Legislation banning local governments from requiring labor agreements in their construction contracts faced criticism at the Capitol Tuesday, as lawmakers held a public hearing on the proposal.
The bill from state Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) would prevent a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) from being a condition of a local government contract. Those agreements are intended to make sure certain conditions are in place during a project, such as only using union or locally-hired workers. Hutton said that there use may actually prevent some businesses from being able to bid on contracts, and the decision whether to use a PLA should be left up to each individual employer.
Hutton argued government should be neutral on the issue.
The proposal faced strong pushback on Tuesday from Democratic lawmakers and labor groups. Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) argued it’s simply about cutting costs at the expense of workers. “This is about making sure that you can pay people less, and I find that deeply offensive as we’re trying to get people back to work and back into the middle class,” Mason said.
Stephanie Bloomingdale with the AFL-CIO said the proposal is just another Republican attack on union workers and local government control, similar to right-to-work legislation passed last session and the governor’s changes to public sector collective bargaining during his first term in office. “We have seen an endless succession of legislation designed to usurp local control and disempower working families,” she said.
A senate hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Capitol.