Moreno Valley City Council approves agreement to increase local hiring for public works projects

A screenshot displays Yxstian Gutierrez, mayor of Moreno Valley, speaking via Zoom during the city council meeting July 7. (Erik Galicia | Viewpoints)
By Erik Galicia

The Moreno Valley City Council unanimously approved a community workforce agreement with the goal of increasing local hiring on city projects valued at $1 million or more.

The agreement, approved July 7, is a part of the MoValWorkForce Program initiated in 2019. It calls for 30% of work hours on city public works projects to be performed by tradesmen who reside in Moreno Valley, as well as increased hiring of veterans, regardless of where they live.

The agreement also aims to prioritize career placement of at-risk youth, low-income residents, minorities and women.

Public comments on the item were split. Some argued the agreement discriminates against underprivileged workers from outside the city who would otherwise be able to find work in Moreno Valley.

Richard Markuson, a representative of the Western Electrical Contractors Association, said the agreement will exclude 800 of the association’s apprentices from working on Moreno Valley projects.

“These are young men and women, many of them veterans and apprentices of color who are seeking to earn a future career as journeypersons in the electrical trade,” Markuson said. “It seems to be contrary to the whole justification for doing a project labor agreement.”

Mayor Yxstian Gutierrez noted that any private contractor or union can bid on city public works projects that are valued at less than $1 million, assuring that those projects will not exclude anyone.

According to the report, the MoValWorkForce Program is designed to forge a partnership between the city and the San Bernardino-Riverside Building Trades Council. It goes on to say the community work agreement is a result of city discussions with the Building Trades Council and the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

“When a (community workforce agreement) is being considered, it’s important to remember that it is the contractor that will implement it and be held to the terms and conditions listed in the agreement,” said Elias Garcia, regional government affairs manager for the Associated General Contractors of California.

Garcia argued the drafting of the agreement did not include enough stakeholders and that procedures negotiated on behalf of those not present could result in negative consequences for contractors.

Those consequences, Garcia said, are possible noncompliance issues stemming from companies’ collective bargaining agreements.

Ricardo Cisneros, Moreno Valley resident and  executive secretary-treasurer of the Inland Empire Labor Council, supported the agreement and said it “puts people over profit.” He argued the organizations in opposition are only looking out for their finances.

“It’s just the bottom dollar for their pockets,” Cisneros said. 

Cisneros also noted the agreement will benefit local youth in construction programs by connecting them with union apprenticeships and will later allow them to work locally.

“That creates a big local economic stimulus for our area, which definitely needs it,” he said.

Councilmember Ulises Cabrera, who still works remodeling homes with his father, sympathized with Moreno Valley residents who have had to commute to Los Angeles and Orange County for years to work. 

Cabrera argued the agreement is financially beneficial because it reduces residents’ spending on gas and food in other cities.

“They’ll be able to do that here,” Cabrera said. “Eat lunch at our restaurants, buy their groceries here, and spend more time with their children.”

The agreement includes tasks for an administrator, which is estimated to cost the city between $50,000 and $150,000 per year, depending on the number of public works projects that will fall under the agreement.

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