Burque city leaders upheld using union workers, not slugs, on big public construction projects, tweaked the city’s Neighborhood Association Recognition Ordinance and urged the U.S. Senate to fill the vacant U.S. Attorney’s position. They did all this and more in just a tad over two hours at their April 18 regular meeting.

Union Strong Not Union Slugs

The big-ticket item on the short agenda was the upheld veto of a repeal of a bill that required Project Labor Agreements on public construction projects over $10 million. The City Council repealed the bill at the last meeting much to the dismay of many union members and supporters. In order to override the Mayor’s veto, there needs to be a supermajority of 6 yay to 3 nay votes. It didn’t happen on a 5 – 4 vote so the PLA requirement stands.

A couple of development and construction folks said requiring a PLA is unfair and fails to give equal access to construction contracts. 

The bill requires a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with labor unions on city construction projects using three or more crafts and costing over $10 million. Three or more crafts means skills like electric, carpentry and others. It does not exclude non-union contractors from bidding on the big jobs but they will have to have a PLA in place. According to the city, the majority of the projects are under the $10 million threshold, only about 15% of all projects will fit these criteria. Currently, there are only two projects in the pipeline for this year and only a handful last year. The bill also ensures proper wage and apprenticeship provisions are being met and that big city projects stay on time and on budget.

The air was thick with union members who were offended by Councilor Louie Sanchez’s prior comment that “there’s a lot of slugs in the union.” Councilor Sanchez, who is a retired Albuquerque Police Department cop, said at the last Council meeting that he has been a union member and added that there were a lot of slugs in the union. 

Vince Alvarado, a proud third-generation construction and union representative, spoke eloquently putting the Council on the spot,  “The next time you allow one of your council members to call us slugs, remember we built this country with skilled craftsmen and women.”

One union representative, Bobby Baca, said he and his membership will forgive Councilor Sanchez but they won’t forget. He asked for a public apology. Baca didn’t get it; instead, a semi-defiant Councilor Sanchez countered by basically saying that he did not call each and every union member a slug, just some. He defended his vote to repeal the PLA requirement by saying that competition is good.

Get Up And Handle It

The district of New Mexico is currently without a permanent  U.S. Attorney. Apparently a request came down from the New Mexico federal delegation in Washington to send a memorial asking the U.S. Senate to hear the nomination for this appointment. The memorial says that President Biden nominated Alexander M.M. Uballez and it is up to the Senate to hear the nomination.

Councilor Dan Lewis, who sported a post-Easter haircut, said he was not going to support this bill because he wasn’t sure it was necessary and he was not going to endorse the current “Joe Biden” pick. Councilor Brook Bassan said she wants to say something else but what she will say is for them “to get up and handle it.” She said this is a first step to being able to renegotiate the police department’s consent decree with the U.S. Attorney’s office. Wonder if she was really wanting to say “get up off your a&%” but was being politically correct? The memorial passed on a 7 – 2 vote with Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn joining Councilor Lewis with a nay.

Quick Hits and the Return of the Don

Albuquerque is made up of neighborhoods. Councilors updated the Neighborhood Association Recognition Ordinance with one that cross-references the Integrated Development Ordinance. Why is this important? As Councilor Klarissa Peña reminded the Council, neighborhood associations have an important history of giving residents a voice to address issues with developers, local government and others. Check out your neighborhood association at cabq.gov.

The Council approved backing off on enforcement that limits the availability of public celebration events where alcohol will be served. City and other folks are working on updating that ordinance as there is a limited number of permits available for public events. A convincing representative from the Make-A-Wish Foundation spoke in favor of updating as they want to be able to hold their big annual money-making fundraiser. Bring on the booze if that is what it takes to get the dollars flowing to this good cause.

City Council fans and back-in-the-day community cable fans will be glad to hear of the return of Don Schrader to the public comment podium. Schrader strode into the chambers wearing his signature short shorts, necklaces and sleeveless vest. He spoke about how at 76 years old he is as healthy as ever. He said he has never been vaccinated for COVID-19 or had the flu shot. Instead for 23 years has only eaten raw foods, no dairy, no meat and especially no sugar and no booze as both are poison and feed COVID and cancer. Keep an eye out for him at Council meetings and striding down a street near you.

The next meeting of the City Council is set for a live, in-person meeting at 5pm on May 2. Attend in person or watch it at GOV-TV at cabq.gov or on Comcast Cable Channel 16 or on the city’s YouTube channel.