Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009 | Opponents of organized labor are vowing to pour more than half a million dollars into a desperate media blitz to reverse a San Diego Unified decision that could restrict how it spends $2.1 billion in coveted construction and renovation work.
It is just one aspect of the political fallout of the heated battle, which has also inspired a call to register lobbyists in San Diego Unified, a flurry of meetings with alarmed builders, and soul searching among opponents on what — if anything — can or should be done now.
The San Diego Unified plan — still to be negotiated — for a “project stabilization agreement” for its new facilities bond is widely expected to benefit unions. Such contracts are commonly known as project labor agreements and usually exchange union-friendly guarantees on wages, training and workplace conditions for the promise not to strike on the job.
Activists who oppose the agreement are convinced that it will force nonunionized workers to pay union fees, and drive up costs by thinning the pool of bidders on projects. They are hoping to either stop it entirely or steer the board to create what they deem a “fair” agreement through public pressure. And if that fails, one group is now threatening to wage warfare on school board members who are backed by the unions, possibly through a recall campaign.
“We are targeting the three board members who are handmaidens for the union,” said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, a group that lobbies against labor agreements. Christen added, “The public has a right to know what their school board has been up to.”
Construction contractors and labor unions lobbied the board heavily over the heated decision two weeks ago, which squeaked by with the support of school board President Shelia Jackson and newly elected members Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans, all of whom were supported by unions in the November election.