Business & Economy

Palmdale, county officials blast union in fight over manufacturing plant in Palmdale

Supervisor Mike Antonovich stands with business and government leaders to urge Governor Jerry Brown to help resolve a labor dispute in Palmdale.
Supervisor Mike Antonovich stands with business and government leaders to urge Governor Jerry Brown to help resolve a labor dispute in Palmdale.
Andrea Gardner/ KPCC

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Los Angeles government and business leaders held a press conference Monday to condemn a local labor union on Monday, accusing the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of killing a deal to bring a manufacturing plant to Palmdale.

The impasse involves Japanese company Kinkisharyo International, which already assembles light rail cars under a contract with L.A. Metro at a plant in Palmdale.

Kinkisharyo wanted to expand, moving the entire manufacturing process to Palmdale from Japan - and bringing hundreds of jobs with it.

The union and Kinkisharyo disagreed about the way workers could unionize in the future when the plant was built. The union wanted the company to agree to a "card check" method, where employees would sign a card saying they wanted to join the union. The company wanted to hold an election, which it has a right to by law.

Later, a law firm connected with the electrical workers' union filed legal challenges against Kinkisharyo under California’s Environmental Quality Act.

“The developers that come into our city have to be accountable for what they do," said Tommy Faavae, an organizer with the electrical workers' union. "They can’t just you know, be a bully in our community and think they can build a project without going through the right process.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whose district includes Palmdale, accused union leaders of exploiting California’s Environmental Quality Act to strong-arm Kinkisharo into meeting their demands. Antonovich said the law needs to be reformed and said it has discouraged many large corporations from setting up operations in the state.

Last week, Kinkisharyo announced it would look for manufacturing sites out of state instead. Company officials said they have not yet made an out-of-state deal, which gave government and business leaders hope that the deal could be salvaged.

"We are calling upon Governor Brown to call on the International Brothers Electrical Workers to drop this frivolous lawsuit, this CEQA lawsuit, which is nonsense," Antonovich said.

A spokesman for Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development - which goes by "GO-Biz" - said the parties will have to work it out themselves.

"GO-Biz is aware of the matter and is hopeful that the parties involved can find a reasonable resolution," spokesman Brooke Taylor said.