SANTA FE — Despite criticism from members of the construction industry, a “community workforce agreement” ordinance requiring union wages, membership and working conditions on city of Santa Fe building projects will go into effect next week.
A city economic development staffer has estimated the ordinance will cost the city an additional $5 million over the next three to five years. The reason in part is because of “the small … number of local trades’ contractors willing to become union signatories to be able to bid.” Mayor David Coss said he disagreed with that estimate.
Groups such as the Associated Builders and Contractors of New Mexico argue that community workforce agreements can raise the cost of public projects by 20 percent, impose burdens on contractors and constitute a “special interest scheme” for unions. They say laws are already in place to ensure workers are paid good wages and have safe working conditions.
ABC president Roxanne Rivera-Wiest estimated that between 92 and 96 percent of contractors in New Mexico aren’t union and questioned how narrowing the candidate pool benefits Santa Fe.
“We are not anti-union, but we believe in open competition, and we believe that any contractor in the state of New Mexico should be allowed to bid on any project that is being funded by taxpayer dollars,” she said.
Advocates for the law say union involvement streamlines the process for managing wages, ensures productivity and quality and should result in more Santa Feans working on public works projects.
Under the new law, the city must pay union wages and follow unionmandated rules for working conditions on all public works projects over $500,000. Unions agree not to strike, to complete projects in a timely manner and follow certain procedures for resolving problems.