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Contractor ordinances a barrier to healthy competition

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Responsible contractor ordinances long have been misrepresented as an instrument to ensure counties and municipalities have qualified, safe and efficient companies working on their projects.

But RCOs simply are a barrier constructed to shrink the contractor pool and limit competition on public works projects.

A most recent example is an ordinance in Northampton County, Ordinance 639. This ordinance, which goes into effect June 20, calls for the utilization of a Class A apprenticeship program, as defined by the county, for projects with the county valued at more than $250,000.

“Class A” apprenticeship has been perpetuated to have the appearance of being “best in class.”

But, simply put, there is no official Class A apprenticeship program designation. Apprenticeship programs are registered and approved by the state and federal Departments of Labor – or they are not.

If you look at the Northampton County example (Section 11), graduation requirements are cited:

“Firm participates in a Class A apprenticeship program for the past three yers [sic] at a minimum, for each separate trade or classification in which it employs craft employees and shall continue to participate in such program or programs for the duration of the project.

“This apprenticeship requirement assures that workers in each trade or craft employed are graduates of an apprenticeship and training program in each trade or craft in which their services are utilized, which has been in continuous existence for no fewer than (5) years prior to the commencement of the subject project.”


What about new companies under three years old, with new ideas and innovations and participating in a registered program?

Under the above requirement, they are excluded.

Long-standing companies who currently do work, but who have long since graduated their apprentices, also would be excluded.

A vibrant business community thrives on competition on a level playing field, while RCOs such as the one cited here – and others like it – are a continuation of antiquated policies and a method to carve out monopolies for a small percentage of the workforce.


What is the solution?

It is now time to develop standardized policies based on input from the business community and the entire construction industry to eliminate divisions and give our communities and taxpayers projects that are completed for the best price and constructed by the safest, most innovated contractors available.

Associated Builders and Contractors long has been open to this philosophy with the hope that all segments of the industry work together. With all of the development in the Lehigh Valley, never has that been more important than now.

Joe Perpiglia is president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter (www.abceastpa.org), Hanover Township, Lehigh County, and East Norriton, which represents more than 14,000 merit construction employees who work for nearly 450 member companies. Founded on the merit shop philosophy, ABC nationally is comprised of 70 chapters representing nearly 21,000 construction and construction-related firms with nearly 2 million employees. He can be reached at info@abceastpa.org or 610-821-9686 and 610-279-6666.

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