JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Gov. Eric Greitens signed the first bill into law since the end of the legislative session, with a special guest standing in attendance – Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker watched as the freshman governor signed SB 182 into law Monday afternoon, as dozens watched in attendance at the event held at Automation Service in Earth City.
SB 182, or the “Fairness in Public Construction Act,” is a labor reform bill focused on project labor agreements which was passed by both the House and the Senate in late April.
Greitens called it an important labor reform bill, saying it eliminates special advantages for union bosses when negotiating government contracts, which he says decrease competition and drive up the costs of construction for the taxpayer.
“Project Labor Agreements drive up the cost of construction and kill jobs,” Greitens said. “Our top priority is more jobs for the people. We’re eliminating this sweetheart deal for special interests, protecting taxpayers, and creating more opportunity for all workers in Missouri.”
The new law also bans state agencies and municipalities from requiring bidders from entering into those agreements with labor unions. But, if a party still desires to make an agreement with a labor organization, they are still free to do so.
Union-only PLAs require public construction projects to be performed only by union contractors or by contractors who agree to labor union demands.
Supporters of the bill argue that it was needed because current PLA standards could allow a non-union contractor to bid on a PLA project, but then essentially require that contractor to become a union shop for that project. They hold to the belief that SB 182 will give all contractors a chance to bid on projects funded by the public’s tax dollars.
Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, handled the bill in the House and says the new law will make the bidding process on public projects more fair for all interested parties.
“This is a pro-taxpayer bill. It is not an anti-union bill,” Vescovo said in a statement. “All it does is put an end to the discriminatory practice that is inherent in the PLA system that keeps non-union workers from having a fair shot at public works projects like construction of new schools, police department, and fire stations.”
Sen. Bob Onder was the bill sponsor, and also attended the event.
“Union-Only Project Labor Agreements represent unfair public policy and bad governance by eliminating competition,” said Senator Onder. “Implementation of SB 182 will allow non-union workers to compete fairly for public projects and protect taxpayer dollars by making sure they get the best product for the best cost,” Onder said. “PLAs discriminate against the 87% of Missouri workers who work for merit shop contractors. On average, PLAs raise the cost of construction 18%, which means that instead of building 5 schools, a district can only afford 4. Senate Bill 182 ends this waste and unjustified discrimination while using the free market to save taxpayer dollars.”
— Bob Onder (@BobOnderMO) May 30, 2017
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry applauded the signature.
“Missouri is fortunate to have a strong construction industry with experienced private contractors who know how to get the job done right,” Daniel P. Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber, said. “We don’t need laws that bind these private companies with extra costs and hurdles relating to how they hire their workforce for public projects.I’d like to thank Sen. Onder and our legislative leaders for making this bill a priority this year. I’d also like to congratulate Gov. Eric Greitens for another accomplishment in his still-young term as governor. We look forward to more events like this over the summer as the fruits of the legislature’s historic pro-jobs session are signed into law, helping our state compete like never before for business investment and expansion opportunities.”
“By prohibiting these costly and unnecessary mandates on publicly funded construction projects, this legislation will ensure that every qualified bidder in the state of Missouri and their skilled craft professionals are given a fair chance to participate in the public procurement process,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Heart of America Chapter
President Michele Roberts-Bauer. “Studies show PLA mandates drive up the cost of public construction projects between 12 to 18 percent. Associated Builders and Contractors appreciates the leadership shown by bill sponsors Sen. Bob Onder and Rep. Rob Vescovo in crafting this needed legislation to increase competition and provide better value to taxpayers by allowing all qualified Missouri contractors to compete on a level playing field to work on taxpayer-funded projects.”
“Our leaders in the legislature also articulated the need for a better business environment in Missouri leading up to last November’s historic election, and the voters agreed with this message by electing a governor, and majorities in the House and Senate, who support the merit shop principles of free enterprise,” said Roberts-Bauer. “The actions taken by the voters and our legislature demonstrate the growing consensus that PLA mandates are bad public policy because they hurt taxpayers and the vast majority of construction workers who choose not to join a labor union.”
But some members of the legislature still oppose the bill, saying it is an attack on unions and will reduce worker wages.
“It is difficult to comprehend how this legislature can claim job creation is a priority when it passes legislation that hurts workers and their families by taking money straight out of their pockets,” House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said. “Stripping union workers of the ability to negotiate for fair wages and provide a decent living for their families won’t create a single job or strengthen Missouri’s economy. To the contrary, the governor’s action today makes life much harder for thousands of Missouri families.”
Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber put out the following statement in regards to the signing of the bill and Gov. Walker’s attendance.
“After the Republican establishment in Jefferson City voted to slash the minimum wage, Eric Greitens is rubbing salt in the wounds of working families by celebrating another attack on their paychecks. Scott Walker’s invitation only serves to show that Greitens is attacking local workers in order to impress big money and corporate donors from around the country.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.