Business · Fresno

Dyer vetoes 5-year union labor deal for city construction projects

In his second-ever veto, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer rejected a measure adopted by all-but-one member of the Fresno City Council to institute union-prioritization for the city’s seven-figure construction projects.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, Dyer rejected the five-year citywide Project Labor Agreement (PLA), a pre-construction agreement mandating union labor for most public works projects exceeding $1 million, as being “not inclusive,” failing to boost local hiring or “broaden the City’s labor pool.”

“As a dues-paying member of public sector unions for the past 41 years, I do recognize that a Project Labor Agreement, if done correctly, can be beneficial,” Mayor Dyer said.  “I would support the PLA if it could be modified to prioritize local hiring and local businesses.

The Dyer administration pushed back heavily on the proposed citywide Project Labor Agreement during debate before the Fresno City Council recently. Dyer doubled down in a statement on Monday, noting that union membership in the construction sits at 13 percent nationally.

“This two-tiered system is discriminatory toward a large majority of Fresno’s construction workers and does not fit Mayor Dyer’s One Fresno vision of inclusivity,” his administration said in a statement.

While the agreement would allow non-union contractors to bid on city work, it would subject them to paying union-mandated benefits that may not be realized by its workers on the project.

“[T]he result being non-union contractors paying double for health and retirement benefits,” the Dyer administration said.

Dyer administration officials also disputed the benefits touted by union representatives when it comes to better wages and benefits.

In Fresno’s history, it has only undertaken two project-specific PLAs with unions: the current City Hall building, completed in 1992, and Fresno-Yosemite International Airport’s parking garage, currently under construction.

From 2000 to 2014, PLAs were banned by the Fresno City Council.

“(This PLA) lacks any measurement tools to see if it has met its goals,” city administration noted.

The five-year citywide PLA measure was backed by six members of the Fresno City Council. Fresno City Council member Garry Bredefeld was the lone dissenting vote on the agreement.

Dyer’s veto can be overriden by a vote of five City Council members.

In his veto statement, Dyer said he wanted exemptions for local contractors who are headquartered in Fresno’s city limits, have all employees on City of Fresno jobs reside within Fresno, provide health care coverage and 401(k) or other retirement benefits to those on the project, and dedicate 20 percent of workers assigned to the project be trade apprentices living within the City of Fresno.

This story will be updated.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.