Union electrician tells District: Honor your commitment to taxpayers and oppose the PLA

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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, edwin.hiel@gcccd.edu, debbie.justeson@gcccd.edu, greg.barr@gcccd.edu, marykay.rosinski@gcccd.edu

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.

Respectfully submitted,

Scott H. Kidwell
La Mesa, CA


Comments 4

  1. I take some solace in the fact that, as an SDCTA Issues Committee member, I voted against the bond. Unfortunately, I’m not the only SDCTA member — others voted too. And regardless how the Issues Committee decides, ultimately it’s the SDCTA Board that makes the final determination. Beyond that, I don’t remember the voting details. And as Hillary likes to say, “What does it matter?”

    Of course, I didn’t vote against it because of the future PLA shenanigans, but there were other reasons to do so. Admittedly I’m just a negative guy.

    But most likely there was concern (as with ALL these bonds) that MAINTENANCE money (which should come out of the operating budget) is being replaced with revenue from long term bond obligations — freeing up money for our public servants’ wellbeing while sticking it to the taxpayers.

    But then, we must keep in mind who the school districts are run for. And no, NOT for the students.

    That’s the single biggest reason I vote against almost all these bonds.

  2. Very well put Scott. Thanks for putting what is right above what might be most benificial to you. I only learned about the Grossmont Cuyamaca about face on their PLA committment at the SDCTA meeting on Friday and I have also expressed my disgust to the board members.

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