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Voters in the city of San Diego next June will be asked to ban City Hall from requiring that contractors use what are known as project labor agreements, union-friendly construction agreements sometimes used on major projects.

The initiative is part of a campaign by business-backed interest groups to stop government from requiring the agreements across the county, saying they deter nonunion contractors from bidding and drive up projects’ costs. Voters in Oceanside, Chula Vista and San Diego County approved similar measures last year.

Labor unions say the agreements save governments money by avoiding strikes and create better working environments.

Complicating the picture: Gov. Jerry Brown just signed into law this weekend a bill, known as SB 922, that could cut state funding to cities with bans like the one proposed in San Diego.

Continuing our polling of San Diego’s declared mayoral candidates, we asked them for their views on the proposed ban and the potential complications posed by the new state law. (Note: This question was asked before the governor signed the bill into law over the weekend.)

Carl DeMaio, city councilman:

Not only do I support the ban, I am a co-author on the San Diego Fair and Open Competition Ballot Initiative and helped collect more than 90,000 signatures to qualify that measure for a public vote in the June 2012 election.

As Mayor, I will insist that every project in San Diego is carried out using fair and open competition. No one should be discriminated against in contracting and employment decisions based on whether they are a member of a labor union or not.

Because of union-only mandates such as Project Labor Agreements, San Diego has lost out on private investment and jobs – and taxpayers have paid higher prices for government services and projects. This must end.

By committing to a policy of fair and open competition, San Diego can make itself attractive again to private investment and can save taxpayers money on important projects.

SB922 is largely irrelevant. Fair and open competition should be the standard rules for every government decision.

Bonnie Dumanis, district attorney:

I support Fair and Open Competition because it allows all contractors, regardless of union status, to compete on projects funded with taxpayer dollars. The Fair and Open Competition measure has been mischaracterized as a ban on project labor agreements. It isn’t a ban, it’s a prohibition on the City Council forcing Project Labor Agreements on the unwilling. The initiative also addresses the SB 922 issue by exempting the City Council from its statutes if there is a state procurement and contracting obligation or if there is a state condition on the receipt of funds. I think the voters should pass Fair and Open Competition in San Diego, and the Governor should veto SB 922.

Bob Filner, congressman:

The congressman failed to respond, though one of his campaign people emailed asking about deadlines for responding.

Nathan Fletcher, assemblyman:

I do not support project-labor agreements and have endorsed the measure banning them for City projects. I voted against Senate Bill 922, but it doesn’t appear to impact the proposed ballot measure because the ballot measure includes language that allows the council to consider a PLA if one is required to receive state or federal funding.

David Cardon, real estate broker:

I do support a PLA Ban. The use of a project labor agreement usually results in cost overruns and higher construction costs for taxpayers. Qualified non-union contractors who wish to make lower-cost bids, and employees who wish to work non-union, are locked out of the project.

Hud Collins, trial attorney:

In a free and capitalistic society, there should never be a ban on anything. Both sides of the issue have strong arguments – if for PLA’s – there are taxpayer protections and leaves the door open to agreements with all construction workers…supposedly it saves taxpayers dollars…built on time and budget. State Assembly and Senate have passed SB922, which is sitting on the Governor’s desk. State, region and local public. Dr. Murtaza Baxamusa writes an excellent article. Opposition says that taxpayers should never be able to ban initiatives (PLA’s)…which would jeopardize state funding and major products. It does take choice away from the voters. SD County Prop 2010 ban, yes 443k, no, 142k. The ANSWER.. SD Guidelines that require on all public projects..22% (union workers), 10% minorities, and the rest non-Union members (if qualified), with the taxpayer requirements – work done on the time and no budget overrides, no work stoppages, hazardous projects – drug testing, bid open to both union and nonunion contractors – project based on merit.

Loch David Crane, magician and retired teacher:

I do not support the ban of this important project labor agreement. SB 922 seems to be a great improvement: it assures a “collective bargaining agreement that establishes terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project.” This means the city may not be taken advantage of, nor the workers, nor the citizens. It requires contractors, who are seldom bound by their consciences, to “provide significant benefits to taxpayers, promoting transparent competition, and ensuring a reliable supply of labor.” Who could disagree with that… Except greedy profiteers?

A project labor agreement would also prohibit “discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or membership in a labor organization.” These are all fundamental principles of the Democratic Party which I wholeheartedly support, and for which Filner was jailed.

As an independent landowner, SB 992 does not change much for me as an individual; however it does provide benefits to my fellow citizens and taxpayers. The only ways I would improve it would be to require President Obama’s E-verify program (so that legal Americans would be hired) and perhaps hiring veterans and unemployed first. There is so much good we could do if we tried.

Sunny O. Enyoghwerho, businessman:

I do not support the ban on the labor agreements. Organized labor has been part of our societal norms. It brings cohesiveness in any work force. It allows the employer to hire quality personnel within rather than hiring from outside the city. When the outsiders are hired, you run the risk of poor performance. A cheap labor does not guarantee the efficacy of the work that is done. In organized labor, the employees spend their money in the city and it helps the city to generate some revenues. Without organized labor, somebody can come from anywhere in U.S for a contract. This individual will bring his team from everywhere and they will not pay property tax, or even spend their money in the city of San Diego. With this kind of practice, the city will not benefit from their service except to collect our money and disappear. An organized labor, promotes effectiveness in any establishment. At the moment, San Diego is $2.1 billions in deficit. We need every penny we can get to deplete the deficit. We should not avail ourselves for punishment by the State legislatures by prohibiting our funds for projects if the organized labor is banned.

Steve Greenwald, compassionate physician, businessman and civic activist:

With regards to labour contracts //large projects I would favor locally based construction companies competing for bids in the open market,,,

Toby Lewandoski, computer scientist:

It saddens me that the state has the SB 922 for action and that it does not contain anything about tuberculosis. The taxpayers need protection from both private and public job contracts that city official’s award. I believe that cities should have more say in the decisions that govern within their boundaries, so that workers and taxpayers should be protected by “Project Labor Agreements”, until the completion of the civic project. As a city, we have a civic duty to set high standards for our people’s welfare, while keeping things competitive for businesses. We must seek out the truth what is best for the city.

Tobiah Pettus, unemployed:

A fair and open competition measure qualified for the 2012 ballot in the City of San Diego. The will of the people will decide this issue before the next mayor takes office. However, the will of the people of San Diego may be superseded by the State of California, with passage of SB922, which will prohibit project labor bans. As Mayor of San Diego, I would have to uphold the laws of California.

It is my personal opinion that not all project labor agreements should be banned. Project labor agreements have in fact proven to be successful. Such an agreement may prove extraordinarily beneficial on a project, such as the $1,000,000,000.00+ new Chargers’ stadium, in downtown San Diego. In this instance, a project labor agreement may be necessary to keep the project on time and on budget. It would also lock-in wages and benefits, benefiting workers for the duration of such a monumental undertaking.

Sometimes the middle ground is the high ground. Extreme ballot measures, all or nothing, are not always the wise course. Fortunately, the City of San Diego can still have a contractor use a PLA voluntarily – no matter the outcome of the ballot measure or SB922.

Scott Wilson, Businessman:

I don’t actually know anything about your question, if I was actually elected I would have to put together a team to look more into them.

Some other declared contestants failed to respond to emails and voice mail message; Bradley Slavens isn’t sure that he’s going to be running; Sharam Adhami did not respond; Rob Harter failed to respond to this week’s question.

Lamii Kpargoi is an international fellow working with He will be working on elections issues and media best practices in community relations. You can reach him directly at and 619.550.5671.

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