• Nov. 12, 2019

Why Has Santa Rosa Junior College Wrong Portrayed Its Burbank Auditorium Modernization Project as On Schedule?

From: Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction
Subject: You have altered your board documents to hide the fact your union PLA has been a failure. Why?
Date: November 12, 2019
To: Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees
Cc: Sonoma County News Media and Community Leaders


As you vote tonight to extend your Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to another project despite the promise to study the results of the first project placed under a PLA, it is worth noting comments made PLA advocates in the Press Democrat story that ran recently regarding this issue. [See Labor Agreement for $78 Million Santa Rosa Junior College Project Irks Contractors.]

Chancellor Chong had this to say:

“SRJC President Frank Chong said he was thoroughly satisfied with the use of a project labor agreement for work on the 85-year-old auditorium, now scheduled for completion in November, six months behind schedule. “It’s been a very smooth project,”. Chong said he had “absolutely no reservations” in recommending the Board of Trustees extend the agreement to cover the Lindley Center for STEM Education, a three-story, 109,000-square-foot building expected to start construction early next year.

The discombobulation created by saying that a project that is $7 million over the original budget and 6 months (and counting) behind schedule yet is also a “smooth project” aside, what is striking is the subjective nature of this praise. At no point does Chong give any empirical data to back up his claims. No facts, just opinion. Is this how a serious entity is run? What are the results of this special interest giveaway as compared to the dozens of PLA-free projects built before it with regards to local hire, costs, on time delivery, etc.? Are there any or are we just gambling with taxpayers dollars on the whim of a man with zero construction experience?

Local union boss Jack Buckhorn offered these pearls of wisdom to the public:

“Jack Buckhorn, head of the Sonoma Lake & Mendocino Counties Building and Construction Trades Council, which negotiated the agreement with SRJC, disputed that assessment. Most workers will gain over their career the pension credits required to receive lifetime benefits at retirement age, he said in an email. The real fear nonunion employers have is losing their workers who opt for the overall better compensation of union jobs, Buckhorn said.”

So Buckhorn’s response to non-union employees having money taken out of their paychecks and sent to the union coffers (more than $20 per hour) that they’ll never receive is “Join the union and you’ll get it.” Really? One can only assume “progressive” Trustees that complain about “wage theft” constantly are relieved to hear that.

As for his later statement Buckhorn has at least, unwittingly, admitted what PLAs are all about: Using government force to coerce workers into doing something they otherwise do not choose to do. Which is wonderful.

Here’s an idea for Mr. Buckhorn: Make a product that attracts workers to willingly want to join you. He represents less than 80% of the construction workforce in the largest economic boom of their lifetimes, a boom where there is a shortage of these skilled workers and where they can work wherever they want while receiving great pay. Yet most don’t choose to join him. Why is that? He had to be escorted out of the Administrative Office of the Courts offices in downtown San Francisco a few months ago by police because he verbally assaulted me and physically threatened me, along with 20 of his union comrades. Is this perhaps a reason they don’t want to have anything to do with him?

Lastly, Trustees, altering your board documents so as to appear to not be behind schedule on a project that is massively behind schedule (see attached) is not a way to gain public trust.  This PLA has been an abject failure. Quit lying about it to placate your desire to turn it into something it isn’t: A success. 

Eric Christen
Executive Director
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction


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