FAIRFIELD — A project labor agreement – criticized as contrary to capitalist competition by limiting bidding and boosting costs to taxpayers, while praised as providing honest wages with benefits and jobs for local workers – won unanimous approval Tuesday by the Fairfield City Council for the Intermodal Station Project.
Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment, spoke first during the public hearing and opposed the pact for the train station project.
“It’s a political document, not a business tool,” he said.
But Ben Espinoza, president of the Napa-Solano Building and Construction Trades Council, told City Council members the labor agreement helps the community and Kevin Coleman, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Napa, called the pact a “useful construction management tool.”
Councilman John Mraz, after a speaker said the council must benefit by the pact or would oppose a measure boosting costs, said the city staff represented Fairfield during negotiations about the agreement.
“What I want are local jobs,” Mraz said. “What I want is this project on time and on budget.”
“Let me tell you what I get out of this,” he said of his council post. “I sure as heck didn’t do it for the money.”
The councilman said he’s paid $210 every two weeks and that the compensation works out to about 25 cents an hour.
John Takeuchi, president of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group, said studies show labor agreements increase costs 10 to 20 percent and asked the City Council to reject the pact.
The Intermodal Station Project is estimated to cost between $30 million to $40 million.
Area resident Murray Bass said a study of more than 100 projects in New York state found labor agreements increased projects $27 a square foot.
“How the devil can you expect your experience to be any different?” he asked the Fairfield City Council.
Trades council president Espinoza said the labor agreements help employ local workers and that 90 percent of workers for the Solano County administration building, constructed using a PLA, were local.
Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said of the pact for train station project: “It makes the greatest sense.”
A Fairfield city staff report to the council said the project labor agreement requires that unions are the source of craft labor for the work. But the report adds that no employee working under the agreement is required to join any union as a condition of employment on the project.
The contractor is required to have employees who work for eight consecutive or cumulative days to pay dues required for union membership, according to the city staff report. The labor agreement will not have a significant impact on project costs because it’s likely most contractors will be union affiliates, the report states.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]