Strong Opposition Quickly Emerges to Union-Backed California Bills Suppressing Local Project Labor Agreement Bans

1 September 9, 2011  School Construction, State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

California State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez took a bill about tuberculosis screening (Senate Bill 922) on the afternoon of Friday, September 2 and turned it into a bill that nullifies current and future Project Labor Agreement bans at local governments and cuts off state funds for charter cities that ban Project Labor Agreements.

Despite the gutting and amending of this bill immediately before Labor Day weekend, numerous construction trade associations, business groups, taxpayer organizations, local government associations, and local government officials went on record in opposition to the bill, starting with a hastily-scheduled Assembly Business and Professions Committee hearing on Tuesday, September 6.

State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield), who plans to run for Congress, appeared before the committee to cheerlead for this sloppy last-minute creation of the State Building and Construction Trades Council and its affiliate construction unions. Senate Bill 922 passed this committee and then passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on September 7 on party-line votes. (All Democrats supported the bill; all Republicans opposed it).

Meanwhile, faxes began pouring into legislators’ offices from contractors, business owners, and ordinary California taxpayers objecting to Senate Bill 922 and its union-backed partners, Assembly Bill 436 (gutted and amended on Wednesday, August 30) and Senate Bill 790.

Assembly Bill 436 requires certain local governments to pay fees to the state for labor compliance, unless these governments require their construction contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements, in which case they don’t have to pay the fees to the state. The state leaves those contractors (and the unions) to do whatever they do when no one with official authority is watching. It passed on the Senate floor on a party-line vote (Democrats in support, Republicans opposed) on September 7.

Senate Bill 790 includes an unrelated tack-on provision that allows utilities to pass through to ratepayers the costs of mandatory payments in Project Labor Agreements to Labor-Management Cooperative Committees, mysterious and unaccountable slush funds authorized by an obscure federal law from 1978. The bill (about community choice aggregation programs for electric consumers) was uncontroversial and headed toward unanimous approval until this provision (inserted at the request of union lobbyists) tainted the bill. It passed the Assembly floor on September 8, after the presiding chairman of the Assembly denied the request of Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) to show physical evidence of such payments and then cut off her oral statement. See the video here: Assemblywoman Grove tries to discuss a controversial provision of SB 790 and is shut down by opposing leadership before being able to speak.

Then the news media became aware of these bills. Here are articles and editorials about at least one of these bills (and in some cases, all three bills):

1. Editorial: Gut-and-amend bill needs to be stoppedSacramento Bee – September 7, 2011

2. Legislature moves to overturn bans on local labor friendly agreementsSan Diego Union-Tribune – September 7, 2011

3. Kevin Dayton: Construction Unions Set Up State Legislature to Crush Fair and Open Competition Policies at Local Governments – (op-ed) – September 7, 2011

4. Union BiasRiverside Press-Enterprise (editorial) – September 8, 2011

5. Legislature’s Rhetoric on Jobs is EmptySan Diego Union-Tribune (editorial) – September 8, 2011

6. Labor bills introduced as session nears endOrange County Register (editorial) – September 8, 2011

7. Banning Project Labor Agreement Bans in California – – September 7, 2011

8. Opinion: SB 922 Undermines Basis of State/Local Government Relationship – – September 8, 2011

9. Unions attempt to push through Senate Bills by going to puppet legislatorsSan Diego Daily Transcript (op-ed) – September 6, 2011

10. Dan Walters: Fun, games mark California Legislature’s final weekSacramento Bee (columnist, run in numerous state newspapers) – September 8, 2011

11. Legislation Boosts Union Trust Fund – – September 8, 2011

12. Dan Walters: New legislative bills grow in the darkSacramento Bee (columnist, run in numerous state newspapers) – September 9, 2011

13. Union ‘Gut and Amend’ Bills Slice Open – September 9, 2011

14. A Bad Bill Sneaks through LegislatureModesto Bee (editorial) – September 8, 2011

15. Bill OK’d that could expedite stadium (also reports on SB 922 moving through legislature) – San Diego Union-Tribune – September 10, 2011

 16. Senate approve bill boosting NFL stadium in L.A. (also reports on SB 922 moving through legislature)  – Orange County Register – September 10, 2011

UPDATE: All three bills passed the California legislature and wait for Gov. Brown’s approval.

Fax Gov. Brown TODAY and urge him to VETO all three bills.

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