The City of Fresno could be required to exclusively hire union labor for nearly all city projects if one Mayoral candidate has his way.
Sources told The Sun that Fresno prosecutor and mayoral candidate Andrew Janz has indicated support to require project-labor agreements for all city projects that exceed $500,000.
Project-labor agreements are negotiated agreements between labor unions and the city government before contractors are selected on a project. The agreements cover a wide array of issues, from pre-determining wages and benefits, and establishing worker referrals through union hiring halls.
Nicole Goehring, the Community and Government Relations Director for Associated Builders and Contractors of Northern California (ABC), said implementing PLAs would be devastating to Fresno.
“It would really be a shame for the city,” Goehring said. “The city used to be on the offense on these things, but after the 2018 election, it seems that Fresno wants to put PLAs on everything.”
ABC is a national trade association that promotes free enterprise in the construction industry through the belief that projects should be awarded based on merit to the most qualified and responsible low bidders.
Goehring pointed to the Selma police station as an example of the problems with PLAs. The city had to bid the police station project twice, and each time there was only one bidder. The final bid was three million over the price, and the city had to use its ambulance funds to cover it, she said.
Stockton is another city that uses PLAs. In 2016, the Stockton city council voted to require project labor agreements for public projects with contracts over $1 million.
“It’s just been a total disaster for them. They’re getting one bidder on every job,” Goehring said. “The last job they did was a basic remodel. They should’ve had seven or eight bidders.” They only had one bidder from Fresno. They didn’t have any of their local community bidding it.”
A problem with PLAs is that unions don’t negotiate in their contracts, Goehring said, and the agreements rarely benefit the city.
“They’re pretty much union-sided agreements,” Goehring said. “I don’t think they benefit the community as a whole. It’s going to limit participation.”
Fresno outlawed PLAs in 2000, but City Council reversed course in 2014 and lifted the ban in exchange for state funding.
In June, City Council approved a PLA for the $115 million expansion project at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport.
“Hopefully city council will keep fair and open competition,” Goehring said. “That’s the right way to do things in construction, and they’ve always benefited by doing so. It would be bad for the community and the local family businesses.”
Janz’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.