That was fun.
Monday for us at CFEC began with me getting into my car in Grass Valley (think Tahoe) and proceeding to drive 600 miles to beautiful Santa Barbara to fight a PLA on that County's $96 million North County Jail Expansion Project. At 9am the next morning the Santa Barbara County Supervisors discussed the issue and I was there with John Loudon of the California Construction Compliance Group to defend the right of workers, apprentices, and taxpayers in front of a room full of hostile union bosses who were as friendly as they were coherent. The meeting lasted 4 hours and ended with the main PLA proponent on the board promising me that any PLA that was agreed to would not force workers to pay into union health, welfare, and pension plans. Progress.
A few hours later, up in the City of Fairfield, that city council took up the issue of a PLA on their new $80 million train station. Representing CFEC was Kevin Dayton. Kevin was joined by other supporters of fair and open competition who did an excellent job of spelling out exactly why PLAs were not in the best interests of taxpayers and workers. Unfortunately this council, which had never adopted a PLA previously thanks to our efforts and despite union attempts, showed how true the axiom is that says politics is about relationships. Unions have spent years getting to know and elect this current council and the final vote reflected this reality with all 5 council members agreeing to begin negotiations with local unions.
At 6:30am that same day CFEC's Alicia Pearlman and Nicole Ganz left San Diego via the Amtrak to join me in Santa Barbara for our event that night where we strategized with local contractors about how to best defeat the County's PLA. We had a wonderful discussion about the issue of PLAs and how to fight them. We agreed to meet again but next time make sure that we had more contractors present.
The next morning we headed down to San Diego stopping on the way at the Oxnard School District offices to meet with staff about a PLA that had just popped up there. Union bosses want to do to the Oxnard School District what they did to Oxnard Union High School District apparently and see to it that their $90 million construction bond is worth 30% less. I was pleased to learn that I will be giving a presentation to the OSD Board of Trustees about the issue of PLAs at an upcoming board meeting.
We then continued our trip down the coast, a trip that was interrupted when I received a call from the Cerritos Community College District informing me that at 6:30pm that night unions would be giving a presentation on the benefits of PLAs. Why? The college in 2012 passed a construction bond worth $350 million, and unions want it all for themselves. The timing was good seeing how I just happened to be driving by the college at that moment. I adjusted my schedule and decided it was a good night to attend a college board meeting.
The skunk at the picnic.
Then it was my turn.
Trying to persuade using reason and motivate using emotion I was given more than 6 minutes to explain exactly why a PLA would be terrible for the college, assuming of course it didn't want to emulate a dysfunctional entity like the Los Angeles Unified School District. I hit every key point and then formally asked to be given a chance to officially present our side at an upcoming board meeting, which the board agreed to!
Needless to say the walk back to my seat (now occupied by one pissed off union member) was less than comfortable. I'm pretty sure I heard words and phrases that would make a drunken sailor blush. But the key I learned long ago is to not make eye contact and just keep walking. Done.
I was followed back to my car after the board meeting by a group of friendly union members who appeared to want to give me directions home. I thanked them for the great night and proceeded to drive another 100 miles back down to San Diego arriving at 11:30pm exhausted.
1100 miles in 72 hours. That I can handle. 150 pro-PLA union members to two of us. That I can handle. The name calling and incoherent rage. That I can handle. But what makes it tough is having to wonder if the lack of contractor support both physically and financially is a sign that, in these areas at least, I'm just wasting my time.
I know you are busy running a business and taking care of your family. Me too. I know you don't like to go to meetings and get yelled at, however incoherently. Me too. But I do it because I feel compelled to protect your right to work and because it's my job. I've been doing this for 15 years and we are good at what we do. But we need your support.
Knowing there is the financial backing there to do what needs to be done makes attending these meetings easier. So I'm asking right now if I can count on you?
You can support CFEC in one of three ways:
On Thursday I left my office in San Diego after I finished this email and jumped in the car to drive 550 miles back home to Northern California. It was a long drive but one that will gave me a chance to decompress and strategize about how to fight these 4 PLAs, PLAs totaling $500+ million in work(!), so that you have a chance to bid them. Then there are the other 50 or so PLAs CFEC is also currently monitoring. I would appreciate you taking time today to consider helping us help you. That would make my upcoming trips just that much easier and make me feel like these past few days were worth all the effort.