San Diego and its national reputation for whale shows, golden sunsets, and big-money insider politics now has another distinction.
At least that appears to be the message of labor-union bigwigs who staged what they called the National Summit on Raising Wages in Washington DC on January 7.
According to a news release from its sponsors, the event concluded "with the announcement of San Diego as a key site for the AFL-CIO’s 2015 Raising Wages campaign."
"Atlanta, Columbus, DC (Metro), St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis will also be the starting points of a long-term effort to concentrate work where it can have the most impact to raise wages for working people," the announcement says.
"In each city, the labor movement will stand together with those already at work and bring important energy, ideas and resources to critical battles."
The move may herald a political regrouping of sorts by national union leaders, who, despite injecting copious infusions of cash into political causes here, have been distinctly outmaneuvered by the equally big-spending Republican establishment, led by La Jolla mega-millionaire and U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester and the take-no-prisoners GOP Lincoln Club.
The string of union setbacks has included last year's mayoral loss of Democratic city councilman David Alvarez to Republican ex-PR man and former councilman Kevin Faulconer, the victory of former business lobbyist Chris Cate over a union-backed candidate for city council, and the ouster of labor-favorite Todd Gloria as city-council president by fellow Democrat Sherri Lightner.
Gloria was noted for spearheading a successful effort to pass a minimum-wage law last year, an action that was subsequently checkmated by Manchester and his allies by staging a successful referendum campaign to put the ordinance up for voter approval in June 2016.
"Expect hardball," a July 30 U-T editorial accurately foretold. "It can get ugly."
Gloria is now calling for changes to the city's implementation of the state's longtime referendum law, a product of century-old reform.
"I think that every San Diegan has real questions about whether the referendary [sic] tool is really a tool of the people any longer, or is it really just a high-priced tool that's reserved for folks who can afford lobbyists, consultants, and others to really affect a political outcome that they could not get through the normal public process," he recently told KPBS, the public broadcast outlet run by San Diego State University and heavily funded by Democrat billionaire Irwin Jacobs, Manchester's longtime nemesis.
Responded political consultant and Faulconer insider Jason Roe: "It's so ridiculous and so anti-democratic that I have a feeling that public opinion may dissuade him from pursuing it much further."
In addition to the minimum wage, Manchester and the Lincoln Club forces, in conjunction with GOP ex-mayor and chamber of commerce chief Jerry Sanders, have mounted successful referendum drives against a "linkage fee" on commercial development to subsidize housing and the Barrio Logan community plan, opposed by defense-contracting giants BAE and General Dynamics.
The council subsequently rescinded the linkage fee before it could go to voters, and the deep-pocketed military contractors beat back the barrio plan at the ballot box.
The successful campaign against the barrio plan leaned heavily on the threat of job losses, while opponents, including U-T San Diego, omitted mention of substantial outsourcing of San Diego shipyard work to a sprawling complex known as Tecnologias Internacionales de Manufactura, S.A. de C.V. in Mexicali, Mexico.The plant is owned and operated by a subsidiary General Dynamics, which also owns San Diego’s National Steel and Shipbuilding Company.
Fears of Mexican outsourcing are currently being expressed by unions at Bath Iron Works, a shipyard in Maine acquired by General Dynamics in 1995.
Last year, NASSCO chief Fred Harris, widely understood to have been a key figure in San Diego's anti-barrio plan campaign, also assumed the helm at Bath.
"For months, rumors circulated that [Bath Iron Works] planned to outsource some work to firms in Mexico," the Portland News Press reported December 28. "Harris insisted that won't happen — an assurance he also made to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who became involved at the behest of the unions.
"'But we will try, in accordance with the agreement, to work with the union to outsource those things to other American companies that we can find that can do the work and do it affordably, much more affordably than we do,' Harris said.”