The House Labor Committee considered legislation this week that would make it practically impossible for small businesses to bid competitively for public jobs. House Bill 7623 would effectively preclude small businesses, whether union or non-union, from bidding on most all public construction contracts. Big labor seeks to establish statutory apprentice ratios with which small businesses could not comply. House Bill 7623 requires at least 15% of labor done on public works contracts of $1 million or more be carried out by apprentices. As you know, many smaller sized businesses do not have and cannot have a proportion of apprentices at any given time that would satisfy that law.
In addition to unfairly excluding most Rhode Island construction companies from work on public construction projects (such as schools, public safety buildings, state office buildings, etc.), the law would increase the overall cost of public construction by reducing competition in the bidding process.
Mandating that 15% of a workforce on public projects be apprentices automatically precludes the many small, local contractors in Rhode Island from bidding. Even by amending this to 10% of a workforce, the bill would preclude most small business owners from participating in the bidding process. Having as many businesses as possible bid on a public works contract allows for the free market system to work and establishes the lowest cost that is best for the state’s taxpayers.
Allowing smaller businesses to bid on public contracts in a small business state like Rhode Island will help spur employment and job creation, especially in the struggling construction industry.