Last night, the Santa Fe City Council repealed a controversial ordinance that required the use of wasteful and discriminatory community workforce agreements (CWAs) on all city-funded projects costing more than $500,000. Although the council adopted this policy more than a year ago, no construction projects have been built under this requirement.
The ordinance was adopted unanimously with little fanfare, but quickly elicited criticism from the construction community. It’s easy to see why. The ordinance would require contractors to abide by all of the wasteful and discriminatory terms found in project labor agreements, including recognizing the construction unions as the sole representatives of all the workers on a covered project, hiring from union hiring halls, paying into union health and pension funds on behalf of employees who would be unlikely to access the funds, and adhering to inefficient and outdated union work rules.
Had the ordinance been upheld, taxpayers would have seen much higher costs on public construction costs. For the construction community, this ordinance would have made it nearly impossible for the 93.6 percent of New Mexico’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor organization to fairly compete for projects funded by their own tax dollars. The only winners would have been union bosses and the politicians who support them.
Following are highlights from the Santa Fe New Mexican’s coverage of the council’s repeal decision:
Santa Fe city councilors voted 5-3 late Wednesday to repeal the Community Workforce Agreement ordinance.
The ordinance, adopted unanimously last February just before three new councilors were elected, called for contractors on city capital-improvement projects worth more than $500,000 to use union hiring halls for most of their workers. Among other provisions, hiring halls had to agree to “strive” to have local workers make up at least half the workforce, and workers had to join the union, at least for the duration of the city job.
Meanwhile, construction industry groups and representatives of individual companies asked the city to roll back the rules because they discourage competitive bidding.
The Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association also advocated for the ordinance to be repealed.
Bill Roth, vice president of the association and owner of Bill Roth Plastering, said construction unions aren’t prevalent enough in Santa Fe to make the plan work, noting, “Santa Fe is not a union town.”
Fidel Gutierrez was among those who questioned the close connection between Mayor David Coss and unions, noting that they’ve donated thousands of dollars to his various campaigns for public office. He also said the rules were designed to help “special interest groups.”
“I think it’s about fairness to get the best possible deal for the citizens of Santa Fe when projects are built,” said Gutierrez, a vice president at Los Alamos National Bank, who said his statements were his personal opinion and didn’t represent the bank.
Coss defended his position as a longtime union supporter and said he believes unions could bring back the middle class.
“You guys may think the unions bought me, but I got to tell you my grandpa was union and my dad was union, and I am a union supporter,” he said before the vote. “I have never apologized for that, and I’m not going to change that.”
The repeal of this ordinance is a big win for the merit shop community. It sends a strong signal to New Mexico’s union bosses that taxpayers and the construction community don’t want CWA requirements once they learn the real facts.
Here at TheTruthAboutPLAs.com, we applaud the Santa Fe City Council’s decision. This clears the way for open competition and taxpayer value on future city construction projects. This is good for the industry, good for workers and good for the people of Santa Fe.