FAIRFIELD — A critic of a project labor agreement passed unanimously by the Fairfield City Council says “those who voted for this backroom deal, especially any council member registered as a Republican, will be held accountable to the taxpayers.”
“I’m not going to let this bone go,” said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.
He also said six contractors would have bid on the Intermodal Station Project, but decided against doing so because of the labor agreement.
Christen and other opponents of the pacts contend they boost project costs. The train station project is estimated to cost $30 million to $40 million.
David White, city manager for Fairfield, said of the agreement: “Nothing about this was done in a back room.” The labor pact was reviewed in an open, public meeting, he said.
Mayor Harry Price, who lists his party as Republican on city papers he took out for re-election, could not be reached Wednesday for comment. He participated by telephone from Hawaii in Tuesday’s council meeting, postponed from its regularly scheduled meeting last week.
Councilwoman Catherine Moy said Wednesday that, “making decisions on controversial issues is not for the faint of heart.”
“I ask myself, ‘Is this what is right for the city, for our taxpayers, workers and the city as a whole?’ ” she said. “In this case, the council unanimously agreed that the PLA was the best route.”
“The City Council is nonpartisan,” Moy said. “As for threats against any of us for making a decision, I find that disturbing. It is something we deal with. I’ve had physical threats against me for decisions. Whether the threat is political or physical, it is shameful.”
Councilman John Mraz said of Christen’s statements that if the advocates of the labor agreement had lost, “you wouldn’t hear them whining like this.”
“You just don’t run around throwing these bombs and expect somebody to respect you,” Mraz said.
Christen said for Moy to equate a physical threat with a promise to hold people accountable for their votes suggests “she’s in the wrong business.”
He asked whether unions hold people who oppose them politically accountable.
Christen also questioned whether the labor agreement would provide local workers with jobs and said the document includes no requirement for local hires – and no consequence for not achieving a stated 25 percent goal.
Christen took issue as well with the Fairfield city staff for what he said was its assertion that only union companies would bid the train station project. He asked if the staff contacted three of the biggest electrical contractors in America – Rex Moore, Bergelectric and Helix Electric – to be told that they would not be interested in bidding this job.
George Hicks, public works director, said the project includes electrical work but that general engineering companies would bid on the job. The city does not contact companies about projects that will go out to bid, he said.
Hicks said local hiring has to be stated as a goal in the labor agreement because the law doesn’t allow hiring people based upon their place of residence.
Christen said that’s his point about problems with the labor pacts – supporters cite project labor agreements as providing local jobs but the agreements can’t require such hiring.
“It’s like they don’t check their notes,” Christen said of labor agreement supporters.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.