DINO City Councilor Louie Sanchez Calls Trade Union Members “Slugs” When Votes To Repeal “Project Labor Agreement” Mandate; Doubtful If Sanchez Has Ever Broken Sweat At Work; Keller Veto’s Repeal Score Card: 3 Keller Veto’s Upheld, 1 Council Override; POST SCRIPT: PLA’s In City Government

“I know the competition is good. … I really feel everybody has to have a piece of the pie. … Another thing I know, because I was a union member for so long, is that, there is a lot of slugs in the union. I know that for a fact.”

Thus spoke Albuquerque City Council Louie Sanchez on April 4, 2022 voting with 4 Republicans to repeal “City Project Labor Agreement” requirement.


It was on December 6, 2021, the Albuquerque City Council voted 6-3 to amend the city’s “Public Purchases Ordinance” to require Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) on all future city construction projects that cost at least $10 million and that employ workers from at least three crafts according to the ordinance. According to the enacted ordinance, a PLA is defined as “pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations or with their representatives that establishes the terms and conditions of employment” on a specific city construction project. General contractors who successfully win applicable city projects will now have to execute a PLA that governs all construction work.

Not at all surprising, the ordinance was condemned as “pro union”. It was strenuously opposed by the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the real estate and development community including the National Association of Commerce and Industry (NAIOP) and other business organizations and conservative Republican “right to work” proponents. The bill was enacted on a 6 to 3 vote. Voting YES for the measure at the time were all Democrat City Councilors Cynthia Borrego, Pat Davis, Lan Sena, Isaac Benton, Diane Gibson and Klarisa Peña. Voting NO were Republicans Trudy Jones, Don Harris and Brook Bassan.


The postscript to this blog article contains a discussion of PLA’s in the city’s past elections and 10 reasons for them.


Project Labor Agreements also known as PLAs have been around for decades and are collective bargaining agreements between building trade unions and contractors. A project labor agreement under the ordinance is defined as a “pre-hire collective bargaining agreement” with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific public works construction project. They govern terms and conditions of employment for all craft workers, union and nonunion, on a government construction project. PLA’s mandate the use of a skilled labor force and licensed workers such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters in construction contracts and mandate the payment of prevailing union wage to both union and nonunion workers.

In the City of Albuquerque, only 14% of the construction workforce are union employees. Federal legislation allows the use of project labor agreement, which are essentially a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement to establish employment terms, including wages and working conditions on construction projects.



PLA’s are controversial on a number of levels and are highly vilified by anti-union and “right to work” advocates and Republicans. Under the National Labor Relations Act, construction contractors and employees have the right to choose to unionize or not to unionize. The vast majority of contractors and their employees voluntarily opt against unionization. A project labor agreement requires all contractors, whether they are unionized or not, to pay the going rates or hourly wages paid to skilled and licensed labor. The most common objection voiced against PLA’s is that qualified non-union contractors who wish to make lower-cost bids, and employees who wish to work non-union, are locked out of government construction projects. Another opposition argument is that use of PSA’s usually results in cost overruns and higher construction costs for taxpayers.



The bill was formally introduced without discussion at the November 15, 2021 City Council meeting and was not heard by a City Council committee ahead of December 6 city council vote.

The councilors and supporters of the PSA ordinance argued that it woud enhance transparency and ensure that a properly trained and compensated workforce builds city facilities. Not at all surprising local construction industry representatives called the ordinance “unfair and anti-competitive” and questioning why there has not more public discussion.

Then Democrat City Councilor Cynthia Borrego had this to say in a written statement:

“[The ordinance commits the city] … to project labor from NM Building and Construction Trades Council — New Mexico labor. It will ensure experienced and professional labor-qualified and certified workers build City projects and that the City constructs the highest quality infrastructure and projects.”

Then Democrat City Councilor Lan Sena for her part said supported PLAs because they clearly outline the terms of each project, whether it’s worker pay and benefits or management rights, and because the city would require each agreement to include an apprenticeship component, which she said will help boost the local workforce. Sena said this:

“PLAs provide stability, predictability and diversification of our local jobs and training a labor force.”

Carla Kugler, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors’ New Mexico chapter, complained she only learned of the proposal a few weeks ago and had this to say:

“Something so controversial and something that has this much impact on the construction community should be worth investing a little time and thought in it. … [This ordinance is] a handout for organized labor forced upon our construction community and workforce. … [There is no need for PSA’s to ensure contractors pay workers properly] . … There is oversight [already on city projects] … The Department of Workforce Solutions oversees everybody’s pay — union and non-union.”

Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones called the proposal “short-sighted” and said she felt it is unnecessarily pit unions against none union businesses and put it this way:

“I’m not opposed to unions. … I just believe that we shouldn’t interfere this way.”

EDITOR’S COMMENTARY: Yeah, right Councilor Trudy Jones, you are the only right-wing Republican in the United States not opposed to unions.

Democrat Lan Sena took strong issue with the accusation that the ordinance was rushed saying similar legislation had been debated locally before and she stated:

“This isn’t anything new, especially since the county has participated in this as well. ”

Sena said she supports PLAs because they clearly outline the terms of each project, including worker pay and benefits and management rights, but also because the city would require each agreement to include an apprenticeship component, which she said will help boost the local workforce.

Sena put it this way:

“PLAs provide stability, predictability and diversification of our local jobs and training a labor force. ”

Sena added the ordinance will not prevent non-union firms from winning jobs as long as they enter into the requisite PLA.

The Bernalillo County Commission passed a similar ordinance in 2020, though it has not yet applied the new requirement to any projects.


Over the past 3 years fiscal years, the city had 6 major projects that would have met the requirements for a PLA now required by the new ordinance.

Troy Beall, CEO of B&D Industries, a local electrical/mechanical contractor said he supports PLAs. According to Beall, his firm currently employs upwards of about 700 union members. Beall believes a union workforce is better trained. Beall reported that his firm was called in as a subcontractor to help finish an over-budget and delayed Albuquerque International Sunport renovation a few years ago after the first electrical subcontractor walked off the job.

“I have a 40-year history in this community, and I don’t know of a job that’s ever failed [under a collective bargaining agreement]. It’s because we agree to a contract with individuals for our employees. … The union has been very good for our corporation.”

A link to quoted source material is here:



It was outgoing Democrats City Councilors Cynthia Borrego and Lan Sena who sponsored the legislation. They left office on January 1, 2022. Democrat Borrego lost her bid for another term to conservative former City Councilor Republican Dan Lewis. Progressive Democrat Lan Sena, who was appointed by Mayor Tim Keller to fill the vacancy on the counsel the result of the death of Ken Sanchez, lost her bid for a full term to conservative Democrat Louis Sanchez.


On February 7, 2022, Republican City Councilors Dan Lewis, Brook Bassan, Trudy Jones, and Renée Grout introduced legislation to repeal Council bill O-21-80, which amended the City’s Public Purchases Ordinance to require the use of Project Labor Agreements. The 4 Republicans gave their rationale for the repeal in a statement that said:

“By repealing this requirement, we’d be reducing unnecessary requirements to getting much needed public works projects done while ensuring we are doing everything possible to keep construction costs from rising unnecessarily. … We want to ensure that Albuquerque continues improving infrastructure as quickly and efficiently as possible without eliminating our local, New Mexican businesses from opportunities.”


On April 4 the Albuquerque City Council voted 5 to 4 to repeal the Project Labor Agreement mandates passed by the City Council in December, 2021. The legislation was enacted in 2021 when the City Council had a 6-3 Democrat majority. After the 2021 municipal election, the Democrat majority was reduced to a 5-4 majority.

Despite pleas from local labor unions to keep the Project Labor Agreement Ordinance in place, city councilors voted during the April 4 meeting to repeal ordinance. Not everyone supported the ordinance with some contractors speaking in favor of the repeal, saying the PLA would jeopardize the quality of work and impact schedules. The city council ultimately voted five to four in favor of nixing the law, only four months after passing it.

Three of the five councilors who voted to repeal the ordinance are new to the council and they are Republicans Dan Lewis and Renee Grout and West side Democrat Louie Sanchez. Democrat City Councilor Louie Sanchez joined all 4 of the bill’s Republican City Councilor sponsors Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Dan Lewis and Trudy Jones. Democrat City Councilors Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Klarissa Peña voted no to repeal.

Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones acknowledged that while the original PLA ordinance does not preclude non-union contractors from bidding on major city projects, she said she felt it gives union shops an unfair edge and said:

“I am certainly not opposed to unions or union labor. However, I am opposed to giving preferential treatment to any group when it comes to bidding and working on City projects.”

Sanchez is a former APD police officer and has been a member of the Teamsters Union and a member of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association. Sanchez retired after 26 years of service with the Albquerquerqu Police Department. He was in charge of Mayor Marty Chavez’ security detail. He is now employed as an insurance agent. In announcing his support of the repeal, Louie Sanchez had this to say:

“I know the competition is good. … I really feel everybody has to have a piece of the pie. … Another thing I know, because I was a union member for so long, is that, there is a lot of slugs in the union. I know that for a fact.”

Mayor Tim Keller immediately after the repeal responded to the council’s decision in a tweet, calling it “another backward-looking proposal from the council.”

In a separate written statement, Keller called the repeal “way off-base, especially when the Council has far more pressing issues to address”.

Links to quoted news source material are here:




On April 11, Mayor Tim Keller vetoed the repeal of the PLA ordinance. Keller wrote in his veto message:

“We need City Council focused on the issues in front of us like crime, housing, and behavioral health, not trying to repeal good public policy like the PLA amendment. Simply put, it is premature and imprudent to repeal this ordinance before the impact of its provisions can be assessed. ”

Keller wrote that the ordinance was intended to “make certain that the City is being prudent with taxpayer money” by creating good-paying jobs and “career pipelines.” He also said the ordinance ensures accountability and workplace safety standards on public works projects that cost at least $10 million. Keller noted that the legislation had yet to be used as no projects have been completed under the ordinance, though two have gone out for bid with the PLA requirement.

Councilor Trudy Jones, who co-sponsored the repeal bill, called Keller’s action “childish” and “pandering to the unions.”

EDITOR’S COMMENTARY: Jones’ repeal vote was as partisan as it gets and nothing more than pandering to Republican right-wing contempt for unions and pandering to all her little buddies at NAIOP.


On April 18, the construction and development industry representatives urged the council to override Keller, arguing that the PLA requirement is unfair. Rhiannon Samuel of NAIOP New Mexico, the most prominent and influential commercial real estate development association in Albuquerque told the counsel:

“Mandating project labor agreements disproportionately disadvantages most of our trades workforce by failing to give them equal access to city contracts. ”

Representatives and members of unions throughout the city turned out in force to oppose the override of the Project Labor Agreement Ordinance veto and to essentially berate Sanchez for his name-calling. Union members from a variety of occupations jammed the council chambers. It was clear flexing of political muscle and sent Sanchez one of the strongest messages possible to an elected official. Councilor Sanchez district has a strong working-class constituency and believed to have never elected a Republican.

Trade union members spoke to the council in opposition to the override as dozens other union members stood in support. The unions argued that the agreements ensure apprenticeship and workforce development and keep contractors from misclassifying workers to pay them less than the applicable prevailing wage.

Councilor Sanchez’s comments “there’s a lot of slugs in the union” drew particular scorn with a warning. Bobby Baca of IBEW 611, the electrician union, told Sanchez:

“I choose to forgive you for what you said, but I will never forget and neither will our membership. What you said about union workers is totally wrong, and I believe you owe a public apology to everybody standing in this room.”

Sanchez for his part only made things worse when he addressed the criticism prior to his voting to override and said:

“To make it clear, I didn’t call each and every one of you a slug – that’s not what my comment was. … My comment was that I’ve been in unions before, and I’ve been in unions that have had slugs that worked for them.”

On April 18, the Albuquerque City Council failed to override Mayor Keller’s veto of the Project Labor Agreement ordinance on a 5-4 vote. Republicans Brook Bassan, Renee Grout, Trudy Jones, Dan Lewis and lone Democrat Louie Sanchez supported the override which is the same five that had previously voted for the repeal. Democrats Isaac Benton, Pat Davis, Tammy Fiebelkorn and Klarissa Peña voted against the override.

The link to the quoted news source is here:


Mayor Tim Keller after the vote said in a statement:

“I want to thank the councilors who upheld the veto tonight for standing up for our taxpayers and our workers. Project Labor Agreements have been used to ensure quality and accountability on civic projects from the Hoover Dam to the Kennedy Space Center, and we’ll use them in Albuquerque to build our city and strengthen pathways to good careers.”


The April 18 vote gave Keller his third veto victory out of four tries in the last 5 weeks. Keller succeeded in preserving mayoral power given during a public health emergency. The city council enacted a Dan Lewis’ sponsored bill barring the city from instituting covid vaccine mandates of city employees on 5-4 to revoke it, Keller vetoed it and the council failed to override the veto lacking the sixth vote necessary to override the veto. Keller failed in his attempt to salvage Albuquerque’s plastic bag ban repeal sponsored by Republican City Councilor Brook Basaan.


On April 8, Sanchez showed his ignorance on a number of levels and was a damn fool when he said:

“I know the competition is good. … I really feel everybody has to have a piece of the pie. … Another thing I know, because I was a union member for so long, is that, there is a lot of slugs in the union. I know that for a fact.”

First, the APD police union that Sanchez was a member of under no circumstance can be considered a traditional “blue collar” trade union such as the building trade unions for certified and licensed plumbers, carpenters and electrician’s which is what Project Labor Agreements deals with and are all about. There are no such thing as PLA’s when it comes to law enforcement and they are for government construction projects.

Second, APD’s police union allows the management positions of Sergeants and Lieutenants to be union members, while trade unions do not allow management to be union members.

Third, it is common knowledge that the APD police union membership are conservative and very Republican leaning while trade unions for plumbers, carpenters and electrician unions are traditionally Democrat leaning.

Fourth: It is very doubtful that Sanchez has ever broken a sweat on the job like a plumber, carpenter or electrician has on a construction project. Sanchez was a sworn police officer and as head of the Mayor’s security detail was always talking into his sleeve at events or was responsible for driving Mayor Marty Chavez around as the air conditioner was on full blast in the summer and the heater on in the Winter. Chavez never endorsed Sanchez for city council which says a lot about both men.


Since commencing his term on the City Council on January 1, Louie Sanchez has aligned himself with all 4 Republicans on major Republican sponsored resolutions calling for the repeal of past Democrat initiatives. Sanchez has voted for the Republican sponsored repeals of Democrat sponsored legislation including the city policy mandating project labor agreements, the emergency powers given to the Mayor to deal with the pandemic and voted to repeal the ban on the use of plastic bags at businesses.

On March 14, Sanchez announced a new political action committee, or PAC, called the Working Together New Mexico PAC that will back “moderate” Democrats in a host of contested primary races. With his announcement, and less than 3 months on the city council , Sanchez is saying he wants to be a “King Maker” in New Mexico Politics.

The Working Together PAC is registered as an independent expenditure committee, and for that reason it cannot coordinate with any other candidate’s campaign.

Sanchez does not define what he means by “moderate” nor what the litmus test is to get the financial support of the PAC. However, based on the Sanchez votes and actions on the City Council, he likely means a plethora of conservative Republican causes that are contrary to Democratic core values and that support corporate interests over the working class.


Democrat Louie Sanchez is now considered by many as a DINO (Democrat in Name Only), especially after forming a political action committee (PAC) to raise money and oppose incumbent Democrats in the legislature who he claims are too progressive or not moderate enough for his liking.

Albuquerque City Councilor Louie Sanchez is not up for re-election until 2025, but in less than 4 months in office he has managed to alienate so many Democrats to the point he has sown the seeds of opposition. With any luck, Sanchez will be a one term city councilor.



Mandating Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) on city construction projects has always been controversial in Albuquerque. History and experience show it is a mandate that is long overdue and that has been prevented primarily because of Republican Mayor and Republican City Council opposition stoked by the Republican right wing leaning business community.

Former conservative and Republican Mayor Richard Berry was elected to serve two terms from 2009 until 2013. Berry was a construction contractor and developer in Albuquerque and was known to oppose anything and everything associated with unions and he actively supported for and lobbied for right to work legislation. During his entire 8 years as Mayor, Berry was at impasse with virtually all 7 of the city hall unions and their collective bargaining contract, especially the police union. During his first term in office (2009 to 2013) Berry unilaterally ordered the suspension of negotiated union contracts and refused to pay negotiated pay increases agreed to by his predecessor Mayor Martin Chavez. Berry even ordered pay cuts to forestall increasing taxes to deal with a deficit.

It was no secret that Mayor Richard Berry was the darling of the real estate development community and “right to work proponents” with Berry even lobbying for right to work laws in Santa Fe. Berry was also known to object to PSA’s. The National Association Of Industrial Office Parks (NAIOP) and Republican leaning organizations such of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and the New Mexico Business Coalition were big time supporters of Berry contributing thousands to his successful privately finance campaign for a second term in 2013 where he spent well over $1 Million to get elected to a second term in the lowest voter turnout in the city’s history. Berry won in a landslide with a 19% voter turnout.

In the 2013 Mayor’s race, PSA’s were made an issue, especially by NAIOP. During the NAIOP luncheon debate moderated by Albuquerque Journal Senior Editor Kent Waltz and attended by well over 300 people, Republicans Richard Berry and Paul Heh and Democrat Pete Dinelli were all asked their positions on PSA’s. Berry and Heh both said they were opposed, while Pete Dinelli said he agreed they were necessary. Dinelli pointed out that for any Mayor to be successful they must work with the city unions. Dinelli was literally booed by half of the audience watching, including Berry’s Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry. Dinelli came very close to telling NAIOP to go screw themselves and walking out of the debate but he showed great restraint and stayed anyway to make a point. Restraint is not required of a person who is fully retired, free to think, say and do what they want, so to NAIOP, it’s a delight and a real treat to watch NAIOP membership to deal with project labor agreements before they can suck on the government tit and be paid with taxpayer money for government construction contract work.


It is always amazing how real estate developers and construction firms and organizations such as NAIOP and Republicans are so resistant to any and all government rules, and regulations such as building codes, electrical codes, plumbing codes and minimum construction standards proclaiming government overreach. To them, its irrelevant that building electrical, plumbing and safety codes protect the public health, safety, and welfare and taxpayer dollars.

Business Organizations such of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Forum and the New Mexico Business Coalition and NAIOP never cease with their vilification of unions and government regulations proclaiming it interferes with their ability to compete and make a living and drives up their costs to do business and lowers profits. What is also interesting is that NAIOP membership are always first in line with their hands out to bid on city government contracts wanting multimillion dollar construction contracts, such as the $120 million ART Bus project, yet they vilify government.


Simply put, PSA’s are necessary in City government construction contracts for any number of legitimate reasons. Those reasons include:

1. The PSA’s mandate uniform wages, benefits, overtime pay, hours, working conditions, and work rules for work on major city construction projects
2. The PSA’s mandate that contractors on city construction projects have reliable and uninterrupted supply of qualified workers at predictable costs;
3. The PSA’s ensure that a government construction project will be completed on time and on budget
4. The PSA’s will ensure no labor strife by prohibiting strikes and lockouts and including binding procedures to resolve labor disputes;
5. PSA’s in projects over $10 million as mandated by the ordinance will make it easier to manage by placing unions under one contract, the PLA, rather than dealing with several unions that may have different wage and benefit structures;
6. The PSA ordinance includes provisions to recruit and train workers by requiring contactors to participate in recruitment, apprenticeship, and training programs for women, minorities, veterans, and other under-represented groups
7. The PSA reduces misclassification of workers and the related underpayment of payroll taxes and workers compensation.
8. The PSA ordinance will translate into a larger percentage of construction wages staying in the city and state.
9. The PSA will improve worker safety by requiring contractors and workers to comply with project safety rules.
10. The PSA requirement for city government construction projects will have a positive long-term economic benefit for the local and construction industry as a whole.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.