ABC Falsehoods Refuted in Letter to Stockton Record

October 6, 2011 - In a letter to the editor of the Stockton Record, SBCTC President Bob Balgenorth and Northern California Mechanical Contractors Association Executive Director Scott Strawbridge, in their capacities as trustees of the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperation Trust, have refuted false statements made in a Record article by an ABC spokesman.  We are not certain at this time if or when the letter will be published. The entire letter and the article to which it responds follow.

To: Stockton Record

We take strong exception to Kevin Dayton’s false statements in your recent article about the Lodi Energy Center.

First, Dayton does not speak “on behalf of nonunionized construction workers.”  He doesn’t speak on behalf of any workers. He is paid by an organization of non-union contractors, and he speaks only for them, not workers.  As a matter of fact, his organization lobbies to lower the wages of all construction workers.

Second, he falsely calls the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust a “mysterious union slush fund” that pays for “union political activity.”

It isn’t mysterious, it isn’t a slush fund, and it doesn’t pay for any political contributions.  It is illegal to use this fund for political contributions and it never has been used for that purpose.

It is a fund established under federal law, to assist both workers and management, and its stated purpose is “to assist workers and employers in solving problems of mutual concern not susceptible to resolution within the collective bargaining process and to study and explore ways of eliminating potential problems which reduce the competitiveness and inhibit the economic development of the industry in California.”  The fund is jointly overseen by management and labor and operates under strict federal scrutiny.

Management members of the trust include a major construction firm, Bechtel, and a power plant developer, Calpine.  It also includes four construction employer organizations, and an equal number of representatives from labor.

Parroting Kevin Dayton’s false and disparaging statements to the contrary is sensationalist, tabloid journalism and a malicious slur against unions and the businesses who choose to collectively bargain fair wages, pensions and safe working conditions.

Please set the record straight.

Bob Balgenorth
Scott Strawbridge


Following is the article that Bob Balgenorth and Scott Strawbridge are responding to.

High Energy

Lodi center designed to be a powerhouse for chunk of state

 By Keith Reid
Record Staff Writer
October 04, 2011 12:00 AM

LODI - Prefabricated pieces of the 280 megawatt Lodi Energy Center are so massive that the Northern California Power Agency has had to close down Interstate 5 two dozen times over the past year just to transport them from Stockton to the plant.

A two-year, $500 million project - $375 million for construction, plus bond debt service - the power plant is more than halfway to completion, and on track for a June 2012 opening, Assistant General Manager Ken Speer said.

When done, the 100-foot-tall plant will produce enough energy to serve 13 municipalities in Northern California, including Lodi.

"This is going to be the most efficient power plant in Northern California and probably the state," said Speer.  "It will lower greenhouse emissions by 70 percent."

Sitting on a couple of acres near Lodi's wastewater treatment plant, the energy center is coming along as an intricate design of different pipelines, 100,000 feet of underground electrical wiring, and turbines, compressors and generators.

The plant has "fast-start" technology allowing for a one hour boot-up time instead of the typical four hours for a plant its size, Speer said.

The process begins by starting the massive gas turbine engine to produce power.  The waste heat from that turbine - or steam - is then sent through the steam turbine to create more energy.

"And if you're at a point where you're producing too much power, you can shut it down," Speer said.  "You'd hesitate to shut down another plant, but it will only take an hour here to get back online."

More than 250 construction workers have been on the job during daily construction the past year, a boon to the local economy, proponents said.

That's not to say the power plant has not met some opposition.  The Associated Builders and Contractors of California, which speaks on behalf of nonunionized construction workers, has vocally opposed management of the project - but at a political level, not in objection to the purpose of the plant itself.

Kevin Dayton, the contractor group's government affairs director, has criticized a project labor agreement between the Power Authority and the construction workers union, and openly doubts that project leaders have gone to great enough lengths to hire local workers and veterans, which they are required to do.

Speer said the agency has easily met its requirements.

Dayton has cited a payment from the Northern California Power Agency to the California Construction Industry Labor Management Cooperative Trust as a starting point.

"As part of the Project Labor Agreement, the NCPA mailed a $90,000 check in August 2010 to a mysterious union slush fund that subsequently sent letters to local elected officials throughout the state lobbying for more Project Labor Agreements.  In other words, NCPA ratepayers are paying to build a power plant and also paying for union political activity," Dayton said.

Locally, the feeling is different.  Lodi City Councilman Larry Hansen, who also serves on the Power Authority board, said the project is a boon to the community, both with the jobs it has brought the area and future electrical rates.

"The plant is going to provide close to the city of Lodi's base load, and we can see a lot of potential into the future as far as realizing a competitive (energy) rate," Hansen said.  "That's good for the people in Lodi, and that's the bottom line."


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