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House Dems vote against local hiring ban, project labor restrictions that send Ohio jobs out of state

Senate Bill 152 handcuffs local communities, attacks working people
May 4, 2016
Democratic Newsroom

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Ohio House Democratic legislators today voted against the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 152, saying legislation to ban local hiring standards and restrict project labor agreements (PLAs) for public works projectswill handcuff decision-making authority of local communities and send Ohio jobs out of state.  

“Project labor agreements are a proven tool to ensure fair wages and quality work help complete projects on time and under budget. In addition, PLAs can include local hiring benchmarks that help strengthen the local economy by providing opportunities to workers from the community,” said House Minority Leader Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Undercutting existing laws will negatively affect major construction projects in the future by sewing confusion and destabilizing project bids, budgets and timelines.”  

In 2002, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down state laws prohibiting a public entity from requiring project labor agreements for local projects. Republicans are doubling-down on the attempt to restrict PLAs with an amendment added at the last minute to SB 152 Tuesday morning that will prohibit project labor agreements from being required on any public works projects receiving state funds.

The lawmakers also objected to provisions of SB 152 that prohibit communities from setting local hiring standards on public construction projects. Some Ohio communities use local hiring standards on publicly financed projects as a way to strengthen local workforce participation and, in turn, strengthen local economies. Urban areas typically have higher unemployment rates than the national average, making the decision to hire local even more impactful for improving the job market in urban areas.

“This is a devastating blow to local communities which have already suffered severe funding cuts from the state,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “We should be encouraging local communities to hire from Ohio’s talented and plentiful workforce – not banning them from using local hiring quotas to combat unemployment and poverty and bring real investment and opportunities to their citizens.”

The Senate rejected House changes to SB 152 this afternoon, sending the bill to conference committee before a final stop at Gov. Kasich’s desk for his signature. 

Here is what Democratic lawmakers are saying about Senate Bill 152:

“Ohioans deserve a fair shot at good-paying local jobs that can provide economic stability for them and their families,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “Politicians in Columbus should not be picking winners and losers when it comes to our local infrastructure upgrades. Local communities like Akron deserve the freedom to make decisions that will put people back to work and stabilize our local economy.”

“This legislation is a slap in the face to municipalities and Ohioans that are working vigorously to improve the infrastructure, economy, and well-being of our state with their own dollars,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “The talented workers of Akron deserve to be considered for a project which they are funding without interference from state lawmakers.”

“We want people to have opportunity in Ohio, not be locked out of projects,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “I will not vote for taxation without participation.”

“I saw up close that Project Labor Agreements worked well for the Euclid City School District,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “Twice while I was on the Euclid School Board, PLAs were critical in finishing multi-million dollar projects on time and under budget. Ohio communities and school districts should have the option to negotiate PLAs when it is in the public's best interest. This bill removes local decision making freedom and therefore is bad public policy.”

“The Ohio Department of Transportation disparity report revealed that Ohio practices in passive discrimination – now how are we going to fix it?” said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). “This legislation does not lend itself to fixing the problem – it is only going to exacerbate the economic barriers for minority workers in our state.”

“It's fascinating to me that those who so rarely, if ever, actually experience concepts like discrimination, leveling the playing field or decisions based on zip codes, use those concepts to justify legislation that absolutely furthers institutionalized discrimination,” said Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights). “I just want my friends on the other side of the aisle to be honest with us, with themselves and with voters. Every time they allocate local government fund dollars to townships and small villages only, and not to any other community, they legislate disparity based on zip codes and they do not level the playing field; every time they allocate more funding to failing charter schools, they legislate disparity based on zip codes and they do not level the playing field; and every time they refuse to fund public transportation, they legislate disparity based on zip codes and they do not level the playing field. Let's just be real.”

“I can't comprehend what the GOP has against getting the best, longest-lasting construction money can buy, rather than the cheapest work that will need immediate repair,” said Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain). “Project Labor Agreements help ensure quality work and fair wages that allow workers to support themselves and their families. They also contribute to workforce development by ensuring a more localized workforce will be available when additional work is needed later. PLAs are a win for the taxpayers, workers, and local communities, but this legislation will take all that away.”

“The hiring of qualified local workers for public construction projects is a direct benefit to rebuilding a community and strengthening our working families,” said Rep. Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus). “Senate Bill 152 blocks my constituents from gainful employment and apprenticeships, and instead hands these jobs and opportunities to individuals from neighboring states like Indiana, Kentucky or Michigan. I strongly oppose any measure that strips Ohioans of pathways out of unemployment and poverty.”

“The language regarding project labor agreements is yet another Republican assault on working people in our state,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown). “By restricting PLAs, Republicans are undermining wage and benefit levels for women and men employed in the construction industry. For those of us in border cities, that also means losing jobs to surrounding states. We should be focused on growing jobs in Ohio, not sending them out of state. Right in our district, companies like Penn Gaming used private sector PLAs for large-scale projects because they recognize the financial and practical value of having an agreement with their highly skilled workers before a project begins. Professionals know what safety means at the workplace, and they get the job done right the first time, usually under budget.”

“Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) are essential management tools that, on specific projects, further the taxpayers’ interest in acquiring the highest quality construction services at the best possible price. PLAs help ensure important community projects are completed safely, on time and on budget,” said Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). “This bill is not in the best interest of the public.”

“The Cuyahoga County Convention Center Hotel, currently on schedule for its June 2016 opening, is being built with a project labor agreement,” continued Antonio. “This $272 million project is on a tight timeline, to be completed for the Republican National Convention slated for July 2016. The PLA eliminates delay, consolidates terms and conditions from different collective bargaining agreements and will help ensure the highest-quality work for the taxpayers. The national spotlight will be on Northeast Ohio and it would be devastating if this critical project did not have agreements in place to complete this project on time.”

“As elected officials, we often talk about creating and retaining jobs, and yet this legislation will do just the opposite by eroding local control and restricting local governments’ ability to implement local hiring quotas and PLAs,” said Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson). “As we continue our efforts to combat unemployment and poverty, Ohio communities should have the ability to hire locally and continue to invest in their residents. Furthermore, taxpayer investments are better protected when local workers and project labor agreements are used, as they prevent delays and maintain workplace safety. This is yet another attack on working people.”

“This legislation is going to outsource Ohio jobs,” said Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland). “It's a race to the bottom to find the cheapest, least skilled workers. The outcome will be local skilled workers watching in utter disbelief as out-of-state, unskilled workers take their jobs.”

“At a time when we should be promoting career paths that require specialized training and extensive education, this policy is making it harder for those working Ohioans to maintain good-paying, full-time work that can sustain a family,” said Rep. Christie Kuhns (D-Cincinnati). “This bill puts special interests ahead of common sense and puts workers in surrounding states like Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia ahead of Ohioans.”

“The unemployment rate for minorities in our urban cities is currently double digits, if the governor signs this bill into law, it will definitely increase the unemployment rate in Ohio,” said Rep. Michael Ashford (D-Toledo). “We should be doing everything we can to make sure good-paying, jobs stay in Ohio instead of passing special interest legislation that gives out-of-state, fly-by-night contractors an advantage.”

“This is simply another attack on working people in our state in what seems to be a never-ending line of restrictions that chip away at working people’s ability to earn an honest pay for an honest days’ work,” said Assistant Minority Leader Nick Celebrezze (D-Parma). “The workers on these projects are highly skilled. Many of them have spent decades honing their craft as electricians, carpenters and plumbers. And while Ohio’s GOP continues to suggest young people look at vocational professions that don’t require a traditional college degree—it is hypocritical that this GOP restriction makes it less likely for those young people to earn wages that sustain a family. In fact, it will be likely that these skilled professionals will be forced to work in an environment where the rules are manipulated so employers can deny pay.”

“For over 60 years, project labor agreements have helped communities and workers come together to complete major public works on time and on budget,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Private companies use project labor agreements because they know the financial benefits of having a quality product completed under-budget and on time. For Republicans that say we should run government like a business, restricting PLAs does the exact opposite.”