Comprehensive Report on Union Interference with Proposed Sacramento Kings Arena: Part 1 – the Arena Project Labor Agreement

I’ve written several posts on www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com about the efforts of trade unions over the past ten years to win monopoly control of construction for a proposed Sacramento “entertainment and sports center” and future development around it. See New Sacramento Kings Arena for a compilation of these articles.

I’m summarizing the union activities and the response of the Merit Shop in a two-part series in www.UnionWatch.org. Part One of How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento describes circumstances related to the planning and execution of a Project Labor Agreement that construction companies would sign with unions as a condition of working on construction of the arena itself.

Part Two will explain the union plot to monopolize the service jobs at the arena and the construction and permanent jobs at the ancillary development around the arena.

Unions Fail to Retain San Diego Mayor’s Office Despite Advantages – My www.UnionWatch.org Article Compiles Union Campaign Spending

Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer handily defeated Democrat City Councilman David Alvarez with 54.4% of the vote in a February 11, 2014 special election runoff for Mayor of San Diego. My February 14, 2014 www.UnionWatch.org article Unions Fail to Retain San Diego Mayor’s Office Despite Advantages builds on commentary since the election about how unions played a role in the defeat of Alvarez despite spending so much money.

It includes a compilation of campaign expenditures ranked by amount of money spent.

Another Tax Reform Group Backed by Unions: Don’t Be Fooled

Perhaps the description “venerable” would be appropriate for a group called the California Tax Reform Association, which has been involved for almost 40 years in various campaigns to increase income taxes on “the rich” and corporate entities. (See Coalition Seeks to Eliminate Tax Breaks for Rich, CorporationsLos Angeles Times – November 21, 1991.) In recent years, the California Tax Reform Association made a public appearance when its executive director signed a support argument for Proposition 24, an unsuccessful ballot measure in November 2010 to “close corporate loopholes.”

On January 29, 2014, the Los Angeles Times ran a column by George Skelton (Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop 13) about proposed changes to Proposition 13 that would result in higher tax assessments against commercial property owners. It cited the executive director of the California Tax Reform Association, but did not indicate the agenda or backers of this organization for readers.

George Skelton began writing for the Los Angeles Times in 1974 and the California Tax Reform Association was founded in 1976, so perhaps it was assumed that everyone knew about this group and its historical influence. One might feel a little melancholy to see how the California Tax Reform Association has not kept up with changing times: it hasn’t posted on its web site since May 2012 and it does not appear to use social media.

My article Taxpayer Group Pushing to Gut California’s Prop. 13 is Union Front Group, posted on February 4, 2013 in www.UnionWatch.org, reveals the funding sources and leadership of this organization. It’s a front for public employee unions.

Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed Rail – My Article in www.UnionWatch.org

Today (January 22, 2014) California Governor Jerry Brown made his annual State of the State speech. Last year, he concluded his prepared speech with remarks about California High-Speed Rail:

Last year, you authorized another big project: High Speed Rail. Yes, it is bold but so is everything else about California.

Electrified trains are part of the future. China already has 5000 miles of high speed rail and intends to double that. Spain has 1600 miles and is building more. More than a dozen other countries have their own successful high speed rail systems. Even Morocco is building one.

The first phase will get us from Madera to Bakersfield. Then we will take it through the Tehachapi Mountains to Palmdale, constructing 30 miles of tunnels and bridges. The first rail line through those mountains was built in 1874 and its top speed over the crest is still 24 miles an hour. Then we will build another 33 miles of tunnels and bridges before we get the train to its destination at Union Station in the heart of Los Angeles.

It has taken great perseverance to get us this far. I signed the original high speed rail Authority in 1982 – over 30 years ago. In 2013, we will finally break ground and start construction.

He even added some extemporaneous remarks, comparing the quest for California High-Speed Rail to “The Little Engine That Could.”

In 2014, his prepared speech (and his actual remarks) barely mentioned it. For good reason: the project is a boondoggle. (See www.CaliforniaHighSpeedRailScam.com.)

My January 21, 2014 www.UnionWatch.org article “Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed Rail” list the dwindling number of supporters:

…who would still be eager to proceed with this project besides Governor Jerry Brown, the corporations seeking contracts, and a scattering of citizens committed to various leftist causes related to urban planning and environmentalism? Unions.

In a backroom deal, without any public deliberation or vote, the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority negotiated and executed a Project Labor Agreement (called a “Community Benefit Agreement”) with the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. This agreement gives unions a monopoly on construction trade work and certain construction-related professional services…

When the groundbreaking ceremony occurs for California High-Speed Rail, perhaps in an abandoned Madera County cornfield seized through eminent domain by the Authority, expect thousands of construction union workers to be bused in to block and neutralize any protesters. Governor Brown cannot suffer any more embarrassment over this boondoggle and debacle.

For reasons listed in “Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed Rail,” there may never be a groundbreaking.

2013 Year in Review – Timeline of Political Activity at State & Local Level for California Public Works Construction

My January 7, 2014 article “2013: A Dismal Year for Freedom in California Public Works Construction” in www.UnionWatch.org includes a side-by-side chronological timeline of Accomplishments for Advocates of Economic and Personal Freedom and Accomplishments for Construction Trade Unions. It also has an introduction explaining why construction unions had a politically successful year in California in 2013.

I focus the timeline on Project Labor Agreements and government-mandated prevailing wage. There are a few items related to apprenticeship, contractor pre-qualification, and local elections.