San Diego City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio accepted Thursday the endorsements of three major construction industry organizations.
Representatives of the local chapters of the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the Building Industry Association (BIA) gathered at a construction site in the Civita housing development in Mission Valley to announce their support of his mayoral bid.
In explaining their endorsements, the representatives each cited DeMaio’s support of the Fair and Open Competition ballot initiative set to appear before voters in the June primary.
The Fair and Open Competition initiative would prohibit project labor agreements (PLAs) on city of San Diego construction projects. County voters approved a similar proposition in 2010.
“You should not be forced to join a union in order to apply for a job to work as a carpenter or electrician or any other act that supports the building industry,” DeMaio said while accepting the endorsements.
Unions and other PLA supporters say the agreements protect workers from accepting the low wages and unfriendly conditions associated with nonunion projects. They say taxpayer dollars shouldn’t fund low-wage work.
It’s become a larger issue in recent years with the collapse in demand for new construction. Public projects have fared better since the recession, partly because of stimulus funds and the ongoing need for public infrastructure improvements, leading nonunion private contractors faced with falling demand to compete for the available work.
Borre Winckel, president of the local BIA chapter, said it was unusual for his organization to endorse a candidate before the primary.
“San Diego cannot compete unless we have the types of reforms (DeMaio) has been talking about for the past four years … and he needs the office of the mayor to make those reforms a reality,” he said.
Local AGC President Dave Carlin said passage of the Fair and Open Competition initiative would allow taxpayers to get the most out of every dollar the city spends.
“He’s the only candidate who has the determination and the plan required to revive our local economy and put San Diegans back to work,” Carlin said.
Greg Rogers, CEO of Pacific Building Group and member of the board of directors at ABC, said his endorsement would mean both financial and “boots on the ground” support for DeMaio’s campaign.
“We like him as a whole,” he said. “His fiscal discipline, pension reform plan and business history, he hits all the buttons.”
San Diego’s economy can’t recover until construction activity returns to historically normal levels, according to DeMaio.
“That is why my jobs plan focuses on streamlining the regulation and permitting process at City Hall, to make it faster, better and cheaper, to get projects approved in a manner that is more commonsensical,” he said.
DeMaio’s jobs plan — the Pathway to Prosperity — is a 112-point, 90-page document that he released in January. At the plan’s release, DeMaio’s staff stressed that it was not part of his mayoral campaign, but a function of his role on the City Council.
He said he’d use the document to steer the city’s jobs conversation.
The council’s Economic Development and Strategies Committee, of which DeMaio is not a part, requested suggestions from council members on ways of stimulating economic growth. The Pathway to Prosperity was DeMaio’s response to the committee’s request.
Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher, also running in the June mayoral primary, in a January debate called DeMaio a hypocrite for accepting endorsements and contributions from contractors who compete for city contracts. The criticism followed DeMaio's boast that he wouldn't accept union endorsements, saying they would present a conflict of interest when he is forced to sit across the negotiating table from them if elected.
Correction: a previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Civita, the housing development where the press conference took place. The Transcript regrets the error.