Construction unions were among the top donors to the campaign to pass Proposition 1A, the November 2008 California ballot measure that authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion via bond sales for development of a “safe, reliable high-speed passenger train for the 21st century.” (See a chart of the top-40 donors to Proposition 1A at the end of this article.)

That support was rewarded when administrators of the California High-Speed Rail Authority subsequently signed a Project Labor Agreement (disguised as a “Community Benefits Agreement”) with the unions for future construction. The Authority board never discussed nor voted on this costly and discriminatory insider deal.

Seven years after 53% of California voters approved Proposition 1A, the public has realized, to its dismay, that most of the promises about California High-Speed Rail were exaggerated, deceptive, or impossible to achieve. The project staggers from widespread grassroots opposition and relentless (and deserved) negative news coverage. The latest: on December 7, KCRA Channel 3 News in Sacramento revealed that the tree-planting program promised in 2013 to “offset” greenhouse gas emissions from high-speed rail construction does not exist.

But one group continues to adamantly support the California High-Speed Rail program. A high-speed rail symposium was held in Bakersfield on December 5, 2015. Union officials dominated the group of speakers.

Unions at High Speed Rail Symposium-Program

Opponents of California High-Speed Rail should realize that union support for the project means it will be difficult to ever obtain majority support in the state legislature to suspend or stop the project.

For past coverage in of this notorious Project Labor Agreement, see articles such as Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed RailUnions Await Fantastic Return on High-Speed Rail Political Investments, and California High-Speed Rail Business Plan Misrepresents Project Labor Agreement.

For information about the tree-planting program, see the KCRA story High-Speed Rail’s Tree-Planting Plan Slow to Start:  Nearly a Year after Groundbreaking, Not a Single Tree Planted and the California Policy Center article California High Speed Rail’s Dubious Claims of Environmental Benefits.

Top-40 Proposition 1A Campaign Donors

Name of Campaign DonorKind of Campaign DonorAmount DonatedDonor Rank
California Alliance For Jobs Rebuild California CommitteeUnion-Affiliated Labor-Management Cooperation Committee$616,500 1
International Union of Operating EngineersConstruction Union$250,000 2
Operating Engineers Local Union No. 3 (Union & PAC)Construction Union$250,000 3
California State Council of LaborersConstruction Union$100,000 4
Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG)Public Employee Union$183,4935
Parsons Brinckerhoff Americas Inc.Construction Design & Engineering$76,500 6
AECOM Tech CorporationConstruction Design & Engineering$75,000 7
International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 12Construction Union$75,000 8
Members Voice of the State Building TradesConstruction Union$75,000 9
HNTB CorporationConstruction Design & Engineering$63,000 10
Californians for a Safe & Reliable High Speed RailTransfer from Californians for Clean, Safe, Reliable Water Yes on Propositions 12/13$53,487.86 11
Granite Construction Inc.Construction$50,000 12
Northern California Carpenters Regional CouncilConstruction Union$50,000 13
Southwest Regional Council of CarpentersConstruction Union$50,000 14
STV GroupConstruction Design & Engineering$45,000 15
Arup Services New York, LtdConstruction Design & Engineering$41,500 16
California Nurses AssociationHealth Care Union$40,000 17
California American Council of Engineering CompaniesConstruction Design & Engineering$35,000 18
AlstomConstruction & Transportation Systems$31,500 19
CH2M HillConstruction Design & Engineering$31,500 20
Sumitomo Corporation of AmericaTransportation Systems$31,500 21
ParsonsConstruction Design & Engineering$30,000 22
Systra USA Inc.Construction Design & Engineering$26,500 23
URS CorporationConstruction Design & Engineering$26,500 24
A. Teichert & Son, Inc.Construction$25,000 25
DeSilva Gates Construction LLPConstruction$25,000 26
Engineering & Utility Contractors Association (now part of United Contractors)Engineering Business Association$25,000 27
Siemens Transportation Systems, Inc.Construction Design & Engineering$25,000 28
Pacific Gas & ElectricPublic Utility$20,000 29
Hatch Mott MacdonaldConstruction Design & Engineering$16,500 30
IBI GroupConstruction Design & Engineering$16,500 31
Associated General Contractors of CaliforniaConstruction Business Association$15,000 32
David Evans and Associates, Inc.Construction Design & Engineering$15,000 33
HDR Engineering, Inc.Construction Design & Engineering$15,000 34
Washington Group International Group, Inc. (now owned by URS Corporation)Construction Design & Engineering$15,000 35
Talgo, Inc.Train Manufacturer$12,000 36
Gannett Fleming, Inc.Construction Design & Engineering$11,500 37
Fieldstead & Company DBA Howard G. Ahmanson, Jr.Philanthropist$10,000 38
Kiewit PacificConstruction$10,000 39
Stacy and Witbeck, Inc.Construction$10,000 40

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.


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