The House Commerce and Labor Committee took testimony, March 2 on HB102 which would prohibit state agencies from requiring or prohibiting certain labor requirements as a condition of performing public works and prohibit appropriations of state funds for public works when political subdivisions require labor requirements. A Substitute Bill, which was accepted by the Committee, does the following:
– Removes provisions related to state agencies issuing grants in cooperative agreements.
– Explicitly includes universities.
– Prohibits discrimination based on an entity’s electing to enter an agreement with union labor.
– Adds a severability clause.
– Modifies the definition of construction and public improvement in the bill to address inconsistencies.
Testifying in favor of the bill were Bryan Williams, government affairs director for Associated Builders and
Contractors of Ohio, and Jonathan Howard of Jess Howard Electric Co.
Williams said use of project-labor agreements (PLAs) is discriminatory and effectively excludes non-union shops
from bidding because such agreements create hurdles that make it too burdensome for them to be able to
complete the project. He also said studies consistently show PLAs can drive up costs 20 to 30 percent, pointing
specifically to the Ohio School Facilities Commission’s experience bidding out the School for the Blind/School for the
Deaf work first with a PLA and then without, with lower costs for the latter.
He said PLAs don’t necessarily meet the goals their proponents say they do, such as improved construction quality,
use of local labor and increased take-home pay for workers.
Williams said his understanding of the bill is that it does not ban PLAs on public projects, but prohibits state funding
from going to any project where the bid specifications either prohibit or require use of a PLA.
Rep. Wachtmann remarked that PLAs are one of the “most severe discriminatory pieces of law left in America.”
Rep. Antonio asked how ABC contractors deal with training and safety. Williams said ABC Ohio offers
apprenticeship programs in a variety of trades. Antonio also asked about the problem of changes orders. Williams said there’s always talk of contractors’ submitting aggressively low bids and then earning their profit by submitting change orders that boost costs, and ABC investigates reports of that happening, but he said it’s often hard to nail down.
Rep. Adams asked what the administrative costs to a non-union shop would be of carrying out a contract requiring
a PLA. Williams said he couldn’t even get to the point of answering that question because various rules and hurdles
effectively make it untenable to carry out such a contract for a non-union shop.
Williams and Rep. Szollozi went back and forth for a significant period of time on whether PLAs truly do drive up
the costs of projects. Szollozi said there are numerous examples of PLA project bids coming in under estimates.
Williams said engineers compiling estimates will often increase the estimates if they know a PLA will be used
because of the increased labor costs.
Howard related his company’s experience of bidding on the School for the Deaf/School for the Blind project and
being the low bidder on two phases but being unable to do the project because of a PLA. He said to do a PLA
project he would have to send all his workers to the union hall and then they would have to work their way up the
list of people assigned to jobs. Also, he said they might not be able to come back to work for him once the project
He said his company employs 160 full-time employees, offers them benefits and keeps them working year-round.
He said he favors HB102 because it would prohibit discrimination.
Chris Ferruso, legislative director for the National Federation of Business/Ohio, submitted written testimony in favor
of the bill. He wrote that the bill “supports free enterprise and the ability of all capable individuals to have a fair
shake in the bidding process with the added goal of ensuring an equal opportunity for all interested parties to be
eligible to submit bids on public works projects.
He said project-labor agreements often exclude small businesses that aren’t unionized and can’t afford to be. He
said suggestions that non-union shops have workers who aren’t trained as well is “an affront” to hard-working
tradesmen and women.
Also submitting written testimony in favor of the bill was Tony Seegers, director of labor and human resources
policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. He said state government should use its resources to assure a robust,
competitive economic climate. He said requiring PLAs forces contractors either to use union-only labor or have their
workers join unions and pay dues.