Columbus Tests Deal with Trades Council
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther is testing out an agreement with the Columbus Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, that he says will ensure local workers on public jobs and boost the city’s apprentice program.
The “community-benefits agreement” will cover the city’s new fire station, an $8 million, 22,000-square-foot project that’s slated to begin in May.
What Does the Agreement Say?
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the 14-page document spells out benchmarks for ensuring that at least 20 percent of the work will be done by residents of Columbus and 25 percent by residents of surrounding counties. So, when bidding on projects such as the fire station, contractors are mandated to take the agreement into account and provide how those benchmarks will be met.
Also in the agreement, the trades council is required to host apprenticeship-recruitment fairs and charge its members 5 cents per hour worked. That money will go directly into the scholarship fund for those apprentice programs.
“I think the win for (the unions) is the opportunity to grow the building-trades workforce,” said Ginther’s senior policy adviser, Bryan Clark. “The win for us is these are folks who have jobs for a lifetime.”
While there’s support of the overall goals, some are leery of how the mandates will impact the bidding process.
“We would have a lot of concerns with what they’re trying to do,” said Richard Hobbs, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Ohio. “From a construction standpoint, it’s difficult for contractors to figure out what and how they bid something the way it is now, let alone throwing these additional layers in they’ll have to comply with.”
However, Clark said that Columbus looked at other cities that had similar agreements, such as Cleveland and Los Angeles, and according to him, those cities have not seen a damper on competition.
“This is something that is going to be disclosed to the contractors through the bidding process,” he said. “This benefits them, not something that would harm their bottom line.”
Clark also notes that the bidders don’t need to be a union shop to meet those benchmarks, and even though the program is starting with union apprenticeship programs, Clark added the city is looking to nonunion programs next.
The agreement with regard to the fire station project will be overseen by Clark, Dorsey Hager, the trade council’s executive secretary-treasurer, and Nana Watson of the NAACP Columbus chapter.