Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
The City of San Antonio changed course Friday regarding a request for proposals for an airport concessionaire contract.
After a group of business leaders and others challenged what they perceived to be pro-union language in the request this week, bidders are being asked to submit two separate proposals: one with a labor peace agreement, and one without.
“The original RFP [request for proposals] was a deviation from normal policy, and it deserves thoughtful consideration by stakeholders,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg stated. “The addendum to the RFP allows us to have an open, transparent discussion about procurement policy without being locked into a decision before that takes place.”
Released Jan. 18, the RFP calls for the City to award one concessionaire the non-exclusive rights to operate or manage a combination of concessions consisting of specialty retail and food and beverage at the San Antonio International Airport.
An addendum to the RFP will be submitted next week.
City of San Antonio staffers also plan to update the Council Feb. 28 on a variety of changes to procurement policies. Proposed policy changes stem from council members’ requests to re-evaluate certain preference programs for local, small, minority, veteran and women-owned businesses.
A labor peace agreement prevents work interruptions and employee walk-outs and protests in exchange for providing them a safe environment to consider unionizing. In San Antonio, they would look to the local chapter of Unite Here, a hospitality union that represented two River Walk hotels in a 2015 dispute over wage increases.
Leaders of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber, North San Antonio Chamber and other groups banned together to express disagreement with the labor peace agreement clause, stating that they believed it would drive up the cost of doing business and thus prevent locally flavored businesses from bidding on the contract going forward.
“Though we still prefer the overall RFP to change the language altogether … we feel that this is a step towards including the voices of our members who have repeatedly told us that the current labor peace agreement requirement is not conducive to diverse bids at the airport,” wrote Ramiro Cavazos, president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber, in a statement following the City’s announcement that the RFP would be amended.
“Nevertheless, we feel that in allowing our members to explicitly show the cost burdens and lower margins, the City will be in a better place to make future RFPs more productive in helping businesses in San Antonio thrive. It’s a step forward.”
The City’s announcement inviting dual proposals stated that it would give the department a chance to analyze the potential impact of a labor peace agreement in the contract, and that the City is “very interested” in establishing a significant presence of local businesses at the airport.