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Most don’t back union project rule

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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Poll: 51% opposed to labor restrictions

More Albuquerque voters oppose than support requiring contractors who bid on large city government projects to use union workers, according to a new Journal Poll.

Fifty-one percent of those polled last week said they opposed placing such restrictions on contractors, while 38 percent said they support it. Six percent didn’t know or wouldn’t say, and 5 percent said it depends on a variety of factors.

Opposition ran strongest among Republicans (73 percent), men (56 percent) and people between the ages of 50 and 64 (56 percent). Conversely, support was strongest among Democrats (56 percent), Hispanics (43 percent), women (42 percent) and people between the ages of 18 and 34 (42 percent).

The question was intended to gauge public sentiment for so-called “project labor agreements,” which surfaced as a contentious issue among the three mayoral candidates at a political forum last month.

Such agreements generally require contractors who bid on large government projects to use union labor and abide by union working conditions for the duration of the project, among other provisions.

Mayor Richard Berry is on record in opposition, saying imposing those conditions on contractors would raise the cost of city-financed projects. Challengers Pete Dinelli and Paul Heh support project labor agreements because they believe they ensure fair wages for workers.

Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research Polling Inc., which conducted the Journal Poll, said the most noteworthy finding – though certainly no surprise – was how voters’ responses to the question reflected their party affiliation and candidate preference.

“We see a majority of Democrats and Dinelli supporters support requiring contractors to use union workers, whereas among Republicans and Berry supporters, they’re very much against it,” he told the Journal.

Republicans (73 percent) and independents (53 percent) opposed the practice, according to the poll, while Democrats supported it (56 percent).

And 63 percent of Berry supporters said they opposed the mandate, while 69 percent of those backing Dinelli support it.POLL_14sept_Project-Labor_web

Still, Sanderoff doesn’t believe the candidates’ conflicting positions on this issue will be a major factor in the Oct. 8 race for mayor.

“Frankly, I don’t think they mean much because I think that voters make up their mind on who they are voting for on higher-altitude issues, like whether Mayor Berry has done a good job or not,” he said.

“It might be an important issue on both sides of the fence, but I don’t think this is what people are talking about around the water cooler.”

Roxanne Rivera-Weist, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Mexico, said she was not surprised by the poll results.

“I think that the majority of people are against having a mandate to use union workers,” she said Friday, noting that only 8 percent of the state’s construction workforce is unionized.

“It’s not a matter of whether you are pro-union or anti-union. It’s a matter of mandating it.”

Joel Villarreal, president of the Central New Mexico Labor Council, said Friday that the results may reflect people’s misconceptions about unions more than the merits of this particular issue.

If people had been asked whether they support fair wages and safety on the job, he said, the results may have been different.

“Am I surprised that the majority of people don’t want it? It’s a little concerning, yes,” he said.

“I would have hoped it would have been higher, that a majority of Albuquerque residents would support safety for our workers and some consistent standards for wages and work conditions.”

The poll results are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 3-5 with 402 likely Albuquerque voters who voted in the city elections of 2011 or 2009. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Specifically, poll participants were asked: “Do you support or oppose requiring contractors who bid on large city government construction projects to use union workers?”

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