In no other profession could the leadership of an organization survive throwing away $20 million with nothing to show for it except catastrophic defeats.

Yet this is exactly what local and statewide union bosses have managed to accomplish since 2006 in San Diego, culminating in the embarrassing defeat of David Alvarez two weeks ago in the race for San Diego mayor.

Despite dumping more than $4.2 million into the race and outspending Kevin Faulconer by $1 million, the union candidate lost by more than 5 percent in a city where only 28 percent of voters are Republicans.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 12:40

A further drain on South Bay taxpayers

Shame on the Southwestern College Governing Board for kowtowing to labor and sticking it to taxpayers.

The board Thursday unanimously voted to require a union-friendly project labor agreement (PLA) on future construction projects financed by a 2008 bond measure approved by 71 percent of voters in the Southwestern Community College District. Proposition R gives the district $389 million to spruce up the aging 20,000-student campus, including the construction of at least 13 new buildings. It's been a bumpy road so far, with allegations of bid rigging, contractor suspensions and an investigation by the District Attorney's Office.

PLAs restrict bidding to contractors that use union workers, which tends to drive up the cost. Supporters argue that union workers are more highly skilled and thus work more efficiently, and that having a PLA reduces the likelihood of labor disputes. But Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment, estimates the PLA effectively reduces the value of the $389 million bond issue by about $50 million.

At a cost of $620 million, San Diego's planned Superior Court complex downtown should be the best money can buy. The 22-story high-rise is the most expensive of the 41 courthouse projects included in a $5 billion master plan approved by the Legislature in 2008.

When it opens in 2016, the 704,000-square-foot courthouse will contain 71 courtrooms, plus offices.

But one thing it won't have is an underground tunnel to transport prisoners from the central jail across the street, as originally planned. And a promise to tear down the old courthouse, a drab low-rise taking up three city blocks just off Broadway, also will be broken.

SACRAMENTO — California judicial officials quietly brokered a union-friendly pact to govern construction of a new $586 million courthouse in downtown San Diego, marking the first time the state has turned to a "project-labor agreement" at the onset of building a major court facility.

The deal is between contractor Rudolph and Sletten Inc. and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.

"I requested that the contractor enter into a PLA with the Trades Council to ensure certainty and timeliness as well as reduce variables in a construction project of this magnitude," state courts director Steven Jahr wrote in an email obtained by U-T Watchdog. "This will be the first state courthouse project on which a PLA is signed."

The San Diego City Attorney's Office has released a project labor agreement tied to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, after a local coalition supporting nonunion contractors filed a lawsuit to make details public.

Eric Christen, a spokesman for the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, said the group is reviewing the document to determine whether it violates terms of a city proposition passed last year, banning the city from requiring project labor agreements in public projects.

San Diego officials have said the city did not require and was not involved in negotiations related to the pact reached in November between the convention center project's general contractor, a joint venture of Clark Construction and Hunt Construction, and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO, which includes labor unions.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013 14:09

Convention center labor pact made public

Non-union workers last year staged a protest over a labor pact governing hiring for convention center expansion project. — Lori Weisberg

A labor-friendly pact governing hiring for the planned expansion of the San Diego convention center was released on Tuesday by the City Attorney's office, a day after critics of the agreement sued the city demanding that it be made public.

The agreement, which was negotiated last year between local labor unions and the project contractor, Clark/Hunt, allows for the hiring of both union and non-union workers but guarantees union-level wages and benefits for all those working on the $550 million project.

For five months, the City of San Diego refused to give the public a Project Labor Agreement negotiated for its planned $520 million convention center expansion. This union agreement was reportedly the result of a backroom deal involving top union leaders, but multiple requests for it under the authority of the California Public Records Act failed to dislodge it.

But today (April 23, 2013), the city provided the labor agreement to the public, less than 24 hours after a construction organization filed a lawsuit to get it. Here are some of the twists and turns of this saga, which serves as an excellent case study in how unions manipulate public policy at the state and local level in California.

In May 2012, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council submitted a massive objection under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Four months later, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council submitted another massive CEQA objection against the revised and final Environmental Impact Report, this time choosing the drama of presenting it during a packed meeting at which San Diego port commissioners were scheduled to approve the project. (Attorneys for unions routinely engage in last-minute CEQA “document dumps” at California public meetings in order to intimidate public officials and developers into surrendering to union economic demands.)

A group of non-union contractors sued the city on Monday, demanding release of a labor-friendly pact governing hiring for the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

The decision to sue follows repeated requests from the coalition, beginning in January, that the city release the document, which the contractors group believes violates a city proposition barring San Diego from requiring so-called project labor agreements on city construction projects.

"We're going to get that union project labor agreement, expose it to the public, and make every schemer involved with this union sweetheart deal accountable for breaking the law," said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

SAN DIEGO - A group representing nonunion construction firms announced Thursday it will sue the city of San Diego in order to publicly unveil terms of a deal with labor on the convention center expansion project.

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction says the city and project contractor Clark Construction have rebuffed efforts to release details of the agreement.

"We're going to get that union Project Labor Agreement, expose it to the public, and make every schemer involved with this union sweetheart deal accountable for breaking the law," said Eric Christen, the executive director of the coalition.

Friday, 22 March 2013 15:26

Lawsuits could derail high-speed rail

No sooner had I filed my column last week on efforts led by Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, to derail California's high-speed rail project than it was overtaken by fast-moving events.

I had reported that State Auditor Elaine Howle had agreed to initiate a thorough review of the project's troubled "initial segment" – the route-to-nowhere linking Madera and Fresno in the Central Valley.

But later that week, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in Sacramento killed the audit by an 8-3 party line vote, just as California Democrats had rejected a separate audit request last August. Apparently, HSR enthusiasts like Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, consider the very serious concerns Harkey and company have raised about oversight and safety, well, not so serious.

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