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Monday, July 20, 2009

Take These Jobs And....

We all remember the popular lyric from the appropriately named Johnny Paycheck, "take this job and shove it, I ain't working here no more." A similar refrain has been heard throughout the Golden State for the past decade or more as companies and corporations have opted to open new businesses in Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Texas, and many other states rather than do so in California. While many in Sacramento point to statistics that they say show no jobs were lost by companies leaving California for the past decade, what they cannot show is that during a period from 2002 through most of 2007 when our national economy grew every single quarter--that is twenty straight quarters of economic growth--California did not gain new jobs. Following the state on this path is the City of Long Beach. During a period of historic economic growth Long Beach lagged behind cities in neighboring states in adding new companies and corporations to employ its residents. Throughout the city and state there has been a loss of manufacturing jobs, assembly jobs, production jobs, and a small increase in service industry jobs. In the past decade California has lost in the neighborhood of half a million manufacturing jobs, in the same time frame however the number of government employees has increased by over 125,000.

Not ones to learn about economics or cause and effect while in office, the Long Beach City Council on July 14th continued on the path of hostility to business and job creation in the city with a vote to postpone approving an ordinance to allow more jobs. While all the attention at the Council was on the proposed Equal Benefits Ordinance that would require contractors doing business with the city to offer equal benefits to registered domestic partners as it does to married couples, by a vote of 7-1 the council was able to postpone the development of a new hotel for at least one more week. With the vote the council once again took out a full page ad in the "Don't Bring Jobs Here" journal that is widely read by executives and CEOs looking to grow their companies.

Several years ago the downtown area of Long Beach changed with the development of The Pike. The new development, designed as an outdoor mall, was to have shops and restaurants and encourage visitors and residents to stroll and shop and dine. About the only strolling however is from the parking garage to California Pizza Kitchen or Islands and most of the shops in between have turned over or are vacant. The development has been a disappointment despite a full convention center across the street, thousands of new residential units that are now occupied within walking distance and restaurants north and south that have thrived since the development of The Pike.

When a national upscale hotelier came to the city and indicated a willingness to build a 125 room hotel on the edge of The Pike it seemed like a great idea. Close to the convention center, downtown offices and the vacant store fronts at The Pike, visitors to the hotel could easily walk and shop and dine--surely such a hotel in this location would help revitalize the site.

Not so fast says seven members of the Long Beach City Council. Anyone who is semi-conscious knows that financing for anything is difficult to obtain in the current economy, but the City Council of Long Beach wants the developer of the hotel to wait a bit longer before securing final financing of the project--a potential deal killer. The hotel will generate much needed revenue for the city directly from bed taxes and secondarily from sales tax revenue of visitors shopping and dining in the city--but those revenues can wait. The construction and furnishing of the development will bring jobs to the city and region, but those jobs can wait. All the positive aspects of this project are on hold. Why?

The Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs & A Healthy Community (site here) is a front group of organized labor groups that have been pressuring Long Beach hotels to unionize their workers for some time. The group consists mainly of union representatives and representatives of non-profit groups in the community that support immigrant laborers. Their purpose is to get the hotel industry to "invest in its workforce" because it feels uneducated workers with limited to no language skills, English language skills, should be paid on equal terms to educated workers with skills to communicate and use things like computers. Their only purpose of course is to unionize the workers, which will generate more dues for the unions and of course more political contributions for political campaigns. If this group really cared about the workers they would be using their funds to educate them to get high school diplomas, learn to speak and read English fluently and greatly increase chances for above minimum wage employment. Instead the group trots out "representative" workers to say how bad their plight is because they have jobs in a city with an unemployment rate of 12%.

Of the seven council members who voted for the postponement in completing the Hotel Sierra we have the following: 1st District Robert Garcia who is facing re-election in 2010, received backing from public employee unions for his recent election and will need labor support to get any Democratic Party primary funding for his future, 2nd District Suja Lowenthal (whose district includes the hotel) recipient of public employee endorsements and funds, 5th District Gerrie Schipske, former attorney for the teacher's union, 7th District Tonya Uranga who has a staff member on the board for the Long Beach Coalition and whose husband is running for her seat, 8th District Rae Gabelich who received backing and funding from public employee unions, 9th District Val Lerch who received backing and funding from public employee unions and who is running a write-in campaign for re-election. Six of the seven members who voted to delay the construction of the hotel have union support to get into office.

Our City Council is becoming increasingly comfortable in meddling in how businesses operate. No longer is their purpose to provide for the safety of residents and businesses, maintain infrastructure, and encourage a healthy business environment that encourages employers to bring jobs and raise the quality of life in our city. Instead the council and city have veered sharply towards the anti-business crowd, vocal on websites across the city and country that decry anyone who shows a profit, who pays minimum wage, who dare to provide jobs, services and goods to local communities. Why is Long Beach facing unemployment higher than the state of California? Why is California facing unemployment higher than the national average? Why are states like Texas still attracting employers and jobs, companies expanding and growing even in our current environment?

As always with politics follow the money. In Long Beach the only money that matters is money that has been taken from workers through dues paid to organized labor and taken from their paychecks as political donations. Every state district in Long Beach, and with the exception of the Shore every federal district, is overwhelming Democrat in registration. To win an election an individual needs to be a registered Democrat an win the Democratic Primary for that seat. To win the primary they must, absolutely must, have the considerable financial support of the public employee and private industry unions. Ask Laura Richardson. Ask Alan Lowenthal. Ask Bonnie Lowenthal. Ask Wayne Furutani. Despite the role of organized labor in our state and city financial messes with salaries and benefits that have rocketed, they continue to control our elections and officials. Despite the record showing the long term impact of such influence on the auto industry, the airline industry and public budgets across the nation, our officials still chase those funds for their next election.

As long as Long Beach voters keep electing the same people to the same offices being supported by the same funds from the same organized labor groups our elected city officials will continue to behave as they did last Tuesday. Voting to delay or kill projects and developments that would bring jobs and revenue to our city. And the more they follow this path the higher our unemployment numbers climb, in the city and in the state.

UPDATE: Councilman Val Lerch sent me this email this morning after reading this post:
Dennis, a correction to the Sierra Hotel story. I am not in support of any type of forced labor deals. I do not support living wages, (they just become the new minimum wage and drive up costs). I supported a one week delay as a courtesy to my colleague.

Do I need to remind you that I was and still am an opponent to PLAs and the ban on K-Mart. I had hundreds of HERE and LA Feds come after me in the last election and will this election. They put hundreds of their members on the streets in NLB to get me out of office. They backed my opponent spending over 100k against me and denoted 50k more.

Thank you for listening.

Val Lerch
Write-in Val Lerch for City Council 2010
Committee ID #1319487

Thank you Val for the information, and also your positions on these issues.


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