The anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors have made it clear: Chula Vista is ground zero.
The group, known as the ABC, put Proposition G on the ballot in Chula Vista, the second largest city in San Diego County and home to some of the last developable waterfront acreage on the West Coast, in an effort to advance its assault on workplace standards in the construction industry.
If passed by voters, Proposition G would ban the City of Chula Vista from funding or contracting on any public works or construction project that included a project labor agreement, used union construction workers, or included prevailing wage requirements. This is especially troubling to a community that has for decades had the promise of developing a bayfront convention center and a four-year university within its city limits broken time and time again. With newer cleaner energy sources on the horizon, the possibility of demolishing and excavating the South Bay Power Plant, a massive source of pollution to West Chula Vista residents is jeopardized by Prop G. Projects to build and improve roads, water and sewer pipes, underground power lines and light rail transit lines are also at risk.
To California’s Labor movement, the fight over Proposition G is about more than the impacts on one city. For the first time that anyone can recall, a city’s voters are being asked whether they should ban a group of workers who live, pay taxes and are part of that city’s community from working on public works projects just because they joined a union. It’s wrong and it’s dangerous for our workers.
Chula Vistans like Christian Cortez (Ironworkers Local 229), Travis Hood (UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 230), Nicholas Segura (IBEW Local 569) and Michael McKee (Operating Engineers Local 12) have become the faces of the No on G campaign. These union members are homeowners, taxpayers, youth soccer coaches, church and school volunteers in a city where they could be banned from working if Proposition G passes. They, along with hundreds of other union brothers and sisters every week, are getting their stories out to voters about who this proposition would affect.
But the battle will be tough. The ABC and its contractor allies have amassed a sizable war chest, which has allowed them to spread their lies about Proposition G. They are saying that by banning union agreements, anyone can be able to work on Chula Vista projects. That’s false. By banning union agreements, the city would be banning our union brothers and sisters from being able to work on public works projects in their own city. But that hasn’t stopped the contractors. One contractor supporting Proposition G, Sherwood Mechanical, was found by Cal-OSHA to be responsible for an explosion that on a downtown San Diego high-rise hotel projects that left three workers in a coma. Earlier this year, Sherwood Mechanical wrote a $5,000 check to the Yes on Proposition G campaign.
The contractors have made Chula Vista their ground zero, but the Labor Movement is fighting back! In addition to the efforts of the San Diego Labor Council and the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council, the No on G campaign has received tremendous support from local unions and central bodies ranging from San Jose, Denver, Baltimore, Louisiana and other places across the country. Unions outside of the Building Trades such as UNITE HERE, AFSCME and UFCW have also been providing important resources for this fight. The solidarity is strong.
The fight in Chula Vista is a fight that will affect all of the Labor Movement. We are so humbled by the support we’ve received from our brothers and sisters from around California and the nation and also humbled by the powerful stories that Chula Vista union members have brought to this campaign.