There was a distributing development in Santa Fe, N.M., on Feb. 29, when the city council quietly adopted a policy requiring community workforce agreements (CWAs) on all projects costing more than $500,000. A community workforce agreement is no different than a wasteful and discriminatory project labor agreement (PLA); it just goes by another name.
Washington, D.C., spin doctors created the term “community workforce agreement” in an attempt to get around the much-deserved negative stigma associated with project labor agreements.
Santa Fe is the first government entity in New Mexico to adopt a policy to require or encourage PLA mandates on taxpayer-funded construction. The city council adopted this policy despite very little public commentary and virtually no input from the merit shop construction community. Many merit shop construction firms have a long history of building Santa Fe projects on time and on budget, without having to agree to Big Labor’s terms and conditions.
Here is a press release on the new mandate issued by Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) New Mexico Chapter:
SANTA FE CITY COUNCIL ADOPTS NEW POLICY THAT WILL INCREASE COSTS AND
DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WORKERS
SANTA FE, N.M. – Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) New Mexico Chapter today calls on the Santa Fe City Council to repeal its newly adopted policy requiring contractors to sign a wasteful and discriminatory community workforce agreement with the construction unions in order to work on Santa Fe city construction projects that cost more than $500,000.
A community workforce agreement is a special interest scheme that discourages competition from nonunion contractors and their workers by requiring a construction project to be awarded only to contractors and subcontractors that agree to recognize unions as the representatives of their employees on that job; use the union hall to obtain workers; obey the union’s restrictive apprenticeship and work rules; and contribute to union pension plans and other funds in which their nonunion employees will never benefit unless they join a union.
“The Santa Fe City Council adopted this policy after very little consideration and with no input from the merit shop construction community,” said ABC New Mexico Chapter President Roxanne Rivera-Wiest. “These mandates have a long public record of costing taxpayers and hurting the vast majority of the construction workforce in communities from coast to coast.”
“Numerous studies show these types of mandates increase construction costs by as much as 20 percent, which means taxpayers can expect four city buildings for the price of five under this policy,” Rivera-Wiest said. “Additionally, this policy will discriminate against the 97 percent of New Mexico’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union. This means thousands of hardworking New Mexicans will be deprived of the opportunity to work on projects in their own backyard unless they give in to Big Labor’s demands.”
The ABC New Mexico Chapter urges the Santa Fe City Council to repeal this policy. In the meantime, ABC will do everything within its power to ensure Santa Fe residents are guaranteed the best construction at the best price.
While aggressive Big Labor bullying is nothing new in New Mexico, this is the most significant public policy win in the state for union bosses since they successfully lobbied the legislature to abandon prevailing wage surveys and simply make the union wage rate the minimum wage for all state funded construction.
There is great concern in the merit shop construction community that union bosses could use the “success” of this requirement as evidence to support PLA requirements in other cities in New Mexico, or even for state-funded construction projects in the future. Readers of this blog know this requirement can never be truly successful because PLAs/CWAs have a well-established history of increasing construction costs and discriminating against the vast majority of the construction workforce that chooses not to join a labor union – 96.5 percent in New Mexico.
Even more troubling, contractors in Santa Fe report that due to budget issues, there are no projects costing more than $500,000 in the pipeline!
With no projects subject to this CWA requirement expected in the near future—and the agreements’ proven track record of failure at achieving their promised public policy objectives—it is clear that this policy is nothing more than a politically motivated handout to Big Labor. It could potentially guarantee that only union workers have the opportunity to perform Santa Fe construction projects in the future. Additionally, this policy could be a springboard for Big Labor’s attempts to secure CWA/PLA requirements on state construction or in other communities.
Aside from being bad policy, ABC and the merit shop community believe this new requirement could have potential legal problems as well.
New Mexico taxpayers deserve the best construction at the best price. Additionally, the 96.5 percent of the state’s construction workforce that chooses not to join a union deserves the opportunity to compete for projects funded by their own tax dollars. The City of Santa Fe can accomplish neither with a CWA/PLA requirement in place.
We call on the Santa Fe City Council to rethink this discriminatory policy to ensure city residents get the most value for their local construction dollars.