San Diego - At tonight's San Diego Unified School District Board meeting, SDUSD Board Members will be taking up the issue of placing on the November ballot a $2.6 billion bond measure. In November of 2008 voters approved a $2 billion bond (Prop. S) that the District now says was inadequate to meet its needs. Prop. S was placed under a union agreement known as a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) in 2009 after a contentious fight that divided the community and witnessed hundreds of non-union workers pack Board meetings to oppose the PLA. The San Diego Union Tribune, the region's largest newspaper, wrote five different editorials opposing what they referred to as a measure that "empowers unions, not workers." Despite this opposition a divided School Board, led by Trustees Richard Barrera, Shelia Jackson, and John Lee Evans, voted to approve the PLA. These same Trustees had received more than $400,000 in union contributions in their 2008 School Board races.
Groups opposing this union giveaway, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego, the Associated General Contractors of San Diego, the Western Electrical Contractors Association, among others, opposed the PLA on the the grounds it would not only discriminate against non-union workers, but it would cost taxpayers dearly as well. To date these predictions have been proven true with bidders on PLA-covered projects down 50% versus projects without a PLA. Furthermore, costs have increased 20% on PLA-covered projects. Since the PLA was put into effect further proof that PLAs inflate costs came in the form of a new study released last year by the National University System Institute for Policy Research. This study, the most comprehensive study ever done on PLAs and school construction projects, shows PLAs raise school construction costs 13-15%.
"This study, the most comprehensive ever conducted, showed what we told the Board their PLA would do: increase costs." said Eric Christen, Executive Director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, a group that was formed in 1998 to oppose PLAs. "They had a $2 billion bond approved by voters in 2008 with no hint a PLA would be placed on it. Then they pulled this stunt and reduced the value of their bond by up to $200 million. Now they are coming back to the taxpayers to ask them for more money saying that the last bond wasn't enough. Incredible."
Christen will be informing the Board tonight that because of their support for the Prop. S PLA and because tonight's agenda contains specific language that promises a PLA will be placed on this new bond that his group and others will be opposing this measure.
"School bonds need 55% of the vote to be approved. This is hard enough to achieve in good times but in times like these and with opposition from a proven and effective group like ours it will be next to impossible. Throw in the disrepute our polling shows the public has for this malevolent band of incompetents that run this dysfunctional school district and my guess would be the measure might get 40% of the vote. You would think these people would read the poll results on how San Diegans feel when it comes to PLAs." said Christen.
Since 2010 voters in San Diego County have passed, by wide margins, PLA bans in the City of Chula Vista, the City of Oceanside, and San Diego County. In June the citizens of the City of San Diego voted to ban PLAs by passing Prop. A with a 58%-42% margin.
The Board of Education Meeting will take place tonight, July 24th at 5:00pm at the Eugene Brucker Education Center Auditorium. The address is 4100 Normal Street, San Diego CA 92103.