Debate Over School Board Vote On Labor Agreement Continues …

by on January 31, 2009 · 1 comment

in Economy, Education, Labor, Organizing, San Diego

EditorThe debate over the recent vote of the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education on a Project Stabilization Agreement with the local Building Trades continues here.  Pat Flannery – blogger, city gadfly, community activist – has been very critical of the PSA, and we re-post his most recent comments.  The Center for Policy Initiatives speaks up for organized labor, and we re-post their website comments.

The right not to associate – union shop vs. merit shop.

by Pat Flannery / San Diego Today /01/28/09

There is an interesting exchange between Sheila Jackson, president of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) board of education and executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) in the U-T this morning. It heralds a gigantic fight between union and non-union construction interests, not just in the spending of the $2.1 billion Proposition S school bond, but the $1 billion to $2 billion Sunrise Power Link, which the unions have supported.

Both sides have a lot at stake in the School District fight. Whichever side wins will be in the drivers seat during the spending of all the manna from Washington over the next few years. We are entering a new age from which the private sector may never recover. America is in danger of becoming one giant TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority). Yes, that FDR-era government behemoth is still there. It even has its own police force.

It reminds me of Ireland’s Shannon Development, formed 50 years ago to promote Shannon Airport and still there, the de facto government for one fifth of Ireland. It is registered as a private company with minimal reporting duties, every politician’s dream slush fund. Former San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy admired it so much he tried to form a “sister city” with it.

Oh, how these elected officials and union bosses love power. We can only imagine the power lunches between Sheila Jackson, Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans, the SDUSD “Union Three”, with Lorena Gonzalez, Tom Lemmon and Donald Cohen, the “Union Cardinals”.

But what about the other side? There is another side. The unions only represent approximately 15% of San Diego construction workers! Sheila Jackson et al will not get reelected on union votes alone. There are many pickup trucks parked in driveways all around the District waiting for a call from a general contractor with a job contract. Not all jobs are union jobs.

Eric Christen accuses the unions of buying the “Union Three”, as he has dubbed them, for $400,000. The payback being the exclusive right of the “Union Cardinals” to decide who gets into Heaven – i.e. a piece of the $2.1 million bond action. This is hard-ball politics. This is a real prize fight.

What is at stake is how public works, which looks like being the main economic engine for some time, will be manned. We may be entering an era that resembles the 1930’s in more ways than one: we may need to revisit its labor relations text books as well as its economic text books.

But right now it is purely political. It is being “duked” out in the opinion pages of the local media. There is even talk of recalls in the air. $2.1 billion is a prize worth fighting for. It is a “must win” fight for Lemmon, Gonzalez and Cohen but the “Union Three” can hedge their bets. They are already selling their “everyone is welcome to help improve our schools” slogan.

Politicians always follow the votes, irrespective of who paid their election tab. If the School District PLA runs into heavy weather, the “Union Three” will run for cover. A good example is Todd Gloria who abandoned the Our Lady of Peace (OLP) girls High School in its expansion bid before the City Council last Monday. OLP heavily backed his election campaign.


Fight the barrage of lies with facts:
School board vote is good for San Diego

by Center On Policy Initiatives / Jan. 29, 2009

Building industry interest groups are financing a desperate attack on the San Diego school board, trying to block an important opportunity to create middle-class careers for students and the low-income San Diego communities that need them most.

The democratically elected board members of the San Diego Unified School District had the good business sense to vote to negotiate a Project Stabilization Agreement for all construction projects funded with the $2.1 billion from Proposition S.

In the two weeks since that vote, the fog of lies and misinformation has been thick.  Here are the facts:

  • The school district’s agreement will open a path to middle-class careers for high school graduates not heading to college.  Paid apprenticeship programs and pre-apprenticeship school courses will connect today’s students to tomorrow’s green jobs.
  • The agreement is the only legal way the school board can require local hiring, including specifically that workers come from areas where many SDUSD students live. A double win for the local economy.

Why are some contractors opposed to this smart policy?  They want to continue cutting corners to increase their profits, to the detriment of the local economy as well as the schools that need quality, timely construction work.

They have been loose with the facts:

FICTION: Only union contractors will get the projects.
FACT: Bidding on the construction projects will be open to any — repeat any — contractor willing to abide by the standards for quality work, safety, fair pay, health coverage and other work conditions.   Rather than shutting anyone out, the PSA will open the door to more contractors who have been underbid when they behaved responsibly.  Under a similar labor agreement used by the San Diego Water Authority, 70% of the contractors have been nonunion.

FICTION: Nonunion contractors were denied a seat at the negotiating table.
FACT: This is a phony argument because no contractors belong in negotiations between the school district and the labor unions. Union contractors won’t be at the table either.  However, all will have input into what the district brings to the table, and board members are meeting with all interested parties now.

FICTION: Eric Christen is a concerned citizen heading the “Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction”.
FACT: Eric Christen is a vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group of nonunion builders and contractors, and a long-time political operative for right-wing causes.  The misnamed coalition is a front group.

FICTION: “Union bosses” get the taxpayers’ money.
FACT: Money from the school bond will flow back into the pockets of working families in our community, who are also taxpayers and consumers.  The money will do double duty, boosting the local economy while ensuring quality school construction will be done on time and on budget.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

mr fresh February 2, 2009 at 9:03 am

once again, the union-tribune and their union-bustin’ allies have created a disinformation campaign designed to scare citizens and line the pockets of a few wealthy people. as the CPI fact sheet above shows, unions were never directly or primarily issue here. it’s more likely that these “Coalition for Fair Employment” types were hoping to be able to pad their workforce with illegal aliens.
this is yet another good reason to just say no to buying the U-T.


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