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Union Law Delay Falters

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A proposed delay of Santa Fe’s community workforce agreement hit the scrap heap on Monday.

The Santa Fe Public Works Committee rejected a plan to delay the ordinance until the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research could study its potential economic impact. That delay also failed to pass muster with the city’s Finance Committee last week.

Meanwhile, councilors introduced two new resolutions related to the community workforce agreement ordinance: one that would require the city to collect and analyze data on an upcoming condominium renovation at the Santa Fe Railyard, expected to be the city’s first project under the new ordinance, and one tweaking hiring guidelines to ensure a maximum number of Santa Fe County-based workers are hired for city projects.

The former measure is sponsored by Councilors Rebecca Wurzburger, Peter Ives and Chris Calvert, while Calvert is also sponsoring the latter resolution.

The Public Works Committee also killed a resolution delaying all eligible projects until the city conducts a public hearing on repeal of the ordinance. However, the proposed repeal still will be heard by the committee and the entire City Council at a later date.

The Public Works Committee needed to approve the resolutions for them to move on to the City Council for a final vote.

On the BBER proposal, Calvert said, “I don’t think we really need another study,” and noted that BBER would probably study information that Cornell University, notably, has already analyzed.

The City Council approved the community workforce agreement law in February. In June, the council voted to delay implementing the ordinance until administrative procedures and guidelines could be created. The ordinance became effective Oct. 1.

It stipulates that all workers on a project must belong to a union, although they can join for just the duration of the project. It applies to all city projects of $500,000 or more.

A city report has estimated the requirement would add up to $5 million to construction costs in the next three to five years, partly because of too few local union contractors.

However, Mayor David Coss, disputes that estimate. He and other supporters say the measure will ensure project quality and efficiency, good wages and benefits for workers, and jobs and training for locals.

Opponents, which include many contractors and the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association, argue the ordinance will raise project costs, impose burdens on contractors and narrow the city’s pool of potential bidders.

Councilor Ron Trujillo, along with Councilor Chris Rivera, voted Monday in favor of the public hearing and repeal resolution. Trujillo said the biggest thing for him is requiring people to join a union if they want to work on city projects.

Rivera said he believes “we need to wait” on the ordinance because of the still-shaky economy and ongoing questions about the law.

“I think just the fact that we’re all still here and all have questions and not really any answers is a huge red flag,” he said.

Councilors Patti Bushee and Bill Dimas, who weren’t at Monday’s meeting, have previously said they support repealing the community workforce agreement.

♦ Also on Monday, the Public Works Committee agreed to continue to pay for a private security presence in the Santa Fe Railyard.

The City Council approved funding of $120,000 in June. Another $125,000 would ensure security measures through August 2013, according to the city and Railyard staff. However, Public Works members said they want the contract to end on June 30 so it aligns more closely with the city’s fiscal year.

“Security on the Railyard has improved significantly as a result of the presence of the City-funded private security company,” wrote Richard Czoski, director of the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp., in a letter to the city. “We have received positive comments from the Railyard tenants, businesses and visitors.”

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