Business · Fresno

Fresno lawmakers override Dyer’s veto on union labor deal

Fresno’s new wide-reaching pact with labor unions is moving forward after the City Council overrode Mayor Jerry Dyer’s veto on a 6-1 vote. 

Council member Garry Bredefeld cast the lone no vote to side with the Dyer Administration, mirroring the first vote from the council two weeks ago. 

The PLA mandates union labor on city public works projects exceeding $1 million, a point that Dyer and City Manager Thomas Esqueda said will provide worse results in utilizing Fresno-housed labor than the current open shop, lowest-bidder system. 

Initially, the Council desired to quickly override the veto and to not rehash the discussion and debate from the last meeting.

With the council – outside of Bredefeld – voting to axe discussion, the meeting moved to the public comment session. 

That merely forced Esqueda from his chair on the dais and to the floor to speak to the Council, as a member of the public, from the central podium.

“Today’s action is going to do three things,” Esqueda said. “It’s going to provide a labor monopoly to the building council and allow the building council to dictate construction bidding policy to the City of Fresno. We have the data, it’s going to go backward on hiring local workers for city projects. We have data, it’s going to go backward on hiring local contractors for city projects.” 

Much of Esqueda’s comments focused on the numbers: When the city – headed by Public Works Director Scott Mozier and Public Utilities Director Mike Carbajal – runs projects, 66 percent of the hours worked are from local laborers. 

On the other hand, when the building council hires workers for the under-construction parking lot at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, Esqueda said only 50 percent of the hours worked are from local hires. 

“Seeing this amount of outside labor coming in on projects is what we would expect when you’d limit the ability of local contractors to bid,” Esqueda said. 

Council Vice President Nelson Esparza attempted to cut Esqueda off after two minutes – the allotted time for public comment – but Chavez shut his colleague down and allowed the city manager to take as much time as needed. 

Following Esqueda’s comments, Dyer also took the podium, also as a member of the public, leading Bredefeld to quip, “You’re part of the public, otherwise you couldn’t speak.” 

“I did not put forth a veto without a lot of thought, recognizing there was a 6-1 vote on the part of this council, which I know is very difficult to have overturned. But I do believe this project labor agreement is well intentioned. However, there are negative consequences, and I believe that with all of my heart.” 

Those negative consequences will be felt by non-union construction workers who live in Fresno, Dyer said, as well as Fresno-based contractors. 

Dyer asked the council to consider an exemption in the PLA for local contractors whose employees all live in Fresno and are provided healthcare and retirement benefits. 

The council was not amenable to Dyer’s request and moved ahead with overriding the veto. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.