In California, a mini-public relations campaign is underway to defend Senate Bill 790, a bill now at Governor Jerry Brown’s desk dealing with “community choice aggregation” for electric consumers. Defenders of the bill are trying to downplay an obscure but controversial unrelated provision attached to the end of the bill that allows public utilities to assess ratepayers with the costs of payments to Labor Management Cooperation Committees as mandated in project labor agreements for utility infrastructure construction.
Here is the controversial language, tacked on to the very end of the 22-page bill:
Nothing in this division prohibits payments pursuant to an agreement authorized by the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. Sec. 151 et seq.), or payments permitted by the federal Labor Management Cooperation Act of 1978 (29 U.S.C. Secs. 173, 175a, and 186). Nothing in this division restricts any use permitted by federal law of money paid pursuant to these acts.
Several newspapers have published editorials urging Governor Brown to veto SB 790 because of the sneaky provision. But other than TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, few news outlets have attempted to dig deep with an investigation into the implications of the language in Senate Bill 790. One exception is a September 8 exposé entitled Legislation Boosts Union Trust Fund by Katy Grimes of CalWatchdog.com. Excerpts from that article appeared in the September 11 San Francisco Examiner: ‘Gut and amend’ bills help fill union coffers.‘
In response, State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) had an opinion piece in the September 16, 2011 San Francisco Examiner (Claims Against CCA Bill Unfounded) claiming that criticism of Senate Bill 790 is based on “falsehoods and innuendo” and a “fanciful theory, a fantasy.” In another opinion piece in the September 21 Oakland Tribune and associated Bay Area News Group newspapers (Bill Was Not Hijacked and Deserves to be Signed), two local elected officials in the San Francisco Bay Area and a lobbyist for the Sierra Club declare that “The Tribune has wrongly charged that SB790 ‘was hijacked’ and that it ‘authorizes payments in PLAs (project labor agreements) covering utility infrastructure projects to slush funds managed by construction union officials.’”
This morning (September 22, 2011), the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction released the most comprehensive analysis yet of “a genuine union conspiracy” involving Senate Bill 790, Project Labor Agreements, and Labor Management Cooperation Committees. Peppered with links to documentary evidence, the “Investigative Report” examines step-by-step how unions exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to browbeat power plant developers into signing a Project Labor Agreement, which requires the developer or its contractors to make payments to trust funds authorized by the federal Labor Management Cooperation Act of 1978, which in turn these union-affiliated trust funds use to finance political activity for unions.
See the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction’s “Investigative Report: A Genuine Union Conspiracy” here.