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
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.