A Delaware construction executive says that Senate Bill 35, scheduled to be heard today in the House will effectively block non-union contractors from state contracts.
Edward J. Capodanno, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors Delaware says a bill to add 17 projects to this year’s Bond and Capital Improvements funding, will hurt the more than 500 members ABC represents.
Language in the bill’s epilogue includes a pilot program of four projects that demand the winning bidder hire union and minority workers as part of their workforce for the project.
Construction officials and Republicans insist that pilot projects almost always lead to wider adoption.
Sponsor Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton/Newport, says the point of the program is to encourage more diversity.
Any company can bid on and win projects in the pilot program, Walsh and Cerron Cade, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in House hearings. Non-union groups can hire union groups, Walsh and Cade said.
Republicans in the Senate challenged that, saying they had never seen it done.
“We’re not discouraging non-union from bidding is what they say,” Capodanno said. “But in reality, what non-union contractor is going to hire union workers when they already have a workforce?”
He contends the answer is none.
Capodanno said 87% of the work done in Delaware is done by open shut (non-union) contractors.
“If you’re really saying the disparity study is why you’re doing this pilot program, you have to explain why the requirement is only on 25 percent of the jobs,” he said.
Capodanno believes the language establishing the mandatory hiring of union and minorities, along with state residency goals as suggested by the Office of Management and Budget for four Department of Transportation projects, eliminates a large amount of the workforce.
Capodanno said Javier G. Torrijos, owner of TORREngineering LLC, was 100% correct when he testified before the House Tuesday that the pilot projects add up to nothing more than a “union mandate.”
Capodanno calls SB 35 a smaller version of last year’s failed House Bill 435.
“It’s the same thing, only a smaller version,” he said.
The bill isn’t what ABC members envisioned or thought would happen.
ABC members are in favor of diversity requirements, but many think the point is to change the face of the state’s construction industry.
Senate Republicans and others pointed out Tuesday that in Kent and Sussex County, the faces they see on construction sites are brown.
But Walsh and Cade said state records show that 87 percent of construction workers are white.
“What does the union piece of it have to do with the disparity study?” Capodanno questioned.
It’s on the House docket with several possible amendments. If it passes as it now exists, it will go to Gov. John Carney’s desk for his signature. If an amendment is attached, it must go back to the House.
“We’ll see what happens,” Capodanno said.
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