Opponents of a labor agreement in the works for San Diego Unified’s $2.1 billion facilities bond kicked off their fundraising campaign this afternoon at the Manchester Grand Hyatt downtown.

Its goal: To hash out the next steps for a campaign to halt or rewrite a project labor agreement to the liking of nonunion contractors and workers, even as San Diego Unified begins planning negotiations on the controversial plan.

Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, said they netted more than $100,000 in donations, including a $25,000 from the Western Electrical Contractors Association. There were roughly 50 attendees including City Councilman Carl DeMaio, former candidate Phil Thalheimer, and California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring.

“We’re not going to let this die because that’s what I’m paid to do,” Christen said. “And even if I wasn’t paid to do it I would — because it’s a righteous thing to do.”

“They may have thought this was going to end that night” when the school board decided to pursue an agreement, Christen said, “but it’s not.”

Christen mapped out a strategy for a nearly $400,000 campaign including $120,000 in televised advertisements, $100,000 in direct mailings and $70,000 in radio spots. Prototypes of potential mailers were propped up around the room. One featured the faces of the three school board members who voted for the agreement on a hammer and wrench labeled “Union Tools.”

They are also warning San Diego Unified about lawsuits on other labor agreements and weighing a potential political campaign for an ordinance that would prohibit future labor agreements on public projects. DeMaio said he would consider such an ordinance but only after the city budget crisis was dealt with. Whether outside groups such as the Associated General Contractors will officially sign onto the campaign is still undecided, though some of their members attended and donated funds.

“This needs to be made an example of so that it never happens again,” DeMaio told the crowd.

EMILY ALPERT

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