Is Fresno’s Deal With Trades Union Meeting Local Hiring Goals? Numbers Say No.
The city of Fresno’s goal for locals to be hired on city projects is missing the mark.
In 2021, the city and the building trade unions signed a community workforce agreement (also known as a Project Labor Agreement) which requires among other things, local hires for most city construction projects of more than $1 million.
In an annual presentation to the Fresno City Council, Public Works Director Scott Mozier reviewed the hiring numbers for active PLA projects. The goal where “unions agreed to exert their utmost efforts,” the staff report said, was to hire at least 50% locals for journey-level projects; 55% locals for apprentice-level projects; and 30% by new local apprentices.
Kelly Yost, the city’s construction manager, explaining the low numbers said repeatedly, “It’s new.”
Some councilmembers didn’t read the numbers that way.
“This is off to a great start. I’m very, very impressed with these numbers going forward,” Councilman Mike Karbassi said. “This is clearly a good policy.”
“It’s working. It’s doing what we tasked the work to do, which is hire local,” Miguel Arias said.
It took City Manager Georgeanne White to tell the councilmembers they were emperors without clothes.
“I feel like some of the comments leave the impression like this is 100% going great, there’s no room for improvement. And I think the numbers definitely show there is a little bit of room for improvement,” White said.
Also in Politics 101 …
- What representatives from contractors and the union said.
- City takes aim at red light runners.
- L’Chaim! It’s Jewish American Heritage Month.
Contractors, Union React
Chuck Riojas, executive director of the regional Building and Construction Trades Council, helped negotiate the PLA. The goal, he said, was to increase opportunities for new apprentices.
While he’s satisfied with the projects providing experience, he acknowledges the growing pains. One reason the journeyman figure could be low is that contractors bring in their own core group of workers.
“We don’t want to control their work process, we can only ask that they do so. And we’re not putting it all on the contractors. It’s a learning process,” Riojas said.
He said the numbers next year should be more in line with goals.
“You’re changing the way people are doing business for decades. Hopefully, they get the same desire that we had when we negotiated it to put the local people out to work first,” Riojas said.
Rex Hime with the Western Electrical Contractors Association criticized the PLA process.
“I want to make this very clear we’re not anti-union. We’re just pro-open competition. WECA doesn’t take issue with competition on bids, but we take issue with government entities tipping the scale and discriminating against local living workers who want to do jobs for the city of Fresno,” Hime said.
Hime noted the low numbers of local workers.
“Maybe if we’re having so much trouble putting the people of Fresno to work on city of Fresno projects, we should seriously consider raising the threshold for $1 million to $20 million so we can put the local people of Fresno to work,” Himes said.
Safe Streets Bidding Delayed
The council tabled an item at Thursday’s meeting to reject bids on a safe streets project for John Muir Elementary School in west Fresno. The reason — none of the three bidders included Project Labor Agreement plans.
One bidder said that he didn’t include the PLA language “because it wasn’t included in the bid documents provided to us by the city.”
“We obviously don’t like having bids rejected that we have spent time and resources putting together, but it happens sometimes and it’s just part of the business,” said Curtis Short, owner of Avison Construction, of Madera.
The city will consider rejecting the bids at its May 25 meeting.
Red Light Runners Study Discussion Delayed
Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi wants to put an end to red-light runners, but a vote to discuss was pushed back until May 25.
In two weeks, the city council will hear a resolution to conduct a traffic safety assessment to address the 10 worst intersections.
While a methodology is not included in the motion, the city manager will report back to the city council on the worst intersections, options for improvement, potential use for traffic signal cameras, traffic cops, “or any other means to combat red light runners.”
Could red light cameras return?
“First, technology solutions are just one element of a potential solution. Second, the old cameras were installed at the busiest intersections in Fresno for the purpose of making money. If we use cameras, they would be located at the intersections which are the most dangerous, resulting in collisions and injuries/deaths,” Karbassi told Politics 101 before the vote.
(Update, 5/11/23: the original story reported the red light motion passed 7-0 on the consent agenda. It was pulled by Karbassi until May 25.)
Fresno Honors Jewish American Heritage Month
At a time when Jewish Americans are experiencing greater levels of antisemitism, the city recognized May as Jewish American Heritage Month.
Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel and Rabbi Levy Zirkind of Chabad Fresno accepted the honor at Thursday’s council meeting.
Associated Press reports that more than 500 antisemitic acts targeting Jewish people, including assault, vandalism, and harassment, were committed in California last year, an increase of more than 40% from 2021, according to a new Anti-Defamation League report.
Mayor Jerry Dyer participated in the ceremony, talking about a recent trip to Israel. When asked who the highest-ranking Jew in his administration, Dyer said he is “checking.”
Proud to recognize our incredible Jewish community and the tremendous contributions they make everyday to our City. The Jewish heritage is one of strength, courage, fortitude and resiliency. We will always stand with Israel and our Jewish brothers, sisters, and friends. Always. pic.twitter.com/VuunZE7RtR
— Garry Bredefeld (@GarryBredefeld) May 11, 2023