Non-union firms to sue city over Convention Center project
SAN DIEGO — A group representing nonunion construction firms announced Thursday it will sue the city of San Diego in order to publicly unveil terms of a deal with labor on the convention center expansion project.
The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction said the city and project contractor Clark Construction have refused to release details of the agreement.
“We’re going to get that union Project Labor Agreement, expose it to the public, and make every schemer involved with this union sweetheart deal accountable for breaking the law,” said Eric Christen, the executive director of the coalition.
He contends the deal is a violation of Proposition A, which San Diegans passed last June to prevent the city from requiring project labor agreements for municipal construction.
At a news conference to announce the deal in November, backers of the project took pains to say the deal was not really a Project Labor Agreement.
Lorena Gonzalez, CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said typical components of PLAs, like hiring practices and compensation, are being dealt with directly with the contractors, not the city.
She, then-Mayor Jerry Sanders and project manager Charles Black, said the convention center deals were about local hiring rules, worker safety and other contentious issues.
In exchange, unions dropped litigation over the project, ended their opposition to an environmental impact report and promised to express support for the expansion when it is considered by the labor-friendly California Coastal Commission.
The commission is the final regulatory hurdle the project has to clear. Once construction begins, the work is expected to take about 33 months, according to Black.