Voters in Chula Vista will soon be casting ballots for or against Proposition G, a measure that would prohibit the city from entering into project labor agreements.
The city is just one battleground in a fight being waged from afar between labor and business interests. Not a single contributor to campaigns supporting and opposing Prop. G lists a Chula Vista address, and players in the Chula Vista campaign are also pushing for a similar measure in the city of Oceanside, as voters there decide whether to establish a city charter that would outlaw PLAs.
Scott Crosby, a representative with the Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade group which is a major donor to campaigns supporting both cities' initiatives, said the choice of Chula Vista and Oceanside was
not part of a larger strategy.
"I don't think it was any kind of a strategy. Any time we can save the taxpayers money and ensure fair and open competition it's a no-brainer," said Crosby. While the ABC is based in San Diego, Crosby said their members include large numbers of South Bay contracting firms, and said Prop. G would be good for the South Bay city.
Evan McLaughlin, with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, a major donor to the campaign against Prop. G, said the initiatives in both cities are the result of a deregulation push by contractors.
"Prop. K and Prop. G, both of them were bought and born by the contractors," said McLaughlin. McLaughlin said the labor council was not picking its fights, but rather reacting to the efforts of the contractor's
association. He said the group represents about 15,000 workers in Chula Vista.
The amount of money flowing into the Prop. G campaign already dwarfs that of individual city council and mayoral races. Chula Vista Citizens for Fair and Open Competition, which supports Prop. G, has raised $178,148.
Their opponents, a group called We Won't Pay to Give Chula Vista Jobs Away, have raised $116,912 so far. By contrast, as the lead fundraiser in the city's council and mayoral races, incumbent Mayor Cheryl Cox has raised almost $80,000 for her re-election bid.
Contributions to Citizens for Fair and Open Competition have come mostly from a political action committee formed by the Associated Builders and Contractors. The largest donations have come directly through the ABC political action committee, based in San Diego, while some individual donations have come from contractors in Poway and Escondido.
Contributors to We Won't Pay to Give Chula Vista Jobs Away are from even farther afield, with contributions from trade unions as far away as Louisiana and Colorado. The largest donations were received from the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, an employee union with offices in San Diego.
Prop. K in Oceanside is a measure that would reorganize that city under a municipal charter. Like Prop. G in Chula Vista, if the Oceanside charter is approved by voters it would eliminate the cityÕs ability to form project labor agreements. The ABC political action committee has contributed $5,000 of
the $5,050 collected by the proponents group so far.
Opponents of Prop. K in Oceanside say theyÕre trying to stay out of the game of big money politics. Dixie Bales, a resident leading the fight against Prop K said she and her supporters were carrying out the campaign "the old fashioned way," pledging to keep expenditures under $1,000, and that they had not requested, nor would they accept, any help from organized labor.
"The unions have enough clout to fight their own battles, we don't want any help from anybody," said Bales. Project labor agreements require contractors working on a city-funded project to either have a unionized workforce, sign a temporary collective bargaining agreement with a union, or establish benefits and pay packages that mirror those of union members, in order to work on city projects. The agreements have never actually been executed on a city project in Chula Vista, but Prop. G proponents say they want to prevent their use in the future, as Chula Vista looks toward what may be major development projects on its bay front and in the eastern part of the city.
Proponents of PLAs say they ensure good working conditions and help avoid labor disputes by establishing terms before a project begins; opponents say they make it difficult for non-union companies to bid on city projects and drive up costs by limiting competition.