Eau Claire (WQOW) -- Wisconsin union leaders raised concerns over a bill in the Wisconsin legislature that is expected to become law.
The bill would stop state and local governments from requiring contractors bidding on their projects to use collective bargaining agreements, called project labor agreements.
Terry Hayden, United Association Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 434 business manager, testified against the bill in both the senate and the assembly. He said project labor agreements are useful tools for efficiency. Hayden said the agreement is between an owner (in this case, a city or municipality), the unions and the employers working together to develop a common agreement that all employers work under, whether they are union or not, while they are on that particular project. Hayden said the agreements cover everything from standardizing work hours to setting common break times.
The bill's sponsor, state Representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), said his proposal gives non-union firms more opportunities to bid on public projects and gives local governments more choices.
Hayden said all contractors can bid on the same construction projects whether they are union or not, but they currently need to pay an equivalent wage infringement package to make sure all the employers are competing on a quality basis, not on how little they can pay their employees. He added some local units of government use project labor agreements to create preferences for hiring veterans, or have residency requirements so the people living in the community get the opportunity to work on local projects.
"Without project labor agreements, many of those opportunities or protections go away, and ultimately what it ends up doing is opening up the biding process not necessarily for good contractors in the state of Wisconsin, but it is more the low-wage, out-of-state contractors that will come in, bid, and will probably be successful on many of these projects taking those tax dollars and wages out of our state," Hayden said.
The bill was approved by the state assembly on Thursday, and the senate passed it last month. It now goes to Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), who already included the measure in his budget proposal.
News 18 did reach out to Rep. Hutton, but did not hear back with a comment.