Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce Blog

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Chamber Urges Repeal of CWA

Posted by santafechamber on January 16, 2013

If it Ain’t Broke…..

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce believes that government procurement should be conducted in a transparent manner that ensures that taxpayers’ money is spent prudently, and wherever possible allows local businesses to bid on, and benefit from, the contract.

The current “Community Workforce Agreement” is the exact opposite of these criteria. The agreement is structured so that only out-of-town companies can bid and adds additional requirements and criteria so that citizens pay more. The proposed City Community Workforce Agreement should be immediately repealed if only because a city memo written earlier this summer by economic development staff predicts $5 million in additional costs over the next few years from the ordinance because of a limited number of local union contractors. The memo states: “Unless there are at least several qualified local firms competing for each subcontract within a general contract, bidding will no longer be constrained by normal competitive forces, prices will increase without predictable limits, and out-of-area contractors and their employees will win an even greater majority of the work.”

In short, the City will be spending $5 million of taxpayers money to drive jobs to Albuquerque! Citizens, taxpayers and voters deserve procurement policies that allow local businesses to bid on a level playing field.

The Agreement has been supported by union members from Albuquerque and who can blame them. They will have the chance to bid on Santa Fe construction projects and, as the City’s own report says, bidding contracts will not be constrained by market forces but by favors to organized labor.

National groups including the National Association of Women Business Owners have voiced their opposition to Community Workforce Agreements and other Project Labor Agreements.

Some point to improved training as part of the agreement when, in fact, Santa Fe Community College already provides excellent local training. Proponents also allege improved jobsite safety with no evidence to support such a position, and we not aware of any union-paid apprenticeship programs in Santa Fe and certainly none at the high-school level.

There is no reason to delay or study the Agreement when we can clearly see what the impacts will be. The Agreement did not receive sufficient scrutiny when it was adopted and some Councilors, to their credit, have expressed regret at the oversight.  It’s not too late to overturn bad law.

The Chamber strongly supports hiring local workers for all City projects and believes that a requirement that workers belong to unions will mean many local workers will be prohibited from employment on taxpayer funded projects.  We further believe that taxpayers will spend more on union-only projects than they would if competitive bidding were open to all. Less than 10% of construction workers are part of a union and there is no evidence that union workers produce higher quality work.

The Chamber also believes that raising the dollar amount threshold for when a union-only Community Workforce Agreement would be employed is no solution.  Open competitive bidding from all qualified licensed, bonded, and insured contractors should be allowed.   Such a policy would benefit local workers and local taxpayers and also encourage hiring qualified local contractors and workers.

The City of Santa Fe’s procurement process, while not perfect, has worked well. Bids for contracts include local preferences and open bidding. No survey is needed. The CWA is an unnecessary, unproven, expensive solution to a problem that does not exist.

We urge the council to repeal the CWA and allow Santa Fe companies to bid fairly on local contracts.


Simon Brackley

President and CEO


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