Comment: Everett mayor’s veto rejects pro-worker initiative

Mayor Franklin’s rejection of an ordinance ignored the work that crafted a useful public works policy.

By Mark L. Riker / For The Herald

The Everett City Council passed an ordinance on Dec. 7 to require Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on all city construction projects valued at $5 million dollars or more. This ordinance was the culmination of well over a year’s work with Councilmember Liz Vogeli and almost a year’s work with Councilmember Mary Fosse.

Over the many months of working together, the Snohomish and Island Central Labor Council, community members, as well as affiliates of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council collected data and carefully crafted a resolution that was turned into an ordinance.

During the city council’s consideration of the ordinance, rather than amend it, opponents brought their own watered-down ordinance that did effectively nothing. It is important to recognize here that all this work is based off a resolution from 2019 that stated that the city should “consider” the use of PLAs. The workers in the city have never benefitted from the use of a PLA, despite the non-binding resolution from 2019.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin vetoed the ordinance a week later. In the veto she listed six reasons, most of which were addressed during comments and through the hard work that council members Vogeli and Fosse did, but no one from the city wanted to listen. In fact, the competing alternative ordinance brought forth by Councilmember Ben Zarlingo, undermined the work done by Vogeli and Fosse to address the mayor’s concerns, and was done with no consultation from representatives from worker organizations. The resulting bad policy was withdrawn after passage of Vogeli’s and Fosse’s ordinance.

In her veto, Mayor Franklin says that the ordinance makes PLAs mandatory with no project-by-project analysis. This is correct. Examining each project is cost prohibitive. The point is to have minimal labor standards on all projects using our public money to employ people on jobs with fair labor standards for the workers. Mayor Franklin states that it is irresponsible to allow this ordinance to go into effect without understanding its impact to the city budget, Everett taxpayers.

This work has been done. There are studies ( UC Berkeley’s Project Labor: that show little to no change in cost of a project. The mayor was unwilling to accept facts. This was stated throughout the public comments for this ordinance and was ignored.

Mayor Franklin mentioned in her veto that not enough consideration was given to the impact to minority- and women-owned businesses. PLAs are for workers and are used as tools to help diversify our workforce. If the Mayor is so concerned about the equitable awarding of city contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses, perhaps rethinking the policies the city has for awarding contracts would be an appropriate way to help these businesses, not undermining worker protections.

Mayor Franklin also mentioned the impact to time and completion of projects and the cost of suchdelays. Data proves the opposite, from a net-zero cost difference on such projects with PLAs to no impact on bidder quantity. We dispute the city administration’s ridiculous assertion that projects will cost 18 percent to 20 percent more. The data wasprovided, and again the Mayor was unwilling to accept documentable fact. As Councilmember Vogeli stated during her comment time, most of the referenced data provided by the mayor’s staff was from right-wing Koch Brothers backed organizations.

The mayor went on to state that the ordinance was adopted without a comprehensive review of the legalrisks and vulnerabilities. As this ordinance is based off of the mayor’s 2019 PLA resolution, why wasn’t this done then? In fact, Vogeli and Fosse did vet their ordinance through the city’s legal department.

The final concern listed talks of using an index to inflation, but these are not commonly used to decide thresholds for PLAs.

The only conclusion that can be made here is that the mayor, despite her promulgations, does not support workers. In fact, during this process, the mayor’s administration reached out to building trade affiliates and tried to convince them not to work with council on this, yet now she insinuates that she is pro-worker?

The council members who were involved in this process did the research, collected the data, researched best-known methods and presented it as an ordinance. Some amendments were made on the third reading and they were good-faith amendments that were meant to address some of the city’s main concerns.

Effectively, with the amendments, no projects in 2023 would even be covered under the approved amended ordinance. So, what’s the problem? The city has loads of time to come up with a master agreement and get it right.

Don’t be fooled by the mayor’s tactics. Her administration oppose family wages and meaningful apprenticeship pathways. This is not effective or responsible leadership. This veto wasn’t done for the betterment of our community and the workers of Everett, which was the purpose of the council-adopted PLA ordinance. The veto was anti-worker and everyone needs to know that.

It seems that unfortunately the mayor listened to a very specific interest group that is opposed to PLAs and the city’s self-serving interpretation convinced her to turn her back on the working men and women of Everett. PLAs are complex project-delivery mechanisms that can and doprovide great benefit to workers and businesses in a local community alike. Mayor Franklin chose not totake advantage of those benefits for the people she has been elected to represent.

Mark L. Riker is executive secretary of the Olympia-based Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Monday, March 27

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Construction workers walk along the underside of the Lynnwood Link light rail tracks on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: What’s needed to get Link light rail on track

Sound Transit needs to streamline its process, while local governments ready for rail and stations.

Comment: We need to stop trying to beat computers at their game

We can’t match the machines on output or speed. And we shouldn’t try. Let humans do the human stuff.

Saunders: Easy Narcan access might normalize opioid overdoses

There’s a place for harm reduction, but the OD-reversing drug shouldn’t be widely distributed.

Comment: Why Trump’s detour in the bosom of chaos matters

Porn star Stormy Daniels may come out of this with more integrity than Trump could ever muster.

Comment: Republican’s patience with Trump may not be assured

Depending on which charges he faces and the reaction to them, his support could ebb, starting with independents.

The sun turns a deep red as it sets beyond the Port of Everett and the Olympic Mountains on a hazardously smoky evening on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Everett, Washington. Following the start of the Bolt Creek Fire and other wildfires in the region, air quality in Snohomish County was seemingly always hazardous through September and October. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Comment: Yours is not your father’s climate change

Your experience of climate change depends on your generation and that of your children and grandchildren.

Editorial cartoons for Sunday, March 26

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cathlamet, the Washington State Ferry that crashed in Seattle last month, sits at the Port of Everett on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Everett, Washington. The ferry will require extensive repairs after a hard landing crumpled one corner of the boat at the Fauntleroy dock on July 28. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: State needs quicker route for its new ferries

‘Build in Washington’ can be scraped as a mandate, while still counting benefits of in-state shipyards.

Most Read