“If a lie is told often enough, it becomes the truth.” Never before has this saying been more truthful, or more dangerous to the future of our region. San Diego is currently faced with many important policy decisions which will have significant effects on our population for years to come. Issues surrounding growth, pensions, retiree health care, potential tax increases, the role of different elected positions and immigration all deserve honest in-depth discourse. Unfortunately, there are too many “spin doctors” out there whose job it is to tell the big lie and sway popular opinion before any intelligent discussion can take place. My plea to you, the reader, is to be alert for these lies and point them out whenever and wherever they occur. It is only through our strength in numbers and willingness to challenge claims which do not “pass the smell test” by which will insure that our future is the result of decisions made based on facts, not special interest spin.
Prevailing wage requirements and the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) have been prominent in the news lately. The city of Vista recently voted to become a charter city predominantly to avoid paying prevailing wages on an estimated $100 million worth of planned construction projects. Proponents of prevailing wage laws claim many societal benefits from the requirement while opponents state that prevailing wages simply drive up the cost without benefit. It sounds like an ideal issue for some honest debate, but that is not what we got. The following was written in a letter to the editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune submitted May 31 by Eric Christen, Vice President of Government Affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors of San Diego (ABC), a virulently anti-union organization:
… these prevailing wages add 25 to 55 percent to project costs. So voters in Vista on June 5 have a chance to, in essence, build two fire stations for the price of one when they vote Yes on Proposition C.
Mr. Christen was claiming that the people of Vista could reduce their construction cost from $100 million to perhaps as low as $45 million simply by paying the workers less. Slam dunk — who would vote against that kind of savings? The problem with this is that the total cost of labor on a construction project generally ranges from 20-30 percent. The non-labor component of a $100 million project is at least $70 million. To get the cost down to $45 million not only would all the construction workers have to agree to work for free, they would have to agree to pay at least $25 million for the privilege. Does that pass your smell test?
Many of you are aware of the controversy concerning a possible PLA on the proposed Chula Vista Convention Center. On June 2, The San Diego Union-Tribune printed an editorial titled “Say no to extortion.” In it, they encouraged the presumed developer to say no the supposed extortion tactics of the unions who wanted a PLA. However, there was an article concerning the project that had been previously published In the May 11 edition of The Star News. In it, the following quotes were found, “We’ve let them know that we wouldn’t sit still for having this project go PLA,” “Non-union contractors would punish the developer if it dealt with organized labor” and “Merit shops will come down on them hard politically.”
These were the words; some would say they amount to extortion, not of any union leader, but of the aforementioned Eric Christen of the anti-union ABC. Was the Union-Tribune unaware of these quotes or were they deliberately trying to mislead the public in order to further their own agenda?
I welcome comments concerning the examples I have laid out and encourage you to “out” others who have deliberately misled the public in an attempt to benefit their own self-interest.