“a very blatant and ugly quid pro quo”

Greg Mourad, Vice President of the National  Right to Work Committee, explains why laws before the California legislature will harm workers on Watchdog.org.

Small businesses in California will suffer, closing their doors or laying off workers, and the cost of tax-funded school construction projects will skyrocket, if a handful of bills make it through the state’s legislature, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.

One bill passed last week.

“The effect can’t help but be harmful to all non-union workers,” said Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee. “They’re excluding the vast majority of the workforce from bidding on public projects that their own taxes pay for. It’s tough to gauge, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some non-union construction companies go under because of their inability to bid on projects.”

If the bills become law, construction companies will be required to have a certain percentage of their employees trained through a state apprenticeship program or an out-of-state federal apprenticeship in order to bid on public construction projects.

Many employees have been trained on the job, through the military, in community college, or through an in-state federal apprenticeship program, and many of them have been working in their trades for years or decades. If the bills become law, these employees will not count toward the percentage, since they were not trained through a state apprenticeship program.

“It’s discriminatory, and a lot of people don’t look at it as being discriminatory,” said Kathy Rodriguez, co-owner of SJR Masonry and Construction and president of the Humboldt County Builders Exchange.

“If they said only people who graduated from a Catholic program are allowed to work on state jobs, there’d be a huge outcry of people saying, ‘That’s not right. That’s not fair.’”

Mourad called the bills “a very blatant and ugly quid pro quo.”

“The point of this kind of bill is to steer public money to the unions, because the unions support Democrats in power,” he said.

Additionally, the bill is likely to cause a bottleneck, backing up projects that other workers could have completed, Goehring said.

“Through the U.S., there’s a huge decline in the number of people going into skilled trades,” Rodriguez said. “The majority of kids are being pushed to go to college, and blue-collar jobs are kind of frowned upon as kind of low-scale work, not something a lot of people want to go into. Now there’s a huge influx of people retiring and no one to take their places. It’s going to horribly affect the trades as it is. We can’t find anybody to help us, and we’re slammed with jobs but we don’t have (enough) workforce that can do the work.”

The bills cover different types of construction methods. AB-566, which passed last week, covers lease-leaseback work, in which a school leases land to a developer and the developer, after building on the land, leases it back to the school. AB-1358, AB-1431, AB-1185, and SB-762 cover design/build, job order contracting, best value procurement method, and best value procurement method on design/build.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California did not return calls for comment.