We are always told how union special interest deals known as Project Labor Agreements (or PLAs) ensure compliance with labor laws, but as I wrote a few weeks ago, that isn’t true. Now we find out that the company selected to build the CA High Speed Rail “bullet” train has been hiring subcontractors that steal wages from their workers. This week, the Tutor Perini Corporation was one of four general contractors issued citations by California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su totaling $748,366. The Labor Commissioner issued citations for public works and labor law violations affecting a total of 89 workers to the general contractors and their subcontractors.
Orange County Public Libraries hired the Tutor Perini Corporation as a prime contractor to construct a new Laguna Niguel branch. The Labor Commissioner’s investigation found that the proper prevailing wage and overtime rates were not paid to as many as 25 workers. $117,837 in unpaid wages, $30,800 in penalties and $539 in contributions to a DIR-approved training program for the California Apprenticeship Council (CAC) were assessed as a result.
The Tutor Perini Corporation came under fire earlier this year, for submitting a bid for the California High Speed Rail construction that would have been rejected under the original criteria of the project, but HSR Authority officials changed the bid specifications. Critics also point to the appearance of cronyism for the Tutor Perini Corporation for having past connections to the husband of California Senator Diane Feinstein, Richard Blum. “Blum first became involved with what is now Tutor Perini in 1998 when he joined with Ronald Tutor to help recapitalize the troubled company. He reportedly sold his stock at a substantial profit in 2005.” Critics of the Blum/Perini connection echo parallel criticisms you hear from the far-left political organizations about Dick Cheney’s affiliation with Halliburton. They fear past connections will fuel future decisions.
As reported by Ken Broder of AllGov California (AllGov .com provides up-to-date news about more than 140 departments and agencies in state government, most of which operate under the media radar,) “The staff of the California High-Speed Rail Authority recently recommended that Tutor Perini get the contract because it was the low-bidder, at $995 million, but came under fire because the company had the lowest technical score among the five contractors who bid. It didn’t help that the staff changed the criteria for selecting a winner without board approval. Originally, only companies with the highest technical scores were going to be eligible for the lowest-bid portion of the two-part process.”
So not only is the High Speed Rail limited to only union workers, thereby discriminating against the 8 out 10 construction workers who are not union, but they changed the bid criteria at the 11th hour to make sure a company was awarded the contract who has been caught red handed stealing from the wages of local Orange County construction workers.
As Governor Jerry Brown’s Labor Commissioner Julie Su put it, “Failure to pay the proper prevailing wage is a form of wage theft. We will crack down on not only the subcontractors who steal workers’ wages and fail to pay apprenticeship training contributions, but also on the general contractors so we put proper incentives on them to deal only with honest, law-abiding businesses in California.”
It is just another in the long list of reasons why this High Speed Rail should not be built. It is really just a give away to a variety of special interests: Big Labor, Feinstein cronies and even the Mayor of Fresno. (Check out: Newly Public Documents Reveal Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin Had Key Role in Backroom Scheme for Union-Only Project Labor Agreement on California High-Speed Rail Project.) The Coalition For Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) theorizes that, “…unions were promising to get the High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility in Fresno in exchange for Mayor Swearengin’s help in getting the Project Labor Agreement, in a way that would avoid direct involvement of the California High-Speed Rail Authority.”
Officials like the ex-wife of OC Congressman Alan Lowenthal – Long Beach Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, even went so far as to turn off the microphones on ABC and CFEC representatives trying to ask on the record about the discriminatory special interest PLA deal. Reason TV highlighted the lengths that the “bullet” train supporters will go to avoid public debate on this project. Despite their efforts, Republican Congressman Jeff Denham was able to give the public a forum to address the concerns with so-called High Speed Rail at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials field hearing in Madera last week. The Associated Builders and Contractors submitted a statement for the record in opposition to the union-favoring project labor agreement (PLA) required by the California High Speed Rail Authority.
For more on Big Labor’s special interest deal on the HSR, skip to the 1 minute and 45 seconds mark in this NBC News TV report with Associated Builders and Contractors Northern California Chapter Government Affairs Director Nicole Goehring or hear it from former California State Assemblyman from Orange County, Chuck DeVore on FoxNews.
But it is now clear that with or without a PLA, High Speed Rail will have a tough time protecting its workers with a track record like that of Tutor Perini.