Friday, March 06, 2009

Proposed Labor Ordinance Finds Enemies

Mayoral Mouthpiece and Greater Louisville Inc. President Joe Reagan has written a letter blasting a proposed labor standards ordinance that would give local construction jobs to local workers. Reagan is quoted in today's Courier-Journal as saying the ordinance "would drive potential growth away from the city", as if bringing in out-of-state workers at a lower wage is somehow counted as "growth".

The ordinance would mandate that at least 75% of the jobs on a government-subsidized project go to Kentucky or Indiana residents, and that those employees be paid the prevailing wage and be covered by a health plan. Deals like this are already negotiated and adhered to on such projects, but they are negotiated on a project-by-project basis. This ordinance would eliminate the need to negotiate a separate agreement on each project by standardizing requirements.

There are more local skilled tradesmen laid off in Louisville than ever before, yet Reagan and his cohorts at GLI and the mayor's office seem to prefer the practice of bringing workers in from out of town. This is troubling on many levels. Employing out of town workers does nothing for the city or the citizens. Local workers are the local community. They are your neighbors and your friends. You may sit next to them at church. When local residents are gainfully employed, they are paying taxes and spending money locally to support the standard of living that we all enjoy. That is good for Louisville.

I spoke with Joe Wise via email today. Wise is the Business Manager for the Greater Louisville Building & Construction Trades Council. Here's his take:

This is an ordinance that is a long time in coming and for many reasons. Let me start by saying that when community finances are used in the construction of a project the community should benefit from that project. The citizens of this community work to pay taxes that go to provide for the common good in the community in which they live. Therefore, the community wage (prevailing wage) should be a standard that is followed. We do not want citizens from our community to be displaced by workers coming from other localities to do jobs that people in our community are willing to do. This also reinforces the idea that that 60% of the workers on a project should be from the Louisville SMSA and 75% from Kentucky or Indiana. We have minority contractor goals and minority worker goals that mirror that community population.

GLI tries to argue that this would be a disincentive for developers and cause them the go elsewhere and make us non-competitive with other benchmark cities. That depends on what cities one wishes to use as a benchmark. They use cities from the right-to-work south where most of those states do not even have state minimum wage laws. I do not want this for our community. However, there are other cities and states that have adopted the idea of requiring prevailing wage and other requirements to use public financing; the states of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The many progressive cities that require this same arrangement; St. Louis, Denver, Portland (OR), Madison (WI), Milwaukee and many others.
Let me add to the observations of Mr. Wise by saying when local workers construct a building or a bridge, it contributes to something more than the city's skyline, waterfront or economy. It adds a sense of pride and accomplishment and helps secure the legacy of one's trade. It is a special feeling when a dad can show his children a skyscraper or a sports arena he helped build. Dwell on that for a moment. Then get behind this ordinance.

The mayor's office did not respond to my request for comment on this story.


  1. Sorry you feel you can't compete on your own in the free market and need a handout from others. Why don't you or your union open your own firm and compete? Afraid of taking a little risk and a little competition?

  2. GLI states the ordinance is a "disincentive for developers and cause them the go elsewhere". A very telling comment about greed that led to the financial mess this country is in. Lining the pockets of out of town developers does not prosper Louisville.

    This ordinance can be a real positive for Louisville and all workers. A step in the right direction.

  3. I would say to the first commenter: Your reaction is typical and outdated.People have moved on from those kind of stupid arguments. You sound like you own some shitty little business and are afraid of a union. Until you pay your beloved "FREE MARKET" wages you will continue to be a bloodsucking leech on goodness and civilized society. Go hire a mexican at substandard wages so you can have your vacation on Tahiti. great greed indeed.

    This ordinance will pass I hope. And I hope more people see the benefit of local folks working in local jobs. Thanks
    Jimmy in the Station

  4. Joe Reagan is the local voice for groups who want to deny employees the right to organize under the Employee Free Choice Act legislation.

    The Mayor and Joe would rather give an advantage to their out of town cronies by under bidding these jobs to out of town workers. What is wrong with supporting local jobs with local workers?