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ABC Chapter Sues Over Hiring Requirements

Monday, November 25, 2019

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The City of St. Petersburg, Florida, is being sued by the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors for its contractor requirement to hire apprentices and disadvantaged workers on major projects valued at $1 million or more.

As established by the Davis Bacon Act, all apprentice and disadvantaged workers are to be paid a prevailing wage, in addition that 15% of all hours worked are set aside for the specific class of individuals. Subcontractors are also required to follow these ordinances.

The Lawsuit

According to reports, the ABC is requesting a permanent injunction to keep the city from enforcing the ordinances, arguing that the practice discriminates against certain workers and raises project costs within five counties.

ALotOfPeople  /  Getty Images

The City of St. Petersburg, Florida, is being sued by the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors for its contractor requirement to hire apprentices and disadvantaged workers on major projects valued at $1 million or more.

Currently, Florida law reportedly prohibits agencies from requiring apprenticeships in relation to bidding on public projects. However, St. Petersburg's ordinance is reported to have expanded beyond what the state intended.

The lawsuit claims that the city is in violation of Florida bidding laws—which require agencies to award projects to the lowest and most responsive bidder—regarding its requirement to maintain apprenticeship programs and hire disadvantaged workers.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that these ordinances:

  • Violate the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the Florida Constitution;
  • Creates a competitive disadvantage for contractors who factor in the cost (often more than state and federal minimum wages) of using the specific workers into their bids;
  • Excludes contractors who don’t engage in apprenticeship programs or hire disadvantaged workers for major projects;
  • Forces contractors to handle the extra apprenticeship expenses;
  • Increases health and safety risks for being forced to use inexperienced workers; and
  • Forces contractors to exclude from employment on major projects that don’t fall under the apprentice or disadvantaged classification.

However, the city argues that the ordinances aim to replace a retired workforce and bring in newly skilled employees. Penalties for those who fail to participate in the use of apprentices and disadvantaged workers include financial consequences and the inability to bid on city projects for one to three years.

Reports state that the lawsuit was filed roughly 10 months after ABC Gulf’s representing law firm wrote to St. Petersburg City Council asking for the apprentice ordinance to be repealed. The lawsuit claims that the city never replied to the firm.

Apprenticeship Debate

In August, the U.S. Department of Labor’s deadline for formal comments regarding a proposal to exempt the construction industry and the military from creating Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs ended, revealing more than 325,000 responses.

Currently, the DOL registers apprentices and apprenticeship programs itself or through state agencies. Although reports claim that the new rule won’t change the requirements for the federal Registered Apprenticeship Programs, SREs would monitor IRAPs to ensure DOL criteria is met in providing:

  • Paid work;
  • Work-based learning;
  • Mentorship;
  • Education and instruction;
  • Industry-recognized credentials;
  • Safety and supervision; and
  • Adherence to equal employment opportunity obligations.

The reason the DOL wants to exempt construction and the military—at least initially, stated the Department—is because the two sectors already have a plethora of apprenticeship programs. The construction industry is reported to have acquired the most apprentices (roughly 144,000 per year), making up 48% of all registered apprentices.

In overlooking the comments, it’s clear that the exemption provision has split the construction industry in half. While trade unions seem to support the exemption—so much so that few have gone so far as to suggest making it permanent—others want to see the revision removed.

   

Tagged categories: Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. (ABC); Bidding; Contractors; Contracts; Good Technical Practice; Lawsuits; NA; North America; PaintSquare App - Commercial; Subcontractors; Workers

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