- Vargas votes to put a $247 million dollar bond measure on the ballot.
- Vargas approves language telling voters an exclusive deal with unions isn’t part of the deal.
- Vargas takes as much as $200,000 in personal payments from big labor organizations that go into his personal bank account.
- Within months of voter approval, Vargas proposes an exclusive contract for big labor.
- He asks his colleagues to make him the school Board’s representative to big labor organizations to negotiate and oversee the exclusive contract.
- The money keeps flowing. Big Labor organizations bankroll Vargas’ run for Mayor.
Vargas’ personal financial disclosures (form 700) reveal that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in direct payments that benefitted him personally from big labor organizations at the exact same time he was voting to give exclusive contracts to big labor organizations. He then asked the board to appoint him to oversee these exclusive contracts, all while on the payroll of major labor organizations.
He should have recused himself. The conflict of interest is undeniable.
These exclusive contracts kept local Vista contractors and tradesmen from bidding on jobs, denying them the opportunity to fairly compete for the taxpayer funded work they will be taxed for 30 years to pay for.
The lack of fair competition reduced the number of bids received, increasing costs. When costs increased, our kids lost. Planned improvements to some of our oldest schools, serving Vista’s most needy families were cancelled.
The official text of Measure LL, approved by the Vista Unified School Board in 2018, led the public to believe there would be no Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for the construction projects associated with the bond measure.
However, within just months of voter approval, Cipriano Vargas broke his word to voters and approved a project labor agreement. The agreement gave the exclusive right to hire workers on improvement projects to unions.
By law, all public projects must pay union wage rates, called prevailing wage, to all workers, regardless of a project labor agreement. With or without a PLA, workers would be fairly compensated for their work. The PLA gave exclusive hiring rights to unions, forced workers to pay into union pension trust funds that many will never be vested in, depriving them of wages they would have earned otherwise and eliminated most Vista owned small contracting businesses from the ability to compete for Measure LL funded projects. Most smaller contractors are non-union shops, meaning that these contractors would not be able to give awarded project work to their own employees. Contractors that fail to provide regular work to their workers can’t keep workers and can’t stay in business.
“Sarah Polito, an attorney for the district, said the potential for a 25% increase in costs poses a threat to completing all five phases and does not guarantee local hires, rather sets it as a goal. However, she said PLAs guarantee work, prevent strikes and set wages.”
Many were concerned not only about the PLA, but also about Cipriano Vargas serving as the board representative for labor negotiations considering he was receiving personal compensation from the major labor organizations.
From The Coast News, “Eric Christen, executive director for the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, said PLAs have been soundly rejected across the county and state due to many issues. He said PLAs inflate costs, intentionally box out non-union apprentices and force non-union workers to pay fringe benefit costs to unions, among other issues. He was also disappointed with the lack of engagement from the board and a lack of inquiries. Additionally, he has concerns with Vista Unified board member Cipriano Vargas, who works as a political organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a fact Christen calls concerning and potentially unfair.” (link to full article below)
In two March 2022 school board meetings, parents of Beaumont elementary students complained to the board over the delay of projects. Many of the children at Beaumont are underprivileged students and the school is in dire need of upgrades and repairs. Parents told the board that their kids had seen rats in the classrooms, moldy walls, and clogged toilets.
To this day, projects that were approved by Measure LL have not been completed or have not even started because Cipriano Vargas gave PLAs to his union backers.
Instead of listening to Vista residents, Vargas let outsider groups influence the board at a September 12, 2019 meeting about whether or not there should be a PLA. This included Carol Kim and Tom Lemmon who were top leaders in the San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, the same union that would eventually win the PLA in 2020 and would endorse Vargas two years later for Mayor. Neither Kim or Lemmon have any connection to Vista and were only there for their own interests.
The San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council has not only endorsed Cipriano Vargas, but says his race is one of their “key campaigns.”
In 2019, San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council and its business manager Tom Lemmon, along with Unite Here Local 30, were sued for multiple instances of racketeering and extortion. They were accused of extorting San Diego politicians to win Project Labor Agreements for their union. Lemmon voiced support for the PLA at the school board meeting on September 12, 2019 and at the city council meeting two days earlier. He also recently donated to Cipriano Vargas’ campaign. Both Unite Here Local 30 and the Building & Construction Trades Council have endorsed Vargas.
From Voice of San Diego, “Though the dismissal was not the outcome Evans had hoped for, the ruling in a way acknowledged his point. The judge didn’t disagree that the unions had been applying political pressure to further their own ends. He just determined that those actions weren’t illegal.” (full article linked below)
While Vargas claimed that a PLA would help the local community and residents, it did the opposite. Local business owners and entrepreneurs were shut out of the process in favor of the unions that support Cipriano Vargas.
Related News and Sources
PLA debate centers on VUSD projects for school bond
VUSD School Board Meeting 3/10/2022
VUSD School Board Meeting 3/23/2022
Statement of Economic Interests Form 700 Cipriano Vargas 8/12/2022
PLA for Vista school bond approved by VUSD board
San Diego Union Tribune: Vista school officials consider agreement to favor local, union labor for campus construction
FOX 5 San Diego: Vista parents battle for bond funding for elementary school upgrades
VUSD School Board Meeting 9/12/2019
Voice of San Diego: A Lawsuit Challenging Labor’s Playbook Is Dead But the Tensions Aren’t
EVANS HOTEL LLC, v. UNITE LOCAL 30 and SAN DIEGO BUILDING and CONTSTRUCTIONS TRADE COUNCIL
Coast News: Elementary school parents voice frustrations over bond reprioritization
July 23, 2020 Board Meeting: VISTA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENT