The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) held a press conference on February 22 to oppose the rumored plan to require contractors to sign a project labor agreement (PLA) to work on construction of the proposed $700 million San Diego Convention Center Expansion.
Accompanied by more than 50 construction workers, the organization unveiled its “Statement of Principles” outlining six expectations for the project, including having county residents comprise 90% of the workforce, not forcing Merit Shop companies to pay employee benefits into union trust funds instead of their own employee benefit programs, and allowing apprentices from any state-approved training program to get on-the-job training on the convention center expansion project.
Allegedly, there are appointees on the Board of Directors for the San Diego Convention Center Corporation who are intent on negotiating a project labor agreement with construction union officials in order to avoid union “greenmail” and exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that would hold up permits for the project. Environmental permit extortion by construction unions helped to derail a proposed $1.2 billion hotel and convention center proposed by Gaylord Entertainment at the Chula Vista Bayfront in 2007 and 2008.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the press conference (“Contractors Opposed to Union Labor Mandate on Convention Center Expansion“). Union officials and a convention center corporation board member were coy about their plans to negotiate a project labor agreement. Clearly a PLA is a distinct possibility, and business and community leaders who support free enterprise will need to be diligent about exposing secret negotiations at every turn.
Nationwide, construction unions have long targeted lucrative and high-profile convention centers for costly PLAs. A project labor agreement was imposed on the last expansion of the San Diego Convention Center in 1999.