The Albuquerque Journal has been running its regular series of polls on several local questions of interest. From the perspective of advocates for limited government, the polling was quite heartening. Local voters strongly opposed “union time,” a practice under which taxpayers pay the salaries of government workers who perform tasks on behalf of their labor unions (the poll indicated opposition by 59% while support was only 25%).
Another question related to Project Labor Agreements which are essentially requirements that government construction projects use union labor and pay union wage rates as opposed to finding labor on the open market (known as project labor agreements). This was opposed 51% to 38% by respondents.
These results and the related stories are interesting for a number of reasons:
1) Mayor Berry supports taxpayers and opposes the unions on both issues while his opponents support the unions. It is no surprise then, that Mayor Berry received 63% support in the recent Journal poll and maintained a significant lead over his opposition.
2) Pollster Brian Sanderoff clearly has some “axes to grind” when it comes to these results and his attempts to guide their interpretation. Sanderoff seems to dismiss the labor issues saying that “voters will make up their minds on higher-altitude issues.” I can’t imagine someone saying the same thing if the leading candidates supported the unions and the outlier was more supportive of City taxpayers.
3) The unions are certainly out in force for Dinelli, especially the fire fighters. 3-4 houses have yard signs indicating “IAFF for Dinelli” in my liberal West-Side neighborhood.
4) I love union rhetoric. Rather than a poll question asking voters about their support for PLAs, labor boss Joel Villarreal, apparently with a straight face, said that the poll should have asked voters if the “support fair wages and safety on the job.” I looked and found no serious studies of safety on PLA jobs on either side, but it is true that unions increase the wages on and prices of jobs that use PLAs. One California study, not done by a free market think tank, but an in-house government think tank, found that PLAs increase school construction costs by 15%.
This is 15% number is a consistent finding. No data were available as to why paying the 8 percent of New Mexico construction workers who are unionized based on an arbitrary union wage scale is more “fair” than the going market rate for such work.