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Should County Ban Project Labor Agreements?


Aired 10/14/10

What are the arguments for and against Proposition A? We'll talk to representatives on both sides of the debate over the proposed San Diego County charter amendment to prohibit the use of project labor agreements on County construction projects, except where required by state or federal law.

What are the arguments for and against Proposition A? We'll talk to representatives on both sides of the debate over the proposed San Diego County charter amendment to prohibit the use of project labor agreements on County construction projects, except where required by state or federal law.


Eric Christen, representing the Yes on A campaign, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

Lorena Gonzalez, representing the No on A campaign, secretary-treasurer and CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to these days on KPBS. Election coverage continues on KPBS this morning with the debate over San Diego County's Proposition A. Prop A asks voters if the San Diego County charter should be amended to prohibit the County from requiring the use of project labor agreements on county construction projects except were required by state or federal law. A project labor agreement is a collective bargaining agreement negotiated with unions at the start of the project that sets out wages, benefits and hiring conditions for a specific construction project in exchange for labor peace, and timely completion of public projects. San Diego county already has a county ordinance that bans project labor agreements if it the measure is approved by voters that ban will become a part of the county charter. I'd like to introduce my guests, taking opposite sides of the Proposition A debate. Eric Christen is representing the “Yes on A” campaign. He is executive director of the coalition for fair employment in construction. And Eric, welcome to these days.

ERIC CHRISTEN: Maureen, thank you for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Lorena Gonzalez is representing the “No on A” campaign. She's secretary treasurer and CEO of the San Diego and Imperial County’s Labor Council AFL-CIL. Lorena, good morning.

LORENA GONZALEZ: Good morning, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Eric. Let me start with you if I may. And just give us the argument, why do you support Prop. A.

ERIC CHRISTEN: Well, thank you for having us today and I'd like to really thank Lorena for being here today. I've been doing this for 12 years and this is actually the first time in 12 years that someone has actually come to debate PLAs against me. Usually they don't show up and that's something I think says a lot both for the PLA proponents arguments as well as how difficult it is to argue for what we view as PLAs being a discriminatory and controversial agreements that they are and considering how badly after spending $700,000 that Lorena and local unions were getting beat down in Chula Vista and Oceanside with those cities passing— by overwhelming margins—open competition ordinances similar to what the voters in the county of San Diego will be voting on. You know I'd like to give a shout out for Lorraine being here today. In a nutshell, project labor agreements as you indicated, you put forward, I think with the union's best arguments: why are they necessary for labor peace, quote unquote, and for timely completion of projects? Well, as for labor of peace, I’m not sure what that means as it sounds more like an implicit threat that if you don't give us a PLA there will be trouble. But on the timely completion of projects I think it's imperative to talk about the project that was just mentioned in your lead-in story, the $85 million medical examine forensic building that the county just built. Which actually, without a PLA-- with union or non-union workers working side by side-- came in $12 million under budget and on time. And what we see PLAs is being are solutions in search of a problem. Every day, the workers in San Diego and the across the state and the country they get up on the daily basis union and non-union alike and go to work side by side on projects all over the place. Project labor agreements force a non-union side of the equation to have to pay the union dues, pay the union health pension plans, and allow for only union apprentices. This is something that is unacceptable, discriminatory and wasteful to taxpayer dollars so we've decided to practically go out to the people and push open competition ordinances, which allow for workers to work where they want to work. Union or not -- union or non-union. Save taxpayer dollars by allowing for more bidders on projects, as we have seen with the recent county building, and simply not discriminating against people based on their union affiliations so that's what they are in our mind.



MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let -- Lorena. Let me give you the time to talk about your opposition to Prop. A.

LORENA GONZALEZ: Well there are two things here. There's Prop. A of which I could talk about and then there's also PLAs. First I’ll take on PLAs because Eric as usual, he's been identified of course in voices of San Diego as a huckster propaganda when it comes to project labor agreements and that's because he continues to misrepresent what they're about. The best argument for Prop-- for project labor agreement and those which are most important for workers and labor workers, it is the only legal way to require local hire. It is the only way to ensure that when we're putting taxpayer dollar into a project, that the people being hired are from San Diego County. I'm sorry, I'm a taxpayer. I don't want my money going to workers who are coming here from Nevada and Arizona and Mexico and bringing that money back home and not spending it in our local economy. The other thing it does is it requires healthcare to be paid for the worker. Now, the reason this is important is when we don't require contractors to provide healthcare, we the taxpayers have to subsidize that healthcare through emergency room care, uhmm, through other government-funded programs. These are important factors in the entire looking at why project labor agreements are important. Now a project labor agreement is just a pre-hire agreement that sets out the rules for a construction project. The reason that the contractor’s groups, that paid for Eric's salary and the contractor groups that really are the mother's milk of the Republican party in San Diego don't like these is because they don't like rules. The person who put this on the ballot, Bill Horn-- we already know when it comes to construction-- he doesn't really value permits or rules. He got fined thousands of dollars for adding on to his own. We know how he feels about workers. He's been caught, of course, having immigrant farm hands on his property without bathrooms-- without safe working conditions. I think it's clear that the motivation behind the folks who are putting this out there, are not about fair and open competition. Taft heartily says, Section 8-A3 says you cannot discriminate between union and non-union work on a public project. So this has nothing to do with whether or not union and non-union workers can work side by side. It's about what's provided for the public and for those workers on any job.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Lorena. Let me ask you to respond to what Eric said about debating, having a person here to debate about project labor agreement. Is that something that's been a problem? Have you not wanted to do this?

LORENA GONZALEZ: I think that's ridiculous. I actually have debated PLAs; anyone who has asked me to come in to debate. In fact it's the associated builders and contractors who-- every time my name comes up-- quits coming to debate. And I think originally, there were 2 or 3 people booked for this show and it wasn't until Eric, that they finally agreed to come on and debate me about this, so…

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, Eric let me ask you this about some of the things that Lorena brought up, and that is hiring local workers. What's wrong with requiring public projects to hire workers in the locality where the project is being built.

ERIC CHRISTEN: We think that's one reason that the open competition ordinance is so important because as we've seen, San Diego Unified where they decided to place a project labor agreement on all the proposition, construction on work there is that it excludes the vast majority of the local industry which happens to be non-union, and so our ordinances are the way to guarantee that local workers will in fact get these jobs. When you have over 90 percent of the local construction work force non-union-- we believe that both union, non-union workers should be allowed to work on projects by putting the PLA into place. Which implicitly discriminates against the non-union side of the equation; you're actually making it harder for the local work force— again — about 90 percent of whom wake up on a daily basis for environment. So the local hire issue is important, but that's already happening. Just across the street I noticed-- walking in-- you have daily construction building a project. I noticed both union and non-union people working on that project. I would guarantee you that if we're union, when Lorena and I want to cross the street we’d find that probably 90 or 95 percent of those workers are in fact local. That has not been a problem in the city and in the region, and in fact the city actually had a couple of surveys where they've found that on their projects-- the numbers were over 90 percent-- the project the city's been local hire without the PLA, so it's a distraction. I understand it’s their strongest argument, but it's really rhetoric-- rhetoric masking a solution to a non-existent problem.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Lorena, do you have any -- can you point to any project where, outside out of state workers, non-local workers have been brought in to complete a public project?

LORENA GONZALEZ: We see it all the time. On any -- any given day, especially on Fridays. Cars and constructions trucks going back to Arizona. And you see it at any local hotel. People piling in hotel rooms in order to come here and take our work. Eric's just making up numbers. He's now throwing out a 90 percent number. A few months ago, it was at 85 percent. It's completely fabricated. And as a result of these numbers, that's why the Voice of San Diego has called him a huckster-propagandist when it comes to PLA arguments. He says 90 percent of construction industry is non-union in San Diego. Now, let's think about this a little bit. He may be counting the guys who, unfortunately, have to stand outside Home Depot to look for work. Those are folks who we're not talking about would be qualified to be working, necessarily, on a big construction project. When you take commercial construction in San Diego-- and I'm not talking about just the construction industry, as far as the companies-- but the actual workers. Because there are a lot of small, of course mop and pop come-fix-your-bathroom companies out there. But we're talking about companies who are bound to large construction projects and the workers who actually work for those companies. That's what we care about. Over 50 percent of large construction projects are being done by union construction workers who are local. And he knows that. In fact it's around closer to 60 or 70 percent. So we're not talking about home builders. We're not talking about people who come and help you contract in your house. We're not talking about the folks who unfortunately have to stand outside home depot to try to look for work. We're talking about a skilled work force. There is no way that only ten percent of that [is] in San Diego County's union and he knows that's true. He just likes to make up numbers. The city of San Diego did a survey only on a very small portion of the work that they could actually survey because they only had numbers, and certified pay roll from prevailing wage jobs. San Diego's a charter city so most of the jobs are not prevailing wage. And what they found is actually with prevailing wage-- when they attached it to it-- it did drive up the number of local numbers of workers working on a project. That's great. That's whey we advocate for strengthening prevailing wage laws because it becomes less of an incentive to bring folks in from outside where they have to pay good local wages. But of course Eric in his group fights prevailing wage jobs. So everything we do to try to encourage the use of local workers to pay good wages, so the taxpayers are not subsidizing the construction industry, and to ensure that contractors have certain rules in place-- every single one of those provisions is what Eric's group fights and the contractors fight.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a question, Eric. That is a sort of a foundational question about the idea of project labor agreements.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: When there is a public entity, like a county is actually having a construction project done, it's not the same as a business where they just look for a very lowest cost that they could possibly have. They have a lot of things they have to consider, discrimination policies. And they also have to take into -- wouldn't you agree they also have to take into account the idea, you know, the people who are working on the project and with whether or not they are making a living wage. What -- how do you respond to that as an argument for project labor agreements and against Prop. A?

ERIC CHRISTEN: Yeah. The prevailing wage aspect of this has nothing to do with it. Our group fights project labor agreement. Prevailing wage-- little Davis Bacon here at the state level, Davis Bacon at the national level-- all that is beside the point. Because on these public works projects on the county level, it’s prevailing wage as it is. So that's beside the point. What the county is doing by putting this forward in what we saw voters agreeing to Chula Vista, Oceanside, recently up in Plaster County, Orange County, all over the state-- and it's going to increase all over the state—as we push these initiatives is that they're actually doing what you just said. It is making sure the discrimination is codified out of their charters and out of the way by placing open fair competition and the charters in the way they do business. Everybody sees what PLAs are. They are discrimination-masking the solution to the problem. And I think that's why you have such a hard time. And I give Lorena credit for actually again showing up and debating these things because it's very difficult to do. You know they spends over $700,000 on the civic [inaudible] and lost it over 11 points in a democrat majority city, so it's difficult to argue that discrimination is something bad. And I think you've got a sense of her view, the non-union side of the industry based on, you know, and also, her view of immigrants who happened to come from Mexico. While that's troubling and it's a bit sad, the reality is prevailing wage who people come from Mexico is all beside the point. We're talk about people that do business in California in the City and County of San Diego who want to be able to work locally on a job. Do so in a way where it's fair, no one coerces on having to join the union and at the end of the day, provide the taxpayers with the best quality, value, and the best price always. And so your question, going back to your specific question don't county [inaudible] have something the lowest bidder will be responsible to? They absolutely do and that's why the cost, the state, they're banning project labor. Because they do everything that you said they need to be protecting themselves from. From not discriminating against people and from getting all qualified bidders for the work when you have the PLAs that keeps very qualifying, very capable, very large, very quality contractors from not [inaudible] on project.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have to take a break. Lorena, I know that you want to respond. We'll go back to you first as soon as we come back. Lorena Gonzalez is here. She's representing the No on Prop. A campaign. She is the CEO of the San Diego and Imperial's county labor county. Eric Christian is representing the yes on A campaign. He's Executive Director for the coalition for fair employment in construction. You're listening to these days on KPBS.


 I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Eric Christian, he's representing the Yes on Prop. A campaign. And Lorena Gonzalez is representing the No on Prop. A campaign. We're talking about Proposition A which is a county-wide proposition in San Diego. It would amend San Diego's county charter to prohibit the use of, the requiring the use of project labor agreements on county construction. And Lorena, I asked Eric a question about whether or not public governments have larger responsibility when it comes to making -- who they hire for public projects-- and I wanted to give you a chance to respond.

LORENA GONZALEZ: Thank you Maureen, and I do. You know it's amazing that he -- that Eric is amazing that people won't come to thank him. I think today really shows why. It's because he twists people's words and lies blatantly and it makes it very hard to have a high level debate with somebody who's willing to do that. The bottom line is this. Obviously my work on immigration and reform and immigrants stands on its own. But we still are on publicly funded projects that should be hiring people who lived in the county of San Diego who are going to stay in the county of San Diego after they complete their job. Not go back to a different state. Not go back to a different country. And that way, the taxpayer dollars that are used-- trickle through the contractor and pay the worker-- can be recycled into our community. That's what I care about. I don't care who's working on that project. I don't care if they're an immigrant or not an immigrant. I care that they come from San Diego, and that they can legally work on that project. So you know let's be very clear. We're talking about Proposition A. The reason it's so hard to have this discussion with [inaudible] and the reason -- Eric's right, we've lost this argument is because the contractors are willing to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars, more money than we have into these lies about the need for this. First of all, the county already had an ordinance that prohibited project labor agreements. For the hundred years that the labor counsel's been in existence we never asked for project labor agreement on the county level. Project labor agreements aren't for every project. They're for certain projects. For certain highly complex projects. We haven't found the need to even ask for one. However if you look that the Propaganda that the prop A folks are sending out, they're saying that Prop. A is going to create good-paying jobs for San Diego. More jobs, good pays jobs for San Diegans. It does nothing to change the law. I don't even know how they could assert good paying jobs. They said that half protect people from having to join the union. We know that we can't force anyone into joining a union. So they continue to put out lies and efforts to trick voters and, let's be honest, the contractors have more money than the workers. They're going to continue to do this. It's a very simple message that they've promote-- one that's not based on any kind of facts. One that is not based on any reality and as a result, that's why they have to take it to the ballot. Because if they try to really sit and have this discussion rationally with most legislators, they'll tell them to go count sand, and they have for the most part. It's only the highly-partisan Republican legislators who's [inaudible] being filled by the same contractors who are pushing this, who are even willing to look at this type of proposal.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Eric. Lorena points out that San Diego County already has an ordinance in place that prohibits project labor agreement. Why do we need to change the county charter to prohibit project labor agreements?

ERIC CHRISTEN: Well, I thought this would be obvious but our point is not to wait to have discrimination [inaudible] PLAs like we did at San Diego unified and then react after having [inaudible]. We just have to choose in a proactive manner actually go to the voters as opposed to Lorena and [inaudible], after Chula Vista voters count their [inaudible] passed the open competition ordinance. The quote and tell Lemon who's the head of the building in construction trades counsel here in the county, said their voters were fooled. Now we don't have the [inaudible] or a offensive view of voters as those folks do, which is that they're dumb, they have just been tricked, they were lied to, they didn't see through the lies. We actually have a, you know, a much broader view. And I think proper view of where the voters are. They do get this. They are smart. They want what's best for the taxpayers, especially in these days where taxpayer dollars needs to be stretched as far as they can be because there's so few of them. So we've actually decided what while we appreciated the supervisors pushing the PLA ban, that is five people who choose to take that stand that down the road could be [inaudible] five or 3 of the five votes beyond inroad. Well what we've decided to do is in Chula Vista and in Oceanside and soon to be in the city of San Diego and Sacramento and Los Angeles and all across the state, is to take it to the people. Let the people decide and codify it into law because we know that they get it, we have a deep respect for their intelligence. We know they're going to be what common sense this is and you know, I understand that when you get voted against, there's a emotive desire to react and say that these are stupid people who didn't get it and lots of money came in and, we were actually out spent in Chula Vista. And we still won by 11 points. So we have a deep respect for the people. And Lorena. I think your point is we could sit back and say, well the supervisor's not [inaudible] is we should be happy with that. But I actually think it speaks to where we're coming from. We're willing to spends a lot of money to get these passed by going to the vote of the people, include the voters think [inaudible] we could lose when we have the vote at the San Diego supervisor level. And now we're willing to [inaudible] it up and go before the people and perhaps lose, but I think it speaks in the confidence we have in the people.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you just a quick question now because the supervisors may change now, there's term limits.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We may get new supervisors who look at project labor agreements a little differently. But the voters themselves who would have voted those supervisors in, so why not allow a future board of supervisors to make its own decision about project labor agreement instead of putting this in the county charter?

ERIC CHRISTEN: Well, a little motto that we've created is we've decided to take the decision making process out of the hands of elected officials sometimes who are-- as we've seen with San Diego unified-- where you get three bought and paid for mouthpieces for union special [inaudible] dress would come in there and in their first meeting [inaudible] any discussion about project labor agreements or whether they're good or bad or not. They do the bidding of local union bosses and we saw that. We stood back and, you know really, that's been the greatest gift that we could have been given here. We would really be not where we are today in San Diego if not for the over reach that was committed by the unions at San Diego Unified because it woke people up and they said “My God.” The counts as two bill [inaudible] construction bond. In the past you've had union and non-union alike working together on these projects. And clerks here you come with these three-radical, very political boards members who came in and said, you know what, the fact that less than half our kids aren't graduating isn't really important to us. The fact that most of them are enumerate, illiterate. We are not going to worry about that. The first thing we're going to do is to discriminate against the overwhelming majority of the construction industry that happens to be non-union. And that really woke up to the point where we were saying you know what, as much as we respect elected officials to get in there and do what they're good in these three-- because I know they have a tough job-- the reality is at the end of the day we need to take our argument to the people to protect taxpayers, to protect our workers and to protect the fact of getting local workers on local projects.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Lorena now let me put this to you, if it's already an ordinance in San Diego County, what difference does it make? As you said there's not much of a history in requiring project labor agreements on any county authorized construction project. So what difference does it make?

LORENA GONZALEZ: Well I think that, you know in these economic times when we have a number of issues, when we have no fire protection basically, at the county level or coordinated by our protection, for the board of supervisors to pay over a hundred thousand dollars of our taxpayer dollars, put this on the ballot in order that they could fill their own coffers of 10’s of thousands of dollars from the construction industry, just seems like an over reach by a group of individuals who have shone them to be totally out of touch with the voters of San Diego County. I mean, a hundred thousand dollars. I guess when we're spending a hundred million dollars slush-fund doesn't seem like a whole lot, but to me, those who don't have a job, who are struggling to make ends meet, who need food stamps, that hundred thousand dollars seems like a big waste of money, which it was. And I understand that Eric was so sure that his arguments mattered, then why would they send out mailers that said Prop. A after the accident creates more jobs. Prop A doesn't do a thing. If they're so sure the voters understand what they're saying then I think their campaign material could provide some sort of truth but everything that's on this meal [inaudible] piece, the one they've sent out so far is complete lies and so it's clear that they've honed in on a message, they've done a lot of polling. They've decided that they can sell this as one thing when all it is, is allowing contractors to not have rules. It's what Wall Street has done and ruined America's economy with. And it's what the contractors want to do here in San Diego. And unfortunately, as well. I mean he talked about the San Diego Unified School District PLA or PSA and I'll tell you what that does. The same nothing of union and non-union contractors are currently working on those projects. And Eric knows that. Those projects are coming in under bid and at the same time, the folks who are being brought into to be trained and work on those projects come from the local district area. We're talk about young people who maybe didn't have there opportunity or didn't want to go to college but wanted a career in the construction trades. This PSA provides for that. We're training some of those folks right now and I think, you know, a school board should be looking at that. They should be looking at alternate routes for kids who maybe don't want to go to college but to say that our public school system is putting out illiterate children at the numbers that he's saying. We're improving test scores at the school district and at the same time putting people to work from the local communities.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Just so our listeners are clear, Proposition A would make -- would change this ban on project labor agreements from an ordinance to a change in the county charter. And the supervisors can change an ordinance by them. Change to a county charter however must be approved by voters. So it basically enshrines the ban on the county, the ban on project labor agreements. Eric, you mentioned a number of times Chula Vista and Oceanside and the fact that the similar bans have been instituted, have been voted in and so forth. Is Prop. A a part of an effort to ban project labor agreements state-wide?

ERIC CHRISTEN: It is part of an effort to -- Prop. A is part of an effort to enshrine and codify into local law, fair and open competition. In some cases it takes a form of explicit ban of project labor agreements in other cases because these very entity by entity, they allow for something called the project labor agreement. They specifically ban and exclude the certain provisions of PLA which are implicitly discriminatory to our people. So it varies, but yes, this is actually a part of it, you know, strategy to go throughout the state and the country to take our project back and give them to the local worker. Not take them away from the local worker at the behest of local, big labor special interest. And at the end of the day that's going to benefit taxpayers, workers, both union and non-union alike. And everybody, you know when we wanted at the end of the day, things continue as they are. The project across the street, the county building that was just finished. You go in and Lorena's right. And you go in and there's a great mix of union and non-union. Some projects that may be 64 union. Other projects that pay you know 80 29, [inaudible] on the size or the scope. Whatever it is, we hear amongst ourselves aren't big enough to know exactly what that split would be. That's the free and open market place determining that. So yes, it is part of a much broader strategy because this state is being closed down for business because the antics and tactic of project labor agreement. Green male [check audio] where the [inaudible] building in re-sort off to Arizona because they simply didn't want to build and put up with this stuff anymore. And you know, California is really in a crisis right now. And PLAs aren't [inaudible] why they're in a crisis. They're making the state anti-business and nobody wants to be build anything here anymore. And this is a reason why.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'd like to get your comments on the idea that this is a movement to ban project labor agreements and similar kind of rearrangements with unions by public entities across California and across the nation.

LORENA GONZALEZ: Well you know large corporation and contractors knows the only thing fighting for healthcare for all workers, for increased wages of low wage and middle class workers are unions. So of course they would like to attack unions. It's unfortunate because in the end, they're hurting workers and taxpayers and that's all they're hurting. He talks about discriminating against those non-union contractors. When he says it's discriminating, it's because we're telling them that they have to provide healthcare, provide a skimmed work force, that they have to provide worker's comp. That they're going to be looked at every aspect of the training that they provide, of the skim of the person doing that job because I'll tell you what, when there's not a project labor agreement and there are union and non-union folks working side by side, if you get a non-union contractor like Surewood Mechanical at the Bay Front Hilton who does not provide the skill level employee to do a certain job ends up with [inaudible] violations and blows up part of the Hilton, and hurts the union workers-- work side by side at that. Non-union worker who was trained and skilled and ended up in the hospital because the contractors were trying to skirt the law, the contractor was trying to skirt their requirements under the law. You know, I think that it benefits all of us when there are rules in place, when everybody understands those rules, when workers are protected when we require local hire, not just hope for it. When we incentivize, providing healthcare to workers, all of us are made better. The contractors were going to continue to fight that because it means less profits for them. And that's all they care about.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to give you a minute both of you to be able to wrap up and give us some closing statements so let me once against, this is Eric Christian representing the yes, on campaign Prop. A. Eric.

ERIC CHRISTEN: Well thank you Maureen for having us here it's great to be at these debates. It's important for people to know if you want to protect local jobs, stop coercions where you are, force workers to join groups they would otherwise never belong to because they don't want to, and protect taxpayers then yes on A is the way to go. And I want to add is the website. Please go, learn more about this and if you wish, you can contribute to the effort. I wish we have as much money as Lorena thinks we do but we have to ask for it from our members versus the unions how they go about taking dues without the worker's permission. Use it for politics so that's the difference that we have. But in the end of the day, Lorena can come here and argue her point of view and I can argue mine. But I think it's imperative to step back from 30000 feet to see where every other organization of the industry is. And when you look at it they're in 23 editorials across the state that have taken position of PLAs from liberal to conservative [inaudible] and they never were in-between. And I think it's summed up with the Sacramento, these editorials on PLA where they say PLA is about empowering unions not helping workers. 23 different editorials have been written about PLAs, 23 of them have come out opposed to PLA from center left to center right. And San Diego union tribune [inaudible] the union's PLA is the backroom challenge of their environment crowds. This is legal blackmail.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I've got to stop you there.


MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And, and give her a chance. Lorena Gonzalez for present no on Prop. A [inaudible].

LORENA GONZALEZ: Well when you look at non-compartment. People like San Diego beat. Yesterday came out against Proposition A. I think when you look at news organizations and [inaudible] that care about workers, that care about more than just the bottom line and profits that you see that they disagree with Eric's take on this. Further more if you look tat the campaign literature from proposition after the accident. Then you see lies. More jobs. He never once said how this is going to create more jobs, it doesn't. It doesn't change anything. Certainly doesn't create more jobs. But that is their whole campaign strategy to lie and deceive and continue to put out these things. Again, he says that people have to join union. We know federal law does not allow people to force unions, to force people to join them. So, you know, if they want to continue to campaign on lies, eventually I think it will come back and hit them. But we know that in the long run, all we need to do is continue to hold contractors accountable so that they don't do to the construction industry what Wall Street has done to banking industry.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Lorena Gonzalez secretary treasure and CEO of the San Diego Imperial [inaudible] labor council AFL-CIO. Eric Christian Director of Coalition for Fair Employment in construction. I want to thank you both.

ERIC CHRISTEN: Thanks Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Thanks so much. If you'd like to comment, please go online, Next up, San Diego schools waiting for superman. That's next as these days continues here on KPBS.

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Avatar for user 'ep001'

ep001 | October 14, 2010 at 9:46 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

A very fair and objective debate clearly showing that the county should enact a ban on PLA's and prevent the horrible situation of the SDUSD PLA from ever occurring again. Lorena continually reverts to name calling and trying to smear Eric's comments while he stayed on topic and discussed only the issues.

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Avatar for user 'elcalifornio'

elcalifornio | October 14, 2010 at 10:02 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

It's ironic how Lorena continually called Eric a liar. One of the Chula Vista Prop.G ads approved by Lorena said that union workers would be "prohibited" from working on projects if the measure passed - a pure lie.

Unions want to PLA's for two reasons, and two reasons only: 1. To ensure union workers are performing the work (political manuevers to gain market share instead of fair competition), and 2. To require all workers to pay union dues paid and require all fringe benefit money goes to union coffers.

Contractors have repeatedly offered unions a PLA (with all the local hiring requirements Lorena argues for), but without those two major provisions. The unions always reject the offer.

This is America where we believe is a free market economy and open competition. Voters in San Diego have agreed with this philosophy, and odds are they will vote in favor of Prop A. It is the right thing to do!

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smarticul | October 14, 2010 at 10:06 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Vote NO on Prop. A!

Here's my take after listening to the "30,000 feet" perspective of Eric Christen and people like him who still mistakenly believe that less regulation in government will bring prosperity. That is a lie. Since the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s, the deep failure of "Trickle Down" economics that was the center of the failed Reganomics, and now the wholesale theft of property from the poorest Americans who will never be able to participate in the market again from their poor credit ratings due to the "free market" running them over with their subprime trickery---Americans are significantly poorer, our jobs are in India, and our children are not guaranteed even a good education--all this since they have unleashed the free market on us.

Now, this guy, Eric and his cronies, are saying that they want to unleash the market onto the construction business. What this means to me is:

1. they will hire illegal immigrants and pretend not to know -- this WILL NOT create jobs for Americans but rather cheap, imported, illegal labor whom are NOT part of unions because they cannot be.

2. they want to handcuff our government. We vote people in that we think will make good decisions--if they don't, they get voted out. Changing the charter to do this will create more government regulation--a point Eric claims he's against. Removing our officials ability to govern will not make us better off, instead it will leave us more vulnerable to further theft by "the market" -- meaning businesses like those that support Prop. A.

3. I am sure Eric also supports the idea that there should no longer be a federal minimum wage--that way all Americans will work for slave's wages for his construction jobs that also ban workers from joining together in a union.

Get the picture--when these corporate cronies say "Let the free market decide" we need to understand that this means let us steal your time and energy and pay you a pittance to work like a dog for us, if you are lucky enough to get a job.

NO on Prop. A -- we know better than this after the last two years.

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youngidealist | October 14, 2010 at 10:42 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

I couldn't disagree with you more ep001.

First of all both individuals reverted to insults and fallacy which, if there was objective and informative talk, nonsense distracted me from noticing.

The first ball of mud that was slung was Eric's comment about never receiving an opposing view to debate until today. She's here now and he sounded grateful, but he then twisted his compliment into a negative point against his opposition. Eric, people lose out on getting formal debates together all the time. You should have stopped at the compliment and let us decide for ourselves if it's a point against her. The fact that she was there to debate you is a good thing, not a bad one so get to the real argument, and cut out snide comments.

Then there was Lorena's use of the word "huckster." Quite a more direct insult than Eric's. Each time you used it Lorena, I stopped listening because I'm here to listen to a debate that I get to make a decision on. If I want to hear people call each other names, I'd go to a rap battle.

There was also Eric's point about the voter's being treated as stupid by his opposition. She didn't say that, and if she did I'd say she had a good point. People are malleable in their opinions, by tactics just like that one, and I don't really appreciate it. The majority can be stupid and wrong. Just look at the history of any major religion, chances are most would agree with me that the overwhelming majority of religious views that are not their own are ridiculous, but the majority no matter how you view it believes in them. Also, it was American voters who voted, W. Bush, Johnson, and Nixon into office, each one of them a war criminal in their own right, so I don't wanna hear it.

After all is said and done and listening to the whole thing, I still don't know what's good or bad about PLA's. Two flaws in both arguments stood out to me the most.

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youngidealist | October 14, 2010 at 10:42 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

1. Eric kept saying that unions were bad and why they were bad. I agree, unions are broken and always have been, but just because I don't like things about them doesn't mean that they should be eliminated (which he implied they would be at least subdued if Prop A went through). I don't like my exams in college either, I certainly don't think that time testing and curves are fair, but that doesn't mean that we should just do away with them altogether. Unions and the problems they cause need to be replaced with something better or fixed within their own system of operation. Eliminating them takes away what is a necessary tool for smart employers and smart employees. Those who are taken advantage of aren't gaining anything by removing them. They'll still be taken advantage of one way or the other if unions ceased to exist.

It is primarily this reason that I make a decision on Prop A at all at this point and say that I will vote NO, since to me it doesn't seem that prop A is aimed at helping anyone, just removing something that bothers it's constituents without fixing the real problem, corruption.

2. Lorena also made a big mistake in her defense by saying that people aren't forced to join unions. When I was in high school I needed to get a job and the place that hired me with no training was Ralphs. I was forced to join their union or turn down their offer and risk not being employed at all. If there is some new law that passed since then that forces employers to give their workers the option, then you need to say that because I have yet to meet a single person with a different experience when it comes to unions. It might not say the word "forced" in the law, but I certainly had no other choice at the time and I'm not the only one.

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markcafferty | October 14, 2010 at 11:19 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Great topic, great debate.

Open and fair competition in construction is critical, as is the ability to ensure that workers are supported, protected and properly trained. However, arguing that unions are doing any more to strong-arm or pressure politicians than contractors and businesses associations are is both a weak and ideological argument. Both contractors (and their respective associations) and unions use their political power and support in very similar ways and do whatever they can to solidify support for those they represent. That is just a simple fact of politics. Let’s not pretend that political support only flows in one direction on building and development issues.

I think Lorena presented some great arguments as did Eric. However I would say that if either Lorena or Eric, or the organizations they represent, are informing the public that the existence of PLAs or the banning of PLAs will ensure the creation of more good paying jobs for San Diegans right now, in this economy, then they are misinformed and they are misinforming those they represent. I have never seen Eric in San Diego and have never met him, but I have worked with Lorena very regularly through the downturn in our economy and I believe she would agree with me that any claims of near-term job creation through Prop A (from either side) should be called out as false.

If people want to vote up or down on Prop A based on their feelings about unions, then by all means, do so. But please do not be fooled into thinking that the passage of Prop A will create any jobs for anyone in San Diego right now--other than those working on the campaign of course. And please do not be fooled into thinking that the jobs created in the future will be any more abundant and far-reaching because PLAs have been banned. There is no evidence or fact to support either of these claims. I would close by saying that if materials have in fact been sent out to the public (by either side) using "job creation" as an arguemnt or promise, then the speakers do not have a fraction of the respect for or confidence in the electorate that they spoke about on this morning’s show.

All in all, good discussion and debate.

Mark Cafferty
President and CEO
San Diego Workforce Partnership

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ep001 | October 14, 2010 at 11:19 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

The truth about PLA's is that they do by means of a back door limit the contractors who can bid on a project. What Lorena is not telling you is that on the SDUSD PLA (or PSA or whatever that term of the day is), it is true that both Union and Non-Union contractors can bid on these projects. It is also true that if non-union companies submit a bid, they are only allowed to use two (2) of their own employees before contacting the union to get their employees to put on the job. Well, let me see, if the Union is supplying non-union companies employees, do think they are going to put the good guys out there or the ones that arn't worth anything? Did you also know that idf the union does not have enough manpower to send, the non-union can use their own BUT they have to pay the fringes into the Union for training, vacation, retirement, ... knowing that these employees will NEVER collect a dime, only FREE money for the Union. What a great deal for the union, no wonder they want these PLA's!! How about Fair and open competition for both union and non-union. Isn't that what Prevailing Wage is about? Equal wages & benefits for everyone?

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scottw | October 14, 2010 at 11:22 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Again, union supporters miss the point. Lorena kept saying that all the unions are interested in is living wages and health coverage for workers. PLAs provide neither. The "prevailing wage" concept is a government concession that guarantees that union contractors can compete with non-union contractors on government work. The contract sets the wages (typically union scale), and benefits, (again, the currently negotiated package), that must be paid to each worker on that project. The difference is, non-union contractors pay the combined wage and benefit package directly to the employee, which cuts the union out of hundreds of dollars per week, per worker. On a job with a PLA, non-union contractors are required to pay that benefit money to the union, and the employees must agree to pay union dues for the duration of their employment on the project. So, the unions get to collect all of that benefit money for workers who are not in the union and will never see any of the benefits that they and their employers have paid for. Lorena is right when she says people cannot be forced to join a union, but they can be forced to pay money to a union that they don't belong to, and will never see any benefit from.

Once people understand that a YES vote on Prop A simply means that people cannot be forced to become involved with unions in order to work on a county project, the choice becomes simple.

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PMP | October 14, 2010 at 12:45 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

"smarticul", would do well to come down from his 30,000 foot perch and get a grasp regarding what this issue is really about.
A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) or Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) has nothing to do with the "regulation of the marketplace" and sure as hell doesn't benefit "the middle class". The regulations "you" speak of regarding worker wages, benefits, safety and equally as important compliance of the regulations by employers are already done by the state. These regulations already exist and are enforced with or without a PLA.
There is no benefit regarding the employment of illegal aliens on public works projects because wages are set and enforced BY THE STATE. You may want to rethink your statement regarding illegal aliens not being union members by the way. A certain union dry wall contractor was recently caught with roughly 80 illegal aliens on work being done for Camp Pendleton, feel free to Google it.
What a PLA does do is force non union workers to pay union dues. It forces non union workers to forfeit $8 an hour to union pension plans. It forces people with health coverage through a spouse or the military to buy insurance from the union. The SDUSD PSA went as far as banning 1000 LOCAL STATE APPROVED apprentices from working on the projects. Their crime you ask, well they were convicted of being non union. That's right, schools that many of them attended and who's property taxes will repay the bond can't work on the jobs.
If this is your idea of a regulated workforce or a benefit to the middle class then you may want to come down from 30,000 feet as the air is a little thin.

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PMP | October 14, 2010 at 1:38 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

"scottw", Many non union contractors have benefit plans similar to those of the unions. Non union contractors paying the "fringe benefit" portion of the wage determination on the employee's paycheck are at a severe disadvantage in the bidding process. Money given to an employee in the form of benefits (health insurance & retirement) is not subject to worker's compensation costs and payroll taxes. Including the fringe money on the check makes it subject to these additional costs, roughly 22% depending on the worker's comp mod rate.
A non union electrician who gives this additional money to the employee instead of providing benefits would see an additional labor cost of roughly $3.52 an hour per employee.
There is no benefit or competitive edge for a non union contractor who doesn't provide employee benefits, quite the opposite. Assuming union contractors have roughly the same profit margin built in to their bids a non union contractor paying the total wage amount on the employee's pay check shouldn't be able to compete. Are union contractors (not union workers) entitled to a greater amount of profit? Why is it we need these extra rules for a union contractor to compete? Why does a tax paying American have to pay (union dues) for the privilege of working on public property whose work their tax dollars will fund?
How many PLA supporters would back a CLA? A Christian Labor Agreement put in place because elected officials put in to office buy PAC donations felt Christian contractors would be more inclined to give an honest bid. How about non Christian workers being forced to make contributions to a local church?
PLAs are not about union workers. They are not put in place by union workers. PLAs are deals cut buy people who make their living off the backs of hard working union members and politicians elected with union contributions.

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ep001 | October 14, 2010 at 2:38 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Funny since your comment about putting money into a church there have been no more responses.

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smarticul | October 14, 2010 at 3:50 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

oh now PMP--don't get your panties in a bunch by bringing in name calling. that's no way to get your point across. yes, good, thanks for that information that unions are just as corrupt as corporations. that is not news. like many people writing here i come from a working class background and my father is a carpenter who was blocked from many jobs in connecticut, where i grew up, because he didn't want to play union ball. they are not perfect but as youngidealist pointed out--we shouldn't pass laws that simply offer deregulation of industries as a fix for other problems that we are worried about. that seems to be dancing around the real issue that unions are (have always been?) imperfect and as subject to corruption as any other human institution. now, in terms of my perspective that you say is 30,000 feet---a term used by your beloved Eric---there is an economic movement that's been moving over the globe since the 1970s called "neoliberalism" and one of the main components of that is this deregulation of industry at all levels of government, especially the local level. instead of taking a broad look at these i take a scalar look and advise anyone thinking about this issue to understand how deregulation at the municipal, county, regional, state, and federal levels works in lock-step to both retain the status quo of working class and middle class not being able to get ahead while also plundering our labor force and concentrating the wealth of our country into just a few hundred individuals who file as S-corporations (not as individuals) to avoid paying taxes. well---i could go on but wouldn't want to bore you and you probably will not look into any of this. i do believe that's the real effect of 8 years of Bush--the inability for us to understand and empathize with each other. oh yeah, and i'm a woman not a man--remember the new thinking on grammar is to NOT use the universal male in conversation--it makes you seem like a dinosaur.

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PMP | October 14, 2010 at 3:57 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

I just listened to the debate. I still haven't heard an answer to how taking $8 an hour from a non union electrician and forcing him / her to contribute to the union pension plan helps local workers? Due to union vesting rules this money is forfeited. How does a non union worker benefit from paying union dues? How does the local workforce benefit when roughly 1000 local state approved non union apprentices are denied the opportunity to work? How exactly does forcing an employee with medical coverage through his / her spouse or an ex military person with VA coverage to buy health insurance from the union benefit the middle class?
Lorena said PLAs set wages, benefits and working conditions for workers, doesn't the state do this? I hear "local hire" quite a bit, why wouldn't a PLA make the ratio of local workers mandatory instead of just a goal. "No work will start until 85% of the on site workforce is deemed local". This should be easy as out of town union workers have an address strangely similar to that of the local union hiring hall.
Strange to hear Lorena talk about lies, the commercial on Hispanic TV telling the people of Chula Vista they could be "picked up for looking Hispanic" if PLAs were banned was just "stretching the truth" I guess. Telling people union workers couldn't work on a non PLA job was probably an example of her just "misspeaking". Oh well, the beat goes on...

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PMP | October 14, 2010 at 4:14 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Thank you smarticul, I'll stick to the point. A PLA is not about regulations benefiting hard worker such as your father. In California we have the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) tasked with rules and regulations pertaining to our workforce. They set wages through a subsidiary. We have the department of OSHA tasked with the safety of our workers. We have Labor Compliance Programs tasked with checking contractors to make sure workers are paid.
The PLA / PSA in question does none of these. You feel this added layer of rules and regulations is somehow needed to what, keep the fabric of our way of life together? How exactly will not forcing non union contractors to pay union dues impact our global economy? How exactly will not forcing non union employees to forfeit their pension money to union plans be our undoing?
I appreciate your wealth of historical knowledge regarding global economics but fail to see the relevance in this particular instance.
Could you please address my questions and retract your statement regarding illegal aliens as it pertains to this discussion?

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Avatar for user 'TransPositive'

TransPositive | October 14, 2010 at 9:37 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Excuse me, but there are alot of so-called Progressives posting here who don't see the bigger picture. We bought into the lie of this being important. For whom? Ask yourself, how Progressive is construction anyway? Except for the token person who looks different that they send out for the TV camera, frankly everyone in construction is middle-aged straight white men who make a living off UGLYfying what's left of what was once beautiful in San Diego. Look at the faux-tuscan & appalling mission-style eyesore that is called Escondido. Maybe it will live up to its name and become escondido. Vote Green and prop A becomes meaningless. Look around, puke, see we don't need any more construction in San Diego. How many women and LGBT workers in construction in San Diego? Did they vote against Prop 8? "Fair employment in construction" only goes so far, doesnt it? Maybe one day we'll have a construction moratorium to vote on and then I'll care. mahalo nui loa

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PMP | October 15, 2010 at 12:32 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Did you type that while sitting in a house / building?
Just asking...

Still waiting for a reply to my questions. Able to check out that story regarding illegal, er, "undocumented" union workers yet?

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Avatar for user 'TransPositive'

TransPositive | October 15, 2010 at 9:29 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

PMP, I guess your name is code that tells your friends in Santee you are proud to be a PMP for greedy developers who are paving over San Diego county. i broke your code. Is this first time you've come to You know this web site is part of public broadcasting and you're now a parasite feeding on the government you loathe. Now go back to the Faux Nooz channel web site where you'll be welcomed.

"The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change." - Howard Zinn

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PMP | October 15, 2010 at 9:53 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago


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sd1904 | November 2, 2010 at 1 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

I really don't think anyone on here gets the bigger picture and that is if Prop A passes, construction workers will get paid crap!! This is about non union contractors not having to pay their employees a decent wage. They will bid these government jobs so much less then union but the people who will suffer are their own employees. They will make $15 an hour with little to no benefits verses a union well trained employees who will make $35. The government will end up paying more in the long run for these projects because they will have to have them reworked over and over because of shoddy workmenship. Non union hires unqualified people because only unqualified people would work for the pittance they pay. As for the person who mentioned all the money the unions put in their coffers from their members, what a joke. Dues are not that bad, not sure what my husband pays but it's somewhere around $50 a month. It is well worth the medical,vacation time, pay rate, schooling and retirement. Non union contractors are greedy scabs who make their living off the backs of their employers. If prop a passes get ready for more foreclosure signs in your neighborhood.

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