Many East County residents have only learned in the last few days of the plan by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (GCCCD) to renege on its previous commitment to fair and open competition on millions of dollars in public funds being used for school facility improvements.
See Thursday’s press release from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and two mail pieces now landing in residents’ mailboxes, one from the Taxpayers group and another from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.
Scott Kidwell, a La Mesa resident, project manager for an electrical contractor, and union member, sent the following to the school board members in response to the proposal, which is on the Grossmont-Cuyamaca board agenda for a Tuesday vote:
From: Scott Kidwell
Date: October 17, 2015
To: Bill.Garrett@gcccd.edu, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: Fwd: Grossmont-Cuyamaca College Board to break promise to taxpayers on October 20th
Members of the GCCCD Board,
I see that you are being asked to consider a union Project Labor Agreement for the GCCCD. I want continued open and fair bidding on Grossmont-Cuyamaca College District Projects and encourage you to honor the previous commitment and to oppose the proposed PLA.
I do not make this request lightly and without some concern of retribution. I am a 37-year IBEW union member and currently senior project manager for a local contractor using union labor. As an apprenticeship program graduate, I am well aware of and schooled in the history on unionism, and the great sacrifices made by early union members against crony capitalists. I support the freedom to unionize in the private sector as a matter of choice for both workers and contractors. Virtually all of the worker protections sought by unions so long ago are now codified by law.
However, fairness and opportunity for all workers, regardless of affiliation should be higher on your list of ideals. Going back on a commitment and forcing someone to join an organization, or even down a certain career path, defeats the purposes and leaning that comes with choice and accountability. School board members, of all people, should know this!
Please indulge three questions:
1. What specific and detailed proof is there that only contractors using union labor are “ensuring that large, complex construction projects are delivered on time and within budget and opportunities for local workers and small businesses are promoted.” Or that contractors using union labor are delivering projects like and similar to what GCCCD has planned in the future at a substantively higher rate according to these same criteria?
2. What is the cost for this agreement? What proof is available from an independent source that clearly demonstrates non-union workers consistently provide lower value? Or that over time under PLA agreements, costs do not shift upwards disproportionately to the work quality or time/value involved?
3. What broad based comparative proof has been provided that “training and development of future generations of workers” is substantively better under a union PLA agreement?
In the end, it will not make a significant impact on our contracting business if you choose to sign a union PLA, although it will more likely help our bid opportunities than hurt. Still, all you will be doing is increasing the pool of work where qualified non-union companies cannot participate. And effectively, over time, you are providing ever greater leverage for increases in union wages above and beyond what the normal market would bear for your work.
With prevailing wages already in place, what good is a PLA in this case except to force a certain class of persons into an affiliation they don’t seem to want? How does your position as a board member give you the right to make this arbitrary choice for others? The taxpayers (consumers), as usual, will be the ones to ultimately suffer with higher than necessary prices under such anti-competitive schemes.
Additionally, with actions like this, you will be helping to increase a growing pay division between the public and private sectors. You will actually putting union companies further down the path to non-competitiveness in the private sector as we ever more are paying over market wage rates.
Scott H. Kidwell
La Mesa, CA