By Steve Rizer
For Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and its membership, the summer’s developments in construction law have brought forth mixed blessings. On the positive side for ABC, President Obama has signed into law a bill (H.R. 803) that is expected to help cut into the work-shortage problem across the industry. In addition, an appeals court has struck down an ordinance in Massachusetts requiring apprentice training programs. However, the group has expressed disappointment over a couple of other recent moves made within the Executive Branch.
ABC considers H.R. 803, the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act/WIOA (P.L. 113-128), “an important step toward addressing the shortage of qualified workers in the construction industry. This is a big win for our members.”
WIOA ensures that small businesses are involved in shaping the development of training programs targeted toward available career opportunities by serving their communities on local workforce investment boards, ABC Vice President of Government Affairs Geoff Burr told ConstructionPro Week. “By effectively eliminating the Green Jobs Act, the bill also eliminates language that previously limited access to some green job-training grants only to firms associated with labor unions. The law also allows existing programs that provide workers with industry-recognized credentials, such as many construction craft training programs, to avail themselves of workforce investment funding.”
Another move that ABC favors came in the form of a ruling that a circuit court of appeals delivered concerning an ordinance in a Massachusetts city. The court found that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act preempts a controversial city ordinance that compelled contractors to “engage in a bona fide apprentice training program” registered with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards as a condition of bidding for city work. As a result of this decision, construction contracts procured by the city should receive increased competition and, in turn, reduce costs for taxpayers, ABC predicted.
On the negative side for ABC, Obama has signed a pair of executive orders that the group was quick to criticize. One of the presidential policy directives is intended to ensure “fair pay and safe workplaces.” The measure, signed July 31, requires prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations. Another directive prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees and prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment. The executive order affects federal and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors that do more than $10,000 in government business in one year.
The ConstructionPro Network member version of this article includes additional details about all of these actions.