Mendocino County Today: August 7, 2013

by AVA News Service, August 7, 2013

 Chamberlin, then and recently

Chamberlin, then and recently

JOHN CHAMBERLIN'S MEMORIAL PARTY will be Saturday, August 31, at the Greenwood Community Center in Elk, from 3 to 11 pm. Pot luck and bring your own drinks. Music by dozens of John's friends, a silent auction and a memorabilia sale. Come celebrate John's life and work and all our years of dancing together!

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LABOR NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN MENDOCINO COUNTY and the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, resumed in April. SEIU represents nearly 600 County employees who pay between $40 and $70 a month to the union for an office in Ukiah in which sits a union rep and a secretary. Let's say SEIU funds the Ukiah office to the tune of approximately $150,000 a year, which is probably a lowball estimate. The rest of the union's enormous annual take in Mendocino County alone (conservatively estimated at $50 per month times 800 employees times 12 months = $480k) goes to… what? SEIU gives many millions to Democrats — Obama alone raked in many millions — in an overall American context of less than 20% unionized workers. A hunk more of local dues goes to the union's overpaid bureaucrats and so-called organizers, a forever changing parade of softy-wofty liberals who drive up to Ukiah from Oakland, Sacramento, or the union's spa-offices in Santa Rosa.

UNION DRIVES that take on private businesses are much tougher than union drives among clumps of public employees, the diff being that private businesses resist and resist viciously while public employees work for other public employees and elected people who, not to put too fine a point on it, are willing, and often eager to toss public money at public employees, hence the precarious financial position of most American governments and municipalities, including broke-ass Mendocino County. (Disclaimer: The AVA is pro-union but anti-jive union. We've always thought that Mendo's public employees would be wise to affiliate with the Teamsters or to represent themselves.)

SO, THE LAME-O SEIU leadership kicked things off in Ukiah with a high-school pep rally approach, encouraging its members to “Purple Up 4 Purple Power! Every Tuesday till (sic) we have a contract.” Out of the box this is double-dumb; the Board of Supes no longer meets most Tuesdays, having gone over to every other Tuesday and some Mondays for two years now. The leadership is not around to swim in SEIU's purple seas, besides which very few County workers don the purple shirts, the local equivalent of “Kick Me” signs.  THE SEIU brain trust followed up on the pep rally theme with an appeal to “Decorate your SEIU Bulletin Board and make it the talk of your department!” Prizes were offered for such categories as Most Provocative, Most Imaginative, Most Colorful, Most Eye-Catching, and so forth.

THE SEIU LEADERSHIP prepared for contract negotiations by holding a series of meetings to ask the members what they wanted. Not surprisingly, what employees wanted was more money. Specifically, the employees want an immediate restoration of the 10% pay cut plus other add-ons. So, then, does the County have the money? CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS for SEIU seem to be led by a man named Jason Klumb. Klumb seems to have replaced the inept and nearly invisible team of Paul Kaplan and Carl Carr, who seldom showed up when budget related items were on the Board of Supes agenda. Carr made a cameo appearance at last year's budget hearings when he urged the Supes not to pass the budget because he claimed it was a meet and confer issue, which it certainly is not, a fact SEIU was apparently unaware of.

KAPLAN WAS LET GO by the SEIU corporate shot-callers in Oakland after failing to convince the membership to strike, followed by his failure to convince County workers to stay at a 12.5% cut with no contract, instead of agreeing to a 10% cut with a contract. That's right; the SEIU honchos wanted the members to stay at a 12.5% cut to create as much discontent as possible.

THE SUPERVISORS, with an office full of tax paid attorneys at the County Counsel's office just down the hall, has nevertheless engaged the services of a hired gun named Donna Williamson of Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore, to lead the County negotiating team, thus squandering money the County says it doesn't have.

SPECULATION AMONG COUNTY WATCHERS is that Williamson is being brought in to provide a level of legal expertise that is, shall we say, beyond the reach of former County Counsel Nadel since elevated to the Mendocino County Superior Court. (The proverbial Old Boys Network in Mendocino County is pure a “liberal” enterprise. The libs, clustered in public employment and the seemingly endless non-profits reinforced by the Democratic Party apparat, hire each other, promote each other, faithfully troop to the polls at election time to ensure that they maintain control of every public dollar.) Two years ago it was a toss-up to decide which was more inept — the pathetic SEIU PR campaign — or the bumbling County response. The botched negotiations resulted in the County and SEIU filing unfair labor practice charges against each other. There is little reason to think things will end any differently this time around.

SEIU HAS ALREADY HELD MEETINGS, including at outlying job sites, like the County Department Of Transportation yards, talking up a strike if their contract demands are not met. And with an opening demand for restoration of the 10% pay cut; additional 4% Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) raises each of the next two years; and miscellaneous wish list add-ons, an agreement seems unlikely. But that doesn't mean a strike is inevitable, especially in a deteriorating economic context where most employed people feel blessed simply to have a job, any job. Last time around, after the SEIU bargaining team drove the incompetently represented County to impose a 12.5% cut when the County would have settled for 10%, it was the rank and file employees who forced the leaders to accept a 10% cut instead of striking. The rank and file seems to understand that the County can't agree to a pay raise without having a way to pay for it. They also seem to understand they will bear the brunt of any strike through lost wages and the emotional toll strikes always take on working families.

THE SEIU AND COUNTY NEGOTIATORS seem to have been going through the motions until Wednesday of last week when the County objected to the presence of SEIU “silent observers” who were not part of the negotiating team. When SEIU refused to exclude the observers, the County negotiators left the room. Gawd. What movie did they learn this fake militancy from?

IN AN EMAIL EXCHANGE, Mr. Klumb, speaking for SEIU, said the County had not objected to the presence of observers earlier and now the County was stuck with them. Ms. Williamson, responding for the County, said the issue of observers had never been discussed, the County was not interested in being part of a show with an audience, and the refusal to meet without observers was unfortunate. Klumb objected to Williamson's objections, and said they were not finished with the County's request for “costing out” (an apparent reference to the cost of the SEIU monetary demands), adding a complaint that the County sent data in the wrong format. Williamson said the union had not objected previously to the data format and reiterated the County's willingness to meet without observers.

IN OTHER WORDS, both sides are already stuck on non-issues.

SEIU STAGED a totally horseshit, PhotoShopped picture of their negotiators facing a row of empty chairs and sent it to their membership under the heading “Management walks out, refuses to bargain!” The flyer claims the union has an “action plan” to win a fair contract, which probably means the County can expect more of the same posturing from these clowns.

THE COUNTY RESPONDED with an email to the SEIU employees saying the County was ready to bargain and added the back and forth email exchange between Klumb and Williamson as an attachment. (At this point you might be wondering when the hall monitor is going show up and make the children get back in line.) The County also invited the reader to visit the County's “labor negotiations website” at

http://www/co.mendocino.ca.us/hr/laborNegotiations1.htm

ACCORDING TO AN SEIU FLYER, in addition to restoring the 10% pay raise, the union is also asking for an additional cost of living allowance, affordable health care, longevity pay, layoff protections, and job security through limiting contracting out. In a continuation of the carnival theme, the SEIU leadership urged their members to “Storm the Board” on July 30, later claiming they filled the Board chambers “in support of the bargaining team's proposals to reinvest the county's new surplus in services, infrastructure and its workforce, all devastated after years of budget cuts.”

EXCEPT COUNTY REVENUES HAVE flatlined for several years, healthcare and retirement costs keep going up, and the reserves have been funded mostly with one time savings, which means spending the reserves is not a sustainable way to pay for raises. And without reserves the County and the employees will be even more vulnerable to lay offs when the next economic tremor hits. Which it inevitably will and this time much harder than it did in 2008.

THE BASIC PROB that SEIU refuses to acknowledge is that Mendocino is rural-poor and teetering on the edge of financial ruin. The road to ruin was paved with lots of bad decisions by previous Boards of Supes, aided and abetted by highly placed County officials who should have known better. The current Supes, out of necessity, for the most part, have made smart budget decisions. Which means it is unlikely the Supes will raid their modest reserves to pay for raises, at least not until revenues begin to increase. If they ever increase again.

THE MANAGEMENT BARGAINING UNIT, in contrast to SEIU, reached agreement within a couple of months, according to the above mentioned website, taking another couple of months to finalize the agreement. Except for some minor cleanup language, the contract is status quo, keeping the 10% pay cut in place, but with a “me too” clause in case any other bargaining group gets a better deal. Which is another reason the County is unlikely to restore the 10% pay cut for SEIU.

IF THE COUNTY LABOR WEBSITE is intended to provide useful info of the kind that would allow an outsider to come to an informed opinion, it fails miserably. A typical posting says that on May 14 the County received 34 questions from Meredith Staples, representing SEIU out of Oakland, but doesn't say what the questions were. A subsequent posting says the County responded to the questions, but without giving the answers. On July 10 we learned that the County submitted four counter offers to SEIU and that SEIU then submitted several proposals, some new and some old. WTF are they?

AT THIS POINT, we agree that observers should be present, but they should include media and/or community reps, in addition to hand picked union members who can be expected to take the union side.

WE ALSO THINK SEIU should quit playing games and use a small part of the dues extracted from the membership each month to pay for an independent examination of the County budget. But they don’t, and won’t, because SEIU headquarters in Oakland probably knows that an honest review would confirm that the County budget gives an accurate picture of the County’s bleak financial condition. And that the County is in no position to restore the 10% wage cut, much less consider all the other requested add ons. Without an honest effort by SEIU to understand County finances, we can expect to watch another slo mo train wreck unfold over the coming months. According to SEIU, negotiations are scheduled to resume August 16.

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A READER suggested we post this anonymous note which was posted on Craig’s list on Monday entitled “The Trades: Carpenters-Rockers-Painters (Remodels Everywhere)”

The construction trades have evolved into a big world of suck. Perhaps once there may have been a window of time when they didn't, but now they suck. Deadlines and despair. Toxic lung dust exposure alllll day every say. Ear damaging tools that never stop. Tradesmen jockeying for position and ruining each other’s work in a mad dash towards a false deadline imposed by remote viewing figurehead puppet masters in big trucks with hookers in the back and lines of blow on the dash. Stress and cheating and lying on site with workers sleeping off life stresses behind pallets of poisonous plywood. Broken bodies, hacked off fingers, roof tar lung flashing eye burn blue room hurry crap ass syndrome stop and start truck engine failure scrambled egg finish coats on fiberglass doors in the hot sun tumors painter’s leukemia carpenter redwood dust lung squabbles resentment sarcasm quiet desperation and stale bread styrofoam sandwich lunch with an aspertame chaser.

For the love of God stop your kids or your friends kids or anyone’s kids from playing guitar. They’re just gonna end up crouched in a corner of a remodel at age 40 something covered in paint, earphones on, struggling to look busy, holding on to that memory of the time that someone who knew someone said “Your band is so good!” Struggling to make enough bread to get the kid they had with a stranger out into the world so that finally then… Then they can make the solo album. The one no one will listen to and no one will buy. The one that will sit on the cluttered desk next to the dying iMac 20 years too late to the party.

Fucking screamingly loud shop vacs. Interior cutting stations PVC in a chop saw chain smoking German showerphobes head cheese lunches tobacco chewing chicks with overalls pool construction foreman with colostomy bags bent over crippled sidewall specialist 60 year olds with $400 in savings and a kid in college recovering drunks and tweaker enthusiasts thieving ex-con roofers pounding nails through the million dollar walnut ceiling with a cancerous oil finish and gangs of central americans with ten course lunches in discardable plastic and tinfoil deaf contractors who yell and drop shit on new floors grinding failed crushed granite pathways through rosin paper and ordered a year too early high end European appliances in the breezeway where the rats eat through the wires stove drop custom counter smash mud bubbling job sites birthplaces for client contempt and vertebrae decline stoop over shuffle into acetone induced early Alzheimer's.

Mondays. Mondays are the worst,

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HIP SERVICE to Play Sundays in the Park August 11

This Sunday, August 11th in Todd Grove Park at 6:00pm Fowler Auto & Truck Center, The City of Ukiah, KWNE-FM and MAX 93.5 are proud to present the fifth concert of the 22nd annual 2013 Sundays in the Park concert series featuring the Electrifying Motown R & B Revue with Hip Service. Hip Service is one of Sundays in the Park's favorite bands and are unrivaled in the entertainment industry with its unique variety of crowd pleasing, from-the-soul dance music. This accomplished group, made up of world-class performers, has become one of the most in demand live acts in Northern California. They won the Sacramento Sounds of Soul Music #1 award for Best R&B Group several times! Performing dance hits from the '60's through the '90's, Hip Service features three outstanding lead vocalists, a screaming four piece horn section, rock solid funky rhythm section and four electrifying dancers. Since their inception in 1996, the Hip Service sensation has taken Northern California by storm. It's the music that makes you get up and shake your hips! Rhythm & Blues, Classic Soul, sounds of Motown, Classic Rock, 70's Disco, or funky grooves: they have it all! This group's dance-'til-you-drop performances and stellar reputation in the entertainment business has made Hip Service "The-Band-In-Demand!" Great music, dynamic choreography, endless fun and enthusiasm, and true professionalism make Hip Service a boogying good time for the 20th annual Sundays in the Park concerts.

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ALEX DE GRASSI Performs at Parducci's Acoustic Café This Saturday August 10th, Parducci Winery's Acoustic Café concert series presents world famous guitarist Alex de Grassi. Alex's concert last year gathered the largest audience Acoustic Café has ever had and we look forward to a repeat performance by this seminal guitarist. General Admission is $14 and tickets are available at Parducci Wine Cellars tasting room, on 501 Parducci Rd. in Ukiah, by calling 463-5357, or online at parducci.com/Wine-Store/Event-Tickets. Food will be available throughout the summer from The Potter Valley Café and North State Street Café with part of the drink proceeds benefiting the Alex Rorabaugh Center (The ARC). Seating fills quickly so be sure to show up early enough to get a seat at 6pm.

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YOU ARE INVITED to a panel discussion hosted by Congressman Jared Huffman Preparing for the Affordable Care Act: Navigating the Covered California Exchange with representatives from Covered California Health and Human Services Small Business Administration Thursday, August 29, 2013
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm Mendocino College Little Theater, 1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah, CA.

Please RSVP to Alice.Young@mail.house.gov or 707.962.0933 ========================================================

OIL LOBBY LEADS CALIFORNIA SPENDING AS OCEAN FRACKING PROCEEDS

by Dan Bacher

Some may consider California to be a "green" state and the "environmental leader" of the nation, but that delusion is quickly dispelled once one actually looks at who spends the most on lobbying in California - the oil industry.

The Western States Petroleum Association spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group, according to quarterly documents released by the California Secretary of State.

The association spent $1,023,069.78 in the first quarter and $1,285,720.17 in the second quarter, a total of $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&session=2013&view=activity)

Because of the enormous influence exerted by the group and the oil companies themselves in the Capitol, all but one bill to regulate or ban fracking was defeated in the Legislature this year. The only bill that passed through the Legislature was the weak bill to "regulate" fracking sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley.

The association's members are a "who's who" of big oil companies, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillip, ExxonMobil, Navajo Refining Company, Noble Energy Company, Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation, Shell Oil Products US, Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, U.S. Oil & Refining Company, Venoco, Inc. and many others.

The top 20 interest groups who spent the most money in the first six months included labor unions, the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron and health care corporations. (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/)

The latest report on spending on lobbying emerged as the Associated Press revealed that companies prospecting for oil off California's coast have used the controversial practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed.

Now regulators are investigating whether the environmentally destructive practice, one that threatens fish and wildlife populations in the state's marine waters, should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review. (http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_23789784/fracking-off-california-coast-draws-call-greater-regulation)

"Hundreds of pages of federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press and advocacy groups through the Freedom of Information Act show regulators have permitted fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and have recently approved a new project," wrote AP reporters Jason Dearen and Alicia Chang.

"Companies are doing the offshore fracking -- which involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and chemicals into undersea shale and sand formations -- to stimulate old existing wells into new oil production," they said.

Inexplicably missing from the mainstream media and even most "alternative" media reports on this issue is any mention of the fact that the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the alleged "marine protected areas" that went in effect in Southern California waters in January 2012! She also served on the task forces to create "marine protected areas" on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

Without the shameless support of corporate "environmental" NGOs and state officials for Reheis-Boyd's role as a "marine guardian" in the creation of questionable "marine reserves," the current expansion of fracking offshore wouldn't be possible. Grassroots environmentalists, Indian Tribe members, fishermen and advocates of democracy and transparency in government blasted the leadership role of the oil industry lobbyist in creating these "marine protected areas," but to no avail.

You see, the "marine protected areas" created under the privately-funded Initiative weren't true "marine protected areas" as the language of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 called for. Under the leadership of ocean industrialists like Reheis-Boyd, a marina corporation executive, a coastal real estate developer and other corporate operatives, marine protection was effectively eviscerated in California.

These "marine protected areas" fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

As I have pointed out in article after article, Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine "protection" official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators. (http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/lawsuit-filed-against-fracking-oil-lobbyist-says-its-safe)

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies' efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.

Not only do the association and oil companies buy access to lawmakers, but they exert enormous control over Governor Jerry Brown, who is currently fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels. The water destined for the tunnels will go to corporate agribusiness and oil companies seeking to expand fracking operations.

"A state senator has told me that Brown has cut a deal with the oil companies - he'll push fracking in exchange for campaign contributions to his 2012 Proposition 30 and his 2014 reelected," said RL Miller in her recent article on Daily Kos. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/01/1228191/-Drowning-Sacramento-in-a-tide-of-oil)

She cited as evidence for a deal the $27,200.00 that Occidental Petroleum Corporation contributed to Brown's 2014 campaign. That's the maximum allowable under California law.

Miller also noted the roughly $1 million that oil companies - members of the Western States Petroleum Association - contributed to Brown's Proposition 30 campaign. These contributions include the following:

Aera Energy (Exxon-related), $125,000

Berry Petroleum, Denver, $35,000

Breitburn Operating, Houston, $21,250

CA State Pipe Trades Council (usually the pipeline union supports Big Oil), $100,000

Conoco Phillips, $25,000

E & B Natural Resources Management, Bakersfield, $20,000

MacPherson Oil Co., $50,000

Naftex, $10,000

Occidental Petroleum, $500,000

Plains Exploration & Production, $100,000

SoCal Pipe Trades Council, $125,000

Signal Hill Petroleum, $10,000

Vaquero Energy, $35,000

Venoco, $25,000

As the oil industry expands its role in California politics and environmental processes, there is no doubt that they are going to use every avenue they can to divert more water for fracking, including taking Delta water through the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The construction of the tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

The industry will also use its power to expand fracking in the ocean unless Californians rise up and resist these plans.

Californians must question state officials and MLPA advocates about why they supported the leadership role of an oil industry lobbyist in creating so-called "marine protected areas" off the California coast. After all, oil and water don't mix!

One Response to Mendocino County Today: August 7, 2013

  1. John Sakowicz Reply

    August 7, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Outstanding job in reporting on SEIU. I wish every county employee could read today’s blog.

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